Self Portrait, Fritz Scholder, NMAI NYC.
Our friend at Newspaper Rock found a review of this two part exhibition curated for both locations – NYC and D.C. – in the Washington Post. While reporter Phillip Kennicott raises some interesting points about Scholder’s Indian paintings I think he unfairly dismissed poignant aspects of Scholder’s “New York” work which was decidedly “non Indian,” but Indian in that Scholder was undeniably an Indian. I have only seen the exhibition here in New York, which also features the video documentary mentioned in the Post article, that focuses on his 80s and 90s works. These included large abstract self portraits, creepy bronze statues of partly human/partly demon figures and paintings of some rather frightening looking women. It is these images I am most drawn to because they belie a fearful self loathing that is emotionally grasping. Almost embarrassing in their open expression of a desire to be desired yet also rejecting in a hyper-conscious analytically distant way.
Kennicott labeled these works “empty and incompetent,” as if Scholder had “spent himself” as an artist. Yet at the same time he points to the double (maybe triple) bind of making art as an Indian that is not Indian art yet being an Indian who rejected his Indian identity perhaps made him a better conduit for creating stereotype shattering images of Indians. Frankly I think his criticisms are a tad thin, maybe even racist, in that he laments the fact Indian artists who make Indian art are inevitably stuck in that rut yet when Scholder broke from making “Indian art” his work was dismissed, derided by Kennicott himself as “infantile in execution.”
It certainly was a no win game for Scholder who derisively noted that “art was the best racket around!” Well, I guess it would have been for someone who was celebrated as the Indian artist making Indian art – ultimately to be rejected once he decided as an artist to move on from a subject he was no longer interested in. Because, you know, artists don’t have a wide array of artistic impulses or emotions or ideas that they want to work through. Gimme a break!
Posted in Art & Events
, Profiles & Interviews & Reviews
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