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"Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation"

NEW YORK CITY.- The American Craft Museum presents "Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation Landmark Exhibition Series Explores Indian Art In Broad Context of Contemporary Art and Culture," on view through September 20, 2002. The groundbreaking series of American Craft Museum exhibitions beginning May 9 will place contemporary Native American work in a broad context within current art and culture. Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation (Part I), the first in the unique three-part series, will examine Native American arts in the Southwest. Work by approximately 90 artists will be exhibited. Cutting-edge work, by emerging and established artists, includes ceramics, glass, fiber, jewelry, metalwork, sculpture and mixed media.

The artists in this series challenge ideas and perceptions of the definitions of art, craft and design today, as well as concepts of ethnicity and contemporary culture. The exhibitions offer an opportunity to appreciate both the work of influential pioneers who defied traditional Native American stereotypes, and of rising voices in Native American art.

"Our goal throughout the project," says Chief Curator David Revere McFadden, "was to provide an alternative means of viewing the work being created by innovative and influential Indian artists of our time and, in so doing, open the doorways to a change in perception and understanding of the art forms and the artists. From the outset, we recognized that Indian art today could not be easily pigeonholed within the ethnographic and anthropological matrix. Rather, it has become an increasingly powerful tributary feeding the mainstream of American art now."

Following its debut in New York, the exhibition will tour nationally and internationally. Future exhibitions in the series will investigate craft from California, Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest (2004) and the artists of the Great Lakes, Plains, Southeast and East Coast (2007).

Merrell Publishers (London) is producing a fully illustrated, 224-page catalogue that examines the evolution of American Indian art from ethnographic artifacts to an independent art form in the second half of the 20th century. The Museum’s Education Department has created a series of public programs featuring artists, curators and specialists involved in the exhibition. Highlights include seminars, gallery talks, workshops, demonstrations, lectures and off-site programs at the National Museum of the American Indian and other venues in New York City.

"This extraordinary project, along with a program of related publications and catalogues, will be the first in a series to assemble, document, interpret and explore the rich diversity of craft, art and design today by contemporary Native American artists," says Holly Hotchner, Director of the American Craft Museum.

"The American Craft Museum is proud to present this new series, which will illuminate issues of identity and cultural diversity in this sociologically and historically significant body of work," she says. "We intend to acquire works from the exhibition to become part of our permanent collection, to better present to our myriad publics the many aspects of diverse creativity."

Learning from the Masters

The work of historic luminaries has influenced the pieces to be seen in Changing Hands. A new generation of artistic innovators, who absorbed the influences of masters such as ceramic artist Maria Martinez and goldsmith Charles Loloma, appeared in the Southwest about 20 years ago. Ceramic artists Nancy Youngblood Lugo, Richard Zane Smith and Al Qöyawayma, weaver Ramona Sakiestewa, and jewelers Mike Bird-Romero and partners Yazzie Johnson and Gail Bird established new frontiers of excellence, based on their respect for tradition and their determination to move their respective fields forward.

These artists paved the way for the current generation, including the provocative and satirical works of figural ceramic artists Diego Romero, Roxanne Swentzell and Virgil Ortiz, as well as experimental potters such as Preston Duwyenie, Lonnie Vigil, Tammy Garcia and Nora Naranjo Morse, to mention only a few whose works will be featured. Some contemporary artists have worked in new media, including glass artists Chris Tarpley and Tony Jojola. A common thread that links the works chosen for this exhibition is the emphasis on personal aesthetics and artistic innovation.

Curators, Publications

The exhibition is curated jointly by the Museum’s chief curator, David Revere McFadden, who also is the former director of the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, New Mexico, and by Ellen Napiura Taubman, former Head of the Department of Native American Art at Sotheby’s, and current guest curator and Native American advisor for the American Craft Museum.

The catalogue features essays by McFadden and Taubman and other distinguished authorities, including Joanna O. Bigfeather, director of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe; noted jewelry historian Dr. Dexter Cirillo; Smithsonian Institution’s cultural historian Bruce Bernstein and collector JoAnn Balzer, with special essays by Native American jeweler Gail Bird, weaver Ramona Sakiestewa, sculptor and Smithsonian curator Truman Lowe, and ceramists Jody Folwell, Susan Folwell and Polly Rose Folwell. These illuminating essays will explore how Native American artists have altered public and critical perception and understanding of their work, as well as the ways in which the marketplace, museums, collectors, galleries and art historians have responded to these dramatic changes. Also included will be biographies of the artists and an essential bibliography of Native American art today.

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