Native American Artists go Lowbrow in Low-Rez

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Low-Rez: Native American Lowbrow Art is a group art show of emerging and established Native artists working in the “lowbrow” genre of Pop Surrealism. The show runs from August 17 to September 1, 2012, opening with a reception on Friday, August 17, 5:30 – 9 p.m. at Eggman and Walrus Art Emporium (which has two venues: 131 West San Francisco Street, First Floor and 130 West Palace Street, Second Floor near the downtown Santa Fe Plaza). A closing reception will be held on Saturday, September 1, from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

 

Lowbrow Art, also called Pop Surrealism, has mushroomed over the last few decades, as a response to overblown bombastic excesses of conceptual art and a return to a love of craft and technique in art making. Santa Fe has been an epicenter for the Native Pop movement, in which artists use pop imagery to explode non-native fantasies of Indians as the timeless “Noble Savage” and to establish entry points for audiences who might not be familiar with tribal histories or imagery. The subversive humor of Native Pop and Lowbrow Art provides a perfect vehicle for social commentary without becoming preachy or propagandist.

 

Low-Rez artists include: Jamison Chas Banks (Seneca-Cayuga-Cherokee), Nanibah “Nani” Chacon (Navajo), Brent Greenwood (Ponca-Chickasaw), Amber Gunn Gauthier (Ho-Chunk–Menominee), Topaz Jones (Shoshone-Lummi-Kalapuya-Molalla), Randy Kemp (Choctaw-Yuchi), Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi-Choctaw), Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara), Daniel McCoy (Potawatomi-Muscogee Creek), America Meredith (Cherokee Nation), Chris Pappan (Osage-Kaw-Cheyenne River Sioux), Jeremy Singer (Navajo), Monty Singer (Navajo), Ryan Singer (Navajo), “The Werewulf” Micah Wesley (Kiowa-Muscogee Creek) and Debra Yepa-Pappan (Jemez-Korean).

 

Coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences, these artists are united in their use of pop culture imagery to express themselves as contemporary indigenous peoples. Most of the artists attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a school dedicated to Native artists choosing their own path in self-representation and most are also participants in this year’s Santa Fe Indian Market.

 

The pop imagery used by these artists isn’t random. Often it reflects traditional Native imagery that was co-opted by mass media—Trickster Rabbit as Bugs Bunny, Princess Leia’s Hopi butterfly whorl hair-do, Taos Pueblo artist Pop Chalee’s blue deer paintings transformed by Walt Disney into “Bambi”—all determined acts of re-appropriation.

 

Pin-up girls are transformed from sex objects for voyeurs to symbols of empowered women who own their sexuality by the hand of artists Amber Gunn Gauthier and Nani Chacon. Chris Pappan turns traditional ledger art on its head. Linda Lomahaftewa, who was part of the initial wave of Native Pop artists and a classmate of T. C. Cannon at IAIA, will exhibit monotypes with UFO-imagery. Micah Wesley and Cannupa Hanska Luger come to the show after their work to found the Humble Collective, an artist-run space that challenged and inspired waves of artists over the last decade. Daniel McCoy combines comic book imagery with that of the traditional Muscogee ceremonial grounds of his youth, infusing each with wry to dark humor (McCoy will create a large scale, site-specific installation at the street-level San Francisco gallery space).

 

Eggman and Walrus, already known locally for showcasing independent, challenging and experimental artists, will continue its core mission of a more free form and organic Santa Fe gallery for leading edge artwork with the Low-Rez exhibition. Both the upstairs Palace gallery and 1st floor San Francisco gallery will be utilized for the show.

 

Concurrent with the Low-Rez exhibit(s) will be an installation by Michael Darmody, an arts educator from San Juan College, who uses tourist postcards to explore stereotypes of indigenous peoples.

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