Self-de­ter­mi­na­tion

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Black Swan. In­dian/Not In­dian, In­dian Fig­ures of Para­dox Sum­mer Af­ter­noon Clouds, In­dian and Store Front Gallup Para­dox. Por­trait in Roma, In­dian Land, Cat Mask Fancy Dancer Fig­ures of In­dian

Draw­ing from three prom­i­nent col­lec­tions of Fritz Scholder’s paint­ings, Lew Allen Gal­leries presents Fig­ures of Para­dox. The show, on view through July 23, spot­lights the ma­jor themes that pre­oc­cu­pied Scholder, in­clud­ing the con­tra­dic­tory view he had of him­self as a so-called “In­dian artist,” a la­bel he tried un­suc­cess­fully to get away from. Many of the pieces in the show re­mained in Scholder’s pos­ses­sion un­til his death in 2005, and have only been ex­hib­ited posthu­mously. He ap­plied an ex­pres­sive but con­trolled method to his can­vases, and his in­ter­est in the hu­man fig­ure had more to do with shape and form than with out­right rep­re­sen­ta­tion. On the cover is Scholder’s 1996 paint­ing Academy Por­trait, acrylic and oil on can­vas.

The 21st cen­tury has been kind to Fritz Scholder (1937-2005), with a ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive of his works at the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian in 2008 and a trav­el­ing show or­ga­nized by the Den­ver Art Mu­seum in 2015. He was in­ducted into the Cal­i­for­nia Hall of Fame in 2009, and one of his sculp­tures even turned up in Dar­ren Aronof­sky’s 2010 film The show at the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can In­dian was called ref­er­enc­ing the uneasy re­la­tion­ship that Scholder, who was onequar­ter Luiseño, had to the term. “He tried in his life­time to shed the as­so­ci­a­tion,” said Romona Scholder, the artist’s se­cond wife. “By paint­ing the se­ries he locked him­self into be­long­ing to a cer­tain genre and to a cer­tain group of peo­ple. To break out of that — he felt he never did. He al­ways wanted to be a Bruce Nau­mann or a Su­san Rothen­berg.” Se­lec­tions from Romona Scholder’s pri­vate col­lec­tion of the artist’s works, along with pieces from the col­lec­tion of the Fritz Scholder Es­tate and the Fritz and Lisa Scholder Col­lec­tion (be­long­ing to his third wife), are on view in the ex­hibit at LewAllen Gal­leries. Out­side of ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tives, the art­work at LewAllen, which in­cludes large-scale paint­ings, prints, and sculp­ture, has rarely been seen or ex­hib­ited.

A fair num­ber of self-por­traits by Scholder sug­gest that the big­gest con­tra­dic­tion was in how he saw him­self. For bet­ter or for worse, the la­bel “In­dian artist” is still as­so­ci­ated with him. But Scholder didn’t just paint In­di­ans. In fact, he mostly didn’t, ex­cept dur­ing two pe­ri­ods. In­flu­enced by Na­tive stu­dents at the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Arts, where he taught early in the school’s his­tory, he took on the sub­ject of Na­tive peo­ples in a truth­ful way. Many of his works were sim­ply por­traits of reg­u­lar peo­ple from pho­to­graphs he took as he en­coun­tered them, and they chal­lenged stereo­typ­i­cal views of Na­tive peo­ples and out­moded, ide­al­ized de­pic­tions in art, pre­sent­ing a con­tem­po­rary per­spec­tive. But that view, too, was full of co­nun­drums. Some­times, as in the 1990 paint­ing which is in the LewAllen ex­hibit, he de­picts as­pects of Na­tive tra­di­tions such as dances or peo­ple in cer­e­mo­nial dress. But Scholder placed his sub­jects in the now. His sub­jects were likely to sport some em­blem of con­tem­po­rary so­ci­ety that could seem in­con­gru­ous with more tra­di­tional Na­tive as­pects of the por­trait, such as a head­dress or a feather held in the hand. In these jux­ta­po­si­tions, Scholder de­mys­ti­fied his sub­jects and made them real. There isn’t any­thing special-seem­ing about the man in his

from 1974, but in a sense, his nor­malcy is what makes it a sin­gu­lar por­trait. “It was from some­thing called the se­ries,” Romona Scholder said of the paint­ing from her col­lec­tion. “He was down in Gallup and he pho­tographed all kinds of peo­ple and then did the paint­ings from that.”

In terms of his paint­ing style, he made fig­u­ra­tive works that tend to­ward abstraction, and adapted a flat Pop aes­thetic in his lith­o­graphs and aquat­ints, a num­ber of which are in­cluded in Among them are and

both from 1978. The aquatint etch­ings were made when Scholder was vis­it­ing Rome. He trav­eled ex­ten­sively, study­ing the oc­cult and Egyp­tol­ogy as well as art his­tory. Af­ter about 1980, he aban­doned Na­tive sub­jects and wouldn’t re­turn to them for a decade. The show in­cludes 1980’s among the last of his Na­tive paint­ings to be ex­hib­ited when he was be­ing rep­re­sented by Elaine Hor­witch. In the 1990s, how­ever, Scholder took up In­dian sub­jects again. “He said he had more to say,” Romona Scholder said.

The paint­ings in Fig­ures of Para­dox are enig­matic. from 1984 and Alone #2 from 2001 por­tray fig­ures that are de­mon­like in ap­pear­ance but bear a lit­tle-dis­cussed as­pect that can be seen in many of the fig­ures he painted — a jut­ting shoul­der, sug­gest­ing that these dark fig­ures may be self-por­traits. In his poly­chrome bronze sculp­tures, too, the left shoul­der pre­dom­i­nates, while the right arm seems to van­ish en­tirely. “Fritz was born with sco­l­io­sis,” Romona Scholder said. “All of these pieces, if you look, he re­ally does that shoul­der thing over and over. I never talked about it with him, but I think it’s a re­sult of his un­even shoul­der, his need to pad one side of his jacket to make sure his shoul­ders were even. And of course his last name was Scholder.” Two por­traits of Scholder by Andy Warhol are in­cluded in the show. The two im­ages, from 1980, sat

con­tin­ued on Page 34

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