OKLAHOMA CITY — With nearly 100 prints from artists around North America, Enter the Matrix: Indigenous Printmakers at the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones. Jr. Museum of Art (FJJMA) celebrates the medium’s rise in the 20th century. The exhibition opened last month, structured around several communities and institutions that elevated printmaking from a complicated reminder of paper’s role in controlling and relocating indigenous tribes, to a dynamic surface of cultural exchange.
Enter the Matrix, organized by Heather Ahtone, FJJMA’s assistant curator of Native American and non-Western art, starts roughly with the Kiowa Five, who joined as a collective in a University of Oklahoma studio space set up by the art department’s director Oscar Jacobson in the 1920s. While printmaking wasn’t central at first, the group’s Kiowa artists, like Stephen Mopope and Jack Hokeah, found the medium amenable to their flat-style painting that was inspired by traditions of 19th-century ledger art. The Kiowa Five weren’t the only indigenous artists getting attention in the early 20th century art world, but their participation in the 1932 Venice Biennale and perhaps more significantly the creation of a 24-print portfolio of their work brought it far beyond the state lines of Oklahoma. Contemporary artists included in the exhibition, such as Dennis Belindo with his “Kiowa Blackleggins” (1990) serigraph, show the enduring influence of Mopope and the rest of the Kiowa Five with the two-dimensional perspective and vivid colors compacting energy on the paper.
Enter the Matrix: Indigenous Printmakers continues through January 17, 2016 at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma (555 Elm Avenue, Norman, Oklahoma).
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