'Past Forward: Native American Art' from Gilcrease Museum encompassing 3,000 years of Indigenous creative traditions

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'Past Forward: Native American Art' from Gilcrease Museum encompassing 3,000 years of Indigenous creative traditions
Stephen Mopope (Kiowa, 1898-1974), Indian Gathering, 1933, oil on canvas, 22 1/2 x 48 in. (57.2 x 121.9 cm). Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1964. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK.

CHAPEL HILL, NC.- The Ackland Art Museum announces Past Forward: Native American Art from Gilcrease Museum. Debuting February 16, 2024 at the Ackland and on view until April 28, this new traveling exhibition is co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Gilcrease Museum (Tulsa, OK).

Oklahoma’s Gilcrease Museum houses one of the best and most comprehensive collections of Native American art in the country, largely built by oil tycoon Thomas Gilcrease (1890-1962), who was himself a member of the Muscogee Nation. This unprecedented traveling exhibition emphasizes Indigenous art from the heartland from the late nineteenth century to the present day, supplemented by ancient stone carvings and by a handful of contrasting Euro-American works. Spotlighting works created and collected by Native individuals, Past Forward: Native American Art from Gilcrease Museum helps contribute to the widening narrative of American art history. At the Ackland Art Museum, the exhibition will include a special installation of Native American art from the Ackland’s own collection.

“This bold yet overdue exhibition brings Native American artists to the forefront of American galleries while deftly acknowledging one of the Western art canon’s fatal flaws. We have been delighted to work with Gilcrease Museum to bring these powerful works to galleries across the country to show indigenous cultures and traditions: in their own words,” said Pauline Forlenza, Director & CEO, American Federation of Arts.

“As the Ackland considers and expands its own engagement with Native American and other Indigenous creative traditions, this stimulating exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity for our many publics to explore aspects of those traditions perhaps less familiar on the East Coast. It also stages a productive dialogue with selected works in the Euro-American tradition, in a way that opens up appreciation for the complexities of cultural identity and exchange,” said Peter Nisbet, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Ackland.


Chelsea M. Herr (Choctaw Nation) is the Jack & Maxine Zarrow Curator for Indigenous Art and Culture at Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She earned a PhD from the University of Oklahoma, writing a dissertation on Indigenous Futurisms in the work of Native North American artists. She recently guest curated Stitched in Sovereignty: Contemporary Beadwork from Indigenous North America at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site in Taos, New Mexico, and guest co-curated Indigenous Futurisms: Transcending Past/Present/Future at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe.

Janet Catherine Berlo, Professor of Art History and Visual and Cultural Studies Emerita at the University of Rochester, holds a PhD in History of Art from Yale. She is the author of Native North American Art (with Ruth Phillips, second edition 2015), Plains Indian Drawings 1865– 1935 (the catalogue for an AFA traveling exhibition, 1998), Spirit Beings and Sun Dancers: Black Hawk’s Vision of a Lakota World (2000), Arthur Amiotte: Collages 1988–2006 (2006), José Bedia: Transcultural Pilgrim (with Judith Bettelheim, 2011), and many other publications on the arts of the Americas.

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