SAN FRANCISCO, August 5, 2016 — An upcoming exhibition at San Francisco State University is the first historical survey of California-based modern and contemporary Native American art. “When I Remember I See Red” shows how contemporary Native American artists in California have reclaimed their identity and culture through provocative work that emphasizes the paradox of living in contradictory worlds, environmental issues, a commitment to remembering and more. It will be on display at the Fine Arts Gallery from September 17 to October 13.
The exhibition begins with activist art from the 1960s and 1970s by the likes of Frank LaPena, Leatrice Mikkelson and Rick Bartow and follows the narrative to more recent provocative works by Geri Montano, Wendy Red Star and Jaque Fragua. “When I Remember I See Red” also brings attention to African-Native American artists such as Richard Mayhew, bell hooks, Frohawk Two-Feathers and Camille Seaman. Overall, the exhibition features works by about 35 artists representing 27 tribes. The works span contemporary painting, video, sculpture, photography and installation art. LaPena, Mark Johnson and the Fine Arts Gallery conceived and organized the exhibition.
“This exhibition represents a necessary step toward documenting this vital and dynamic aspect of California thought and culture,” Johnson said. “Although contemporary artists have never been supported by the commercial art market, California was a center of powerful Native American cultural expression throughout the 20th century, from the early years when famed basket weavers such as Elizabeth Hickox and Louisa Keyser commanded huge prices, to the 1960s activist generation of Fritz Scholder, R.C. Gorman, Leatrice Mikkelson and Rick Bartow.”
As part of “When I Remember I See Red,” 20 California-born Native American artists will be interviewed on film for a new oral history archive. The interviews will be published online at SF State’s Digital Information Visual Archive.
The opening reception takes place September 17 from 1 to 3 p.m., featuring a performance by the Sweetwater Singers and a Muekma Ohlone welcome by Vincent Medina. Several artists will be present. Admission is free. The Fine Arts Gallery is open Wednesdays – Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Robert Keith Collins, an SF State American Indian Studies associate professor, will lead discussions on African-Native American history, African-Native American musical traditions and mining the archives on September 21, September 28 and October 5 at 12:10 p.m. in the Fine Arts Gallery. Collins is co-curator of the Smithsonian traveling exhibition “IndiVisible,” which considers African-Native American art and culture. LaPena and Heyday Books Publisher Malcolm Margolin will be in conversation October 12 at 12:10 p.m. in the gallery.
The exhibition is supported by the SF State Instructionally Related Student Activities Fund and a generous grant from Dr. Loren Lipson. Support for California-born artists is provided by the Artadia James D. Phelan Award in the Visual Arts from the San Francisco Foundation.
Image: A is for Apple by Geri Montano. Courtesy of the artist.