Modern Native American Art Explored in New Traveling Exhibition 'Action/Abstraction Redefined'

  • February 07, 2022 10:26

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George Morrison (Chippewa), White Painting No.1, 1965, oil on canvas, 50.5 x 50.5 in., MoCNA Collection, CHP-72.

Cape Cod's Cahoon Museum of American Art (Mass.) debuts Action/Abstraction Redefined, the first major traveling exhibition analyzing modern Native American art from the mid-1940s through the 1970s inspired by Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, and Hard-edge painting and created by leading artists, including George Morrison (Chippewa), Fritz Scholder (Mission/ Luiseño), and T.C. Cannon (Caddo/Kiowa). These innovative artists explored new ways of artistic expression and challenged stereotypical expectations of Native American art.

Doug Hyde (Nez Perce) Sun and Moon Gods, 1967, wood, mixed media, 43.5 x 12 in., MoCNA Collection, NP-5.

Their paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and ceramics were created in studios across the nation and at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, where artists were encouraged to experiment and take risks. As part of avant-garde movements at the time, Native American artists redefined the concept of abstraction and pushed the boundaries of contemporary Native art. George Morrison actively contributed to the Abstract Expressionism movement in New York, where he exhibited and was associated with Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and other avant-garde artists of the time. Like Abstract Expressionists, who broke with representational conventions and prioritized experimentation, IAIA artists redefined the concept of abstraction by creating deeply personal works informed by their own traditional aesthetics and art influences coming out of New York.

Among the artists included in this exhibition are George Morrison (Chippewa); Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee); T.C. Cannon (Caddo/Kiowa); Fritz Scholder (Mission/ Luiseño); Alfred Young Man (Cree); Linda Lomahaftewa (Hopi/Choctaw); John Hoover (Aleut), Edna Massey (Cherokee), Earl Eder (Yanktonai Sioux); Neil Parsons (Blackfeet); Kevin Red Star (Crow); Redstar Price (Crow); Peter Jones (Onondaga); George Burdeau (Blackfeet); Ralph Aragon (San Felipe/Acoma pueblos); Henry Hank Gobin (Tulalip/Snohomish); Alice Loiselle (Chippewa); Patrick Swazo Hinds (Tesuque Pueblo); Carl Tubby (Choctaw), and others.

As part of the exhibit a number of educational programs will be offered.

On March 31, 7:00pm Action Abstraction Redefined - Virtual Artist’s Panel will take place at the museum. The panel will include artist such as Anita Fields and Linda Lomahaftewa in conversation with Manuela Well-Off- Man, art historian and curator at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.

An opening reception will take place on Friday, April 22, from 4:30-6:00pm. It will open at no charge to the public. A special Curator’s Talk with Manuela Well-Off-Man, art historian and curator at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts will take place on Saturday, April 23, at 2:00pm to discuss this dynamic exhibit.  The talk will be included with Museum admission.

Fritz Scholder (Mission/Luiseño) New Mexico #40, 1966, Acrylic on canvas , 73.5” x 51.5”

The traveling exhibition is supported by Art Bridges. Among the six museums that will host the Action/Abstraction Redefined exhibition are Cahoon Museum of American Art, Barnstable, MA; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO; Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg, PA; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; Schingoethe Center of Aurora University, Aurora, IL; and Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock, AR.

Action/Abstraction Redefined was co-curated by Dr. Manuela Well-Off-Man, Chief Curator, Institute of American Indian Arts’ Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Tatiana Lomahaftewa-Singer, MoCNA Curator of Collections and IAIA Associate Professor, and Dr. Lara Evans, IAIA Associate Professor of Native Art History.

Bertha Lujan (Taos), Untitled, undated, clay, glazes, 27 x 6 x 4 in., MoCNA Collection (TA-1)

Action/Abstraction Redefined is organized by IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM

The Action/Abstraction Redefined exhibition catalog is available at the Museum Store. To order a copy please email or call 508-428-7581.

 For more information, please visit


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