Artists Space

Native Art in 1980s New York City

January 16, 2018, 7pm

G. Peter Jemison
Alan Michelson
Moderated by Kathleen Ash-Milby

A black and white photo of an antler.
Jolene Rickard, Leadership (detail), 1987. [A black and white photo of an antler.]

A community of Native artists coalesced in Manhattan in the 1980s, initiating and participating in exhibitions locally and internationally. In the final public program organized as part of Unholding, curator and writer Kathleen Ash-Milby moderates a discussion with three eminent cross-disciplinary figures active in this period through to the present day: G. Peter Jemison, Alan Michelson, and Jolene Rickard.

Each of these artists participated in We the People, co-curated by Jean Fisher and Jimmie Durham at Artists Space in 1987, and is exhibiting work in Unholding, yet is known for a breadth of artistic and political pursuits. A collagist and deft draughtsperson, Jemison in 1978 became director of the American Indian Community House Gallery, moving the Community House to the emergent artistic nexus of SoHo. Curator, academic and historian Jolene Rickard’s concept of Native visual sovereignty was developed in her photographic work in the 1980s and through her involvement in the Native Indian/Inuit Photographers’ Association, who demystified and complicated representations of Indigenous peoples. Following his early work as a painter, Alan Michelson’s installation Up-Biblum God at Artists Space in 1987 prefigured his shift to multimedia and site-specific art, through which he was to become increasingly attentive to place and locality amid the fracturing tendencies of globalization.

Maintaining numerous sightlines, Native Art in 1980s New York City will historicize a formative period within New York Native American contemporary art, asking what lessons can be taken into today’s resurgent dynamism of—and institutional engagement with—Indigenous practices.

Native Art in 1980s New York City is organized in conjunction with the exhibition Unholding (November 19, 2017 – January 21, 2018)

Kathleen Ash-Milby is Associate Curator at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

G. Peter Jemison is a member of the Seneca Nation. He was the founding director of the American Indian Community House Gallery in New York City and formerly served on the board of directors of the American Association of Museums. He continues to represent the Seneca Nation of Indians on repatriation issues and serves on the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. He is currently the manager of Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, NY.

Alan Michelson is a Mohawk artist who has exhibited internationally, including at the Moscow Biennale, the National Gallery of Canada, the Biennale of Sydney, the Museum of Art and Design, and the National Museum of the American Indian. His work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Smithsonian Institution and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jolene Rickard (Tuscarora) is Associate Professor, Department of History of Art and Art Department and Associate Professor, Director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program at Cornell University.

Native Art in 1980s New York City. Discussion documentation, January 16, 2018, Artists Space. [Video documentation of a discussion held in front of an accompanying slide presentation.]