Symposium on American Indian Art

Fritz Scholder, Indian at a Gallop Bus Depot (detail)


Thursday, January 7, 2016

As the exhibition, Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967–1980, comes to a close at the Denver Art Museum, we invite you to join us for a day-long symposium that features noted scholars and artists who will explore influences on Fritz Scholder’s Indian series and the continuing legacy of his work.

The presentations will address varied topics including a deep look into the development of Scholder’s Indian series, his love of color, how his travels influenced his work, how his use of printmaking extended his artistic practice, how his work fits within broader world art movements, and the legacy he left for future generations of Native artists.

Super Indian is a groundbreaking exhibition of more than 40 rarely seen, monumental paintings and lithographs by the renowned 20th-century artist. It is the first to examine how Scholder blended figurative and pop art influences to create colorful, compelling, and revolutionary images. Though he was influenced by abstract expressionists including Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, as well as painters Francis Bacon, Francisco de Goya, and his own students, Fritz Scholder’s work was purely his own.

Registration and Ticketing

Lunch and an opportunity to visit the exhibition are included with symposium ticketing.

Tickets are no longer available.


Symposium Program Schedule for January 7, 2016

Download this schedule, presentation descriptions, and directions (PDF).

9–9:30 am—Guest Check-in at Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building, Level 1

9:30–9:45 am—Welcome – Sharp Auditorium, Hamilton Building, Lower Level

9:45–10:15 am—John Lukavic – The Colorful World of Scholder

10:15–10:45 am—Jessica Horton – Fritz Scholder between the US Information Agency and the American Indian Movement


11:10–11:40 am—Gregg Deal – The New Way of Representing America’s Indian

11:40 am–12:10 pm—Eric Berkemeyer – Fritz Scholder’s Multiples: Extending Artistic Practice and Conceptual Reach

12:10–1 pm—Lunch in Schlessman Hall, North Building, Level 1

1–2 pm—Time to visit exhibition Super Indian: Fritz Scholder 1967-1980

2–2:30 pm—Rebecca Hart – Fritz Scholder: Between Mainstream and Counter Culture, 1967—1980

2:30–3 pm—Brad Kahlhamer – Headlining Again: Fritz Scholder and Contemporary Art

3–3:20 pm—Break

3:20–3:50 pm—Kristine Ronan – Fritz Scholder’s Indian Kitsch: Indian Pop Politics, Clement Greenberg, and the FBI

3:50–4:20 pm—Round-table Discussion

(Schedule updated December 22, 2015)


The Colorful World of Scholder – John Lukavic

Fritz Scholder always said that color and composition were most important to him above all else; however, the subject matters he explored have often overshadowed the primacy of these other elements in his work. Beginning with an overview of what led Scholder to begin his Indian series, this paper will provide a detailed look at the components of Scholder’s Indian series paintings that brought him fame during his lifetime and renewed interest today.

Fritz Scholder between the US Information Agency and the American Indian Movement – Jessica Horton

In 1972, the Smithsonian Institution partnered with the US Information Agency (USIA) to travel Fritz Scholder's paintings of Native Americans to Bucharest, Belgrade, Berlin, London, and Paris, and sponsored the artist to lecture about the New Indian Art Movement abroad. The USIA aimed to counter Soviet critiques of America’s oppression of Native peoples with a message of benevolent guardianship while omitting indigenous sovereignty struggles back home. Yet Scholder's tour disseminated themes linked to the visual culture of the American Indian Movement that were otherwise censored from the international media.

The New Way of Representing America’s Indian – Gregg Deal

Some of the most important work by Native artists for Indigenous people addresses their modern representation, identity, and socio-political issues. The importance of Fritz Scholder’s work, his voice, and content remain relevant to the current dialog in contemporary Indigenous arts. This talk will explore how these topics relate to the lack of social and political advancement in this country, despite the best efforts of Indigenous people, as American Culture continues to consume the American Indian image.

Fritz Scholder’s Multiples: Extending Artistic Practice and Conceptual Reach – Eric Berkemeyer

Beginning in 1971 Fritz Scholder added lithography to his technical tool box. Throughout the remaining years of his Indian series Scholder’s forays in lithography pushed him technically and challenged him to revisit and refine subjects previously found in his paintings. Ultimately, this resulted in works that, while exhibiting Scholder’s love of color, texture, and painterly action, often challenge the viewer more explicitly than his paintings. At the same time these lithographs, as well as mechanical reproductions of his paintings in the form of posters, made his critique of Native stereotypes and western American tropes pervasive, particularly in the Southwest.

Fritz Scholder: Between Mainstream and Counter Culture, 1967—1980 – Rebecca Hart

As a student of Wayne Thiebaud in the 1950s, Fritz Scholder learned the fundamentals of abstract expressionism and gained an early exposure to notions of pop art. This association proved fundamental to Scholder’s development as a consummate colorist and commentator on American culture. He explored the subject of the “New Indian” with a singular tenacity unlike other representational painters working at the time.

Headlining Again: Fritz Scholder and Contemporary Art – Brad Kahlhamer

In this presentation artist Brad Kahlhamer will examine how Fritz Scholder’s fore-fronted figuration, vivid color overtones and incisively drawn contours announced the “New Native” in turbulent times. Kahlhamer will also explore, from a distinctly NYC downtown perspective, how this epic body of work exists in relationship to the contemporary art world of today.

Fritz Scholder’s Indian Kitsch: Indian Pop Politics, Clement Greenberg, and the FBI – Kristine Ronan

Fritz Scholder’s photo essay Indian Kitsch (1979) was his last project to utilize the techniques of Pop Art in an effort to create a new visual language for Native politics in the 1960s and ‘70s. In this talk Ronan unpacks what Scholder called his “Indian Pop” and its politics, situating Indian Kitsch within art-world discourse and the art market, hippie subcultures, the rise and fall of the Red Power movement, and the war in Vietnam.

Speaker Biographies

Eric Berkemeyer is curatorial assistant for the Department of Native Arts at the Denver Art Museum. He received his M.A. in art history from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he studied American art and the indigenous arts of the Americas, culminating in his thesis Indian Identities and Indian Experience: Strategies of Decolonization in the Works of Fritz Scholder. He holds a B.F.A. from the University of Central Arkansas, where he studied painting and printmaking.

Gregg Deal is a husband, a father, an artist and a member of the Paiute Tribe of Pyramid Lake. As a provocative contemporary artist/activist and current Native Arts Artist-in-Residence at the Denver Art Museum, much of Gregg’s work deals with indigenous identity and pop culture, touching on issues of race relations, historical consideration, and stereotype. Within this work—including paintings, mural work, and print work—Gregg critically examines issues within Indian country such as decolonization, the mascot issue (local and across the US), and appropriation.

Rebecca R. Hart is the Polly and Mark Addison Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Denver Art Museum. Previously she served as the curator of contemporary art at The Detroit Institute of Arts. Hart has organized numerous exhibitions and projects with contemporary artists including Matthew Barney, Mike Kelley, and Julie Mehretu. Many foundations have recognized Hart’s work and she has been awarded numerous grants. Mostly recently, she received grants for the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Shirin Neshat exhibition from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, MetLife Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Hart earned an M.F.A. in fiber from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a masters of art history from Wayne State University.

Jessica L. Horton is an assistant professor of art history at the University of Delaware who specializes in modern, contemporary, and Native American art. She has held fellowships at the Getty Research Institute, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Terra Foundation for American Art, and Social Science Research Council. Her essays have appeared in Parkett, American Art, Third Text, Journal of Transnational American Studies, and Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art. Her book, Places to Stand: Native American Modernisms on an Undivided Earth, forthcoming from Duke University Press, concerns a generation of artists who reformulated modernity as a shared ground in the wake of the American Indian Movement.

Brad Kahlhamer is an artist who lives and works in New York City. His work has been collected by institutions such as the Denver Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Milwaukee Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, among others. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City and Andréhn-Schiptjenko in Stockholm.

John P. Lukavic is the organizing curator for the exhibition Super Indian: Fritz Scholder 1967-1980, and is associate curator of native arts at the Denver Art Museum. He received his doctorate in cultural anthropology (University of Oklahoma, 2012) and earned an M.A. in museum science (Texas Tech University, 2001) before joining the Denver Art Museum in February 2012. He has curated exhibitions and gallery rotations of American Indian art including the contemporary art exhibitions Revolt 1680/2180: Virgil Ortiz, Sovereign: Independent Voices and The Art of Jeffrey Gibson, as well as a Hopi art addition to the traveling exhibition Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land.

Kristine K. Ronan studies nineteenth- and twentieth-century Native American and American art. Currently a Ph.D candidate in the History of Art at the University of Michigan, she is completing an image biography of Karl Bodmer's Mandan Buffalo Dancer (1834) for her dissertation. The project has been supported by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of the American Indian, the Luce Foundation and American Council of Learned Societies, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Her next project, entitled Present-Past-Future: The Rise and Fall of a Native/American Art Movement, covers the Indian Pop movement and its intersection with the Red Power politics of the 1960s and 1970s.

Fritz Scholder, Indian at a Gallup Bus Depot, 1969, Oil paint on canvas, 40 × 30 in. Booth Western Art Museum permanent collection, Cartersville, GA, 2013.011.001 Photo courtesy Louis Tonsmeire, Jr. © Estate of Fritz Scholder.

Fritz Scholder, American Portrait with One Eye, 1975. Acrylic paint on canvas; 80 × 68 in. Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan. © Estate of Fritz Scholder.

Fritz Scholder, Hopi Dancers, first state, 1974. Lithograph; 22¼ × 30 in. Denver Art Museum: Bequest of the estate of Suzanne W. Joshel, 2009.480 © Estate of Fritz Scholder.

Indian No 1 by Fritz Scholder

Fritz Scholder, Indian No. 1, 1967. Oil paint on canvas. 20 × 18 in.
Collection of Anne and Loren Kieve. © Estate of Fritz Scholder.