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American Indian art from Diker Collection exhibited at Toledo Museum of Art
Julian Scott ledger “Artist B” (Ka’igwu [Kiowa]), Kiowa and Comanche Indian Reservation, Oklahoma, Twelve High-Ranking Kiowa Men. Pencil, colored pencil, and ink on paper, about 1880. 7 1/2 × 12 in. Diker no. 059 LD, Courtesy American Federation of Arts.

TOLEDO, OH.- An exceptional opportunity for the public to see a large collection of Native American art is being presented as the Toledo Museum of Art hosts the traveling exhibition Indigenous Beauty: Masterworks of American Indian Art from the Diker Collection.

The exhibition, which celebrates the visionary creativity and technical mastery of Native North American artists from tribes across the continent, opened Feb. 12 and continues through May 8 in the Museum’s Canaday Gallery. Admission is free.

Organized by the American Federation of Arts (AFA), the show features approximately 120 masterworks selected from the holdings of Charles and Valerie Diker, whose collection is renowned as one of the largest and most comprehensive in private hands. The objects illustrate innovative uses of materials; precision of workmanship; ingenious deployment of pattern, design, and abstraction; and expressiveness of form and representation, artistic qualities that have been valued across generations and remain valued today.

Indigenous Beauty, the first traveling show curated from the Diker Collection, encompasses a remarkable range of cultural and historical diversity. Works in the exhibition reflect artistic traditions defined by geography, media and a common past.

“We are particularly pleased to host this exhibition because of our interest in presenting a diversity of cultural expression currently not reflected in our collection,” said Museum Director Brian Kennedy, who brought an exhibition of contemporary Aboriginal Australian art to TMA two years ago. “Indigenous Beauty reminds us that American art did not begin in the Colonial period but has centuriesold roots in the traditions and practices of Native peoples.”

Toledo is the final stop on the tour. The exhibition was also shown at the Seattle Art Museum (Feb. 12–May 17, 2015); the Amon Carter Museum of Art (July 5–Sept. 13, 2015) and the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University (Oct. 10, 2015–Jan. 3, 2016)

The exhibition emphasizes the interrelated themes of diversity, beauty and knowledge. The themes relate both to the original context of the works and to the ways in which they might be experienced by non-Native visitors in a museum setting.

“The objects demonstrate both functional and artistic qualities; the range of objects is quite stunning,” said Halona Norton-Westbrook, TMA coordinator for the touring exhibition. “The exhibition is especially rich with art of the Northwest and Inuit peoples.”

The work includes sculpture of the Northwest Coast; ancient ivories from the Bering Strait region; Yup’ik and Aleut masks from the Western Arctic; Katsina dolls of the Southwest pueblos; Southwest pottery; sculptural objects from the Eastern Woodlands; Eastern regalia; Plains regalia; and pictographic arts of the Plains.

Maps identify areas that have been occupied by specific cultural groups, and introductory texts describe features that have characterized these groups over time.

Visitors will be reminded there is not just one North American Indian culture but hundreds of unique groups whose languages, mythologies and customs evolved over centuries. The Dikers’ collection provides a broad view of the complexity and historical specificity of Native American art. Indigenous Beauty celebrates Native North American artists whose creativity and technical mastery have helped preserve cultural values across generations.

David Penney, an internationally recognized scholar of American Indian art is the exhibition’s guest curator. His many publications include “North American Indian Art” (2004), part of the Thames and Hudson World of Art series. The fully illustrated exhibition catalogue includes an essay by Penney along with contributions from a number of other experts.

The AFA is a nonprofit institution dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts that organizes art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishes exhibition catalogues and develops education programs.

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