Catch 22: Paradox on Paper reception at the Ralph T. Coe Foundation for the Arts was a wonderful way to launch Indian Market week! The Ralph T. Coe Foundation is a nonprofit organization that manages the art collection of the Ralph T. Coe, which includes exceptional examples of historic Oceanic, African, and Native American art.
Led by President/CEO Rachel Wixom, the unique organization—a collection sans museum—is in the business of making connections. They’ve invited guest curators—as young as high school students—to work with their collection—and also partnering with museums to showcase the collection, as they did with Connoisseurship and Good Pie: Ted Coe and Collecting Native Art at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian.
Catch 22: Paradox on Paper exemplified these partnerships. Guest curator Nina Sanders (Apsáalooke) selected works on papers from the collection of Edward J. “Edd” Guarino to showcase late modern, post-modern, and contemporary Native American art. Guarino writes, “One of the most exciting aspects of collecting the work of contemporary artists is that I am able to ask them questions about their work.” Curator Sanders’ research focus is Plains beadwork; however, she focused on works on paper to pursue the show’s theme, Catch 22, coined by novelist Joseph Heller, to describe a double bind paradox, but in this case described the contradiction of maintaining or fighting to regain one’s tribal heritage while negotiating global mainstream culture that is poised at every turn to destroy tribal identity in favor of the lone individual.
Another paradox emerges in the works: correcting a sense of density and depth on the two-dimensional picture plane. Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Iñupiaq-Athabascan) and Anita Fields (Osage-Muscogee), both known primarily for their sculptures, achieve incredible textures and sense of mass in their works on paper. Christine Nofchissey McHorse (Navajo) is known for her ceramic and metal sculptures, but the public has fallen in love with her flat sketches revealing developing thoughts in the process. Meanwhile, earlier artists T. C. Cannon (Kiowa-Caddo, 1946–1978) and Charles Loloma (Hopi, 1921–1991) celebrate the flatness and sparseness of flat art, with stripped down abstractions in drawing and etching, respectively. Sarah Sense (Chitimacha-Choctaw) and Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee) both independently began weaving their photographs; Sense’s into flat mats and Goshorn’s into three-dimensional basketry forms, subverting the flatness of paper. The works are densely hung in a compact space for the maximum potential dialogue. The show continues through March 31, 2018, and the gallery is open by appointment, so you have many opportunities to quietly absorb the works at your own pace.
The opening reception included Axle Contemporary, a mobile gallery in a van, and music by DJ Celeste Worl (Tlingit), an artist in her own right. Rosita Worl (Tlingit) was visiting from Juneau and won an original Jason Garcia (Santa Clara) print. First American Art Magazine co-hosted the reception and donated items for the silent auction, including a complete set of issues—for those of you that have complete sets, they are now valued more than $140!
The reception was a wonderful way to launch Indian Market week. Artists, curators, and collections from all over the country (and Canada) mingled freely in a relaxed atmosphere, soaking up, not only the works of Catch 22, but also the extraordinarily eclectic collection of the Coe Foundation. A catalogue accompanies the show and is available from the Coe Foundation.
The Coe will host an open house with the Growing Thunder family, Thursday, August 17. More info: ralphtcoefoundation.org