Posts tagged ‘Steven Yazzie’

The Desert Notebooks: Charted Territories

“Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”
Aldo Leopold

Arizona is one of the most beautiful states in the Union, a diverse range of landscapes, each more breathtaking than the next, ranging from vast and desolate plateaus to hidden canyons opening into lush, green fields, from cactus fields to piñon forests.

Arizona was an even more abundant land before the arrival of progress and massive numbers of new residents and industries built on extraction.

Native communities thrived here for centuries before Europeans arrived. The canyons of northern Arizona are littered with large numbers of prehistoric ruins — sophisticated, multi-story masonry structures built into protective cliffs and along rivers. These structures were abandoned well before the arrival in the area of the Navajo, the largest Native community in the United States, who now trace their origin stories to this land..

The former abundance is reflected in the sheer number of these ruins, a mysterious precursor of the wildly expanding low-density sprawl we have in Arizona today. Matteo Rubbi found an aerial photographic map of Apache Junction taken in 1971 that shows a view of largely undeveloped that will never be reproduced.

Visiting artists Miguel Palma and Bruno Pereira Sousa, both from Portugal, and Matteo Rubbi from Italy and I traveled north this week on behalf of the Desert Initiative. On May 14, we were hosted on a visit to the Navajo Nation and other locations in New Mexico and northern Arizona by Phoenix artist Steve Yazzie (http://www.stevenyazzie.com). Yazzie and his family grew up on the Navajo Nation, and he had an opportunity to visit his mother while we were there. Yazzie’s late grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker, and Yazzie served in the Marines before dedicating himself to his work as an artist. One of his works was recently acquired by the Phoenix Art Museum.

Our first night was spent in Gallup, New Mexico, at the historic El Rancho Hotel. Gallup was once called the “Indian Capital of the World,” and about 30 percent of the city’s population traces its roots to Navajo, Hopi, Zuni or other Native communities.

The following morning, we had a meeting with Manny Wheeler, Director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, and learned about many of the exciting exhibitions, projects and commissions he is leading there. We previewed several new temporary public art installations yet to be unveiled as part of a collaboration between the Navajo Nation and New Mexico Arts, the state arts agency. The commissions will be inaugurated in Sante Fe, N.M. on Friday, May 18. Desert Initiative and ARID Journal partner and ISEA2012 Artistic Director Andrea Polli and Will Wilson are among the artists commissioned. For more information, including a map and texts in both Navajo and English, visit http://www.timenm.com/

After a traditional Navajo lunch in Window Rock, we headed southwest through the Navajo Nation toward Chinle Canyon, where we saw several of the prehistoric ruins and watched horses run across the canyon floor. We spent the night and following morning in historic downtown Flagstaff, where we also met with Alan Petersen, Curator of Fine Arts for the Museum of Northern Arizona, and toured his current exhibition, Shadows on the Mesa—Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond. I highly recommend a visit. More information is available on-line at http://www.musnaz.org/exhibits/shadows/index.shtml

On the drive south back to Phoenix from Flagstaff, as the elevation dropped, the exterior temperature rose from 72 degrees to 106 degrees over a roughly 140-mile drive. We passed by the fires raging on the west side of I-17 near Sunflower, Arizona. At a certain point, smoke from the fires blocked out the afternoon sun and cast otherworldly light and shadows on the landscape.

I saw things on this short journey that I’ve never seen before and may not ever see again: Horses attempting to open the front door of house. The sun sinking through a red and black veil of smoke rising from the largely uncontained Sunflower fires raging to the south, at one point lighting up the previously invisible silhouette of the San Francisco Peaks like a volcano as it slowly sank behind the horizon. Through it all, the best moments were watching the landscape through the eyes of international guest artists and watching the creative process in action as everyone interacted and responded creatively throughout with vision, inspiration, laughter and friendship. My sincere thanks go out to Steve Yazzie, Manny Wheeler and Alan Petersen for their time and support on behalf of the Desert Initiative and ASU, and to our visiting artists Miguel Palma, Bruno Pereira Sousa and Matteo Rubbi.

GREG ESSER
Desert Initiative Director
ASU Art Museum

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Photographs by Steven Yazzie.

May 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm 1 comment

The Americas Gallery gets a facelift — and the Museum gets an Interim Curator!

Lekha Hileman Waitoller, who wrote the post below about our newly revamped Americas Gallery, has been the Curatorial Assistant here at the ASU Art  Museum since 2008. Today we’re happy to announce that Lekha has agreed to serve as Interim Curator at the Museum until the end of 2011. Lekha received her Masters in Art History and Theory from ASU this spring, with a thesis titled “Destabilizing the Archive: Steven Yazzie, Lorna Simpson and the Counter-Archive.” She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism (with an emphasis on Photography) and one in Spanish from the University of Missouri.

Do come see the Americas Gallery, and, if you get here before August 27, you can also see Self-Referential: Art Looking at Art, an exhibition of works from the permanent collection that Lekha curated.


One of the great things about living in the desert in summer is that things slow down. Most of us find ourselves pulled in fewer directions and better able to hunker down and chip away at our long to-do lists.

For some time now the curatorial staff at the ASU Art Museum has been talking about how to make changes to the Americas Gallery—the gallery dedicated to works from the collection, including historic gems like our Georgia O’Keefe, David Alfaro Siquieros and Edward Hopper, (include hyperlinks that I have provided) that would otherwise be less available to our visitors, since our focus is on contemporary art.

Years ago, much thought went into how to show these favorites. The resulting installation was an active salon-style installation of portraits called FACES, a chronology of WORK in the Americas and a selection of paintings that describe PLACE/SPACE.

This summer we gave the gallery a facelift—a major one. Keeping with the original themes, we re-thought the Faces comparison through figurative sculpture—historic and contemporary—highlighting the ways artists have selected particular media and styles to convey meaning. The installation is purposefully spare, inviting the viewer to make comparisons between the dissimilar works.

Alison Saar’s Hi Yella (1991), left, stands in contrast to Hiram Powers’ George Washington (1849). Photo by Daniel Swadener.

Another major change is in the PLACE/SPACE installation, which loosely traces artistic styles describing both public and domestic spaces from the early 19th century through today. The earliest paintings look at landscape as a defining component of the United States’ national identity, while the most contemporary selections transition from Surrealist depictions to landscape demonstrating the collision of the personal and political.

Activating the gallery is a sculptural installation by the adventurous conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim. The Last Dance plays on both PLACE/SPACE and figurative sculpture, as the work presents two figures suspended from the ceiling, comprised of nopal cacti. And play it does—animated by a fan motor, the figures “dance” to the tune of “Skokiaan.”

Dennis Oppenheim’s The Last Dance, 1994. Photo by Stu Mitnick.

We hope that you will enjoy what we’ve done with the Americas Gallery and that the powerful works on view will provoke questions and dialogue. Please let us know what you think!

Lekha Hileman Waitoller

Curatorial Assistant

August 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm 1 comment

Postcommodity & Announcement Brochure for 18th Biennale of Sydney!

The announcement brochure for the upcoming 18th Biennale of Sydney includes an image of Postcommodity’s site-specific intervention Do You Remember When? (2009), which took place at the ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center.

We are excited to see Postcommodity continue to get recognition outside of our ASU and Arizona community!

Kade Twist, a founding and active member of Postcommodity, is a current MFA student at the ASU School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Cristóbal Martínez, an active member of Postcommodity, received his BFA from the ASU School of Art, recently graduated with his M.A. from the ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering and in Fall 2011 will begin his doctoral study at ASU with Dr. James Gee and Dr. Bryan Brayboy.

In addition to the Do You Remember When? project, Postcommodity created the site-specific performance/installation Dead River (2009) for the ASU Art Museum Street Party exhibition at Martha+Mary’s 4400 location; Kade Twist created the solo work There is no end of the trail; there is merely a system of prosthesis (2006) for the Museum’s exhibition New American City: Artists Look Forward; and former Postcommodity member Steven Yazzie’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions at the ASU Art Museum over the years, including his piece Tsosido Sweep Dance (2009) in the current exhibition Self-Referential: Art Looking at Art, which runs through August 27.

Here is a link to a download for the 18th Biennale of Sydney brochure:

18th Biennale Advance Brochure
http://www.biennaleofsydney.com.au/_blog/Biennale_News/post/Biennale_Brochure/

And here is the nice response received from artist Kade Twist…

From: Kade L. Twist
Sent: Thursday, June 02, 2011 11:11 AM

Greetings from the Santa Fe Art Institute!

Thank you for the note John.  You are too kind.

Postcommodity is honored to be featured so prominently in the brochure, especially since it is being circulated at Venice. And we have had conversations with the curators about re-staging Do You Remember When? in a manner that is relevant to the Indigenous Australian community, as well as the potential for staging other work.  We have not yet received an official letter from the Biennial of Sydney confirming our participation.  Being included in the brochure is a good sign and I hope means our odds are good that we will be included, but until we receive an official notice I remain hopeful. With that disclaimer put forward, I do want to make one point very clear: Postcommodity is greatly appreciative of the support that the ASU Art Museum has provided us!  You have all worked hard to ensure that we are welcome contributors to the museum’s discourse, and we thank you for this. In many ways we believe that the ASU Art Museum is our home, or at least you all do an excellent job of making us feel as if it is! We greatly appreciate Peter Held curating us into the Sustainability exhibition and providing us with a platform to contribute.  Mr. Kim, Peter, Heather, John and the Museum played a significant role in enabling us to cut the hole in the floor of the institution and fully realize the work that eventually connected us with the Sydney curators. We will always have a special relationship with each of you and the museum. Also: I would like to thank Adriene Jenik for all of her support, patience and mentorship. It’s an honor to be her student and to have the opportunity to work with her and attend the School of Art’s Intermedia program. 

ASU is a fantastic art community!  I’m blessed that Postcommodity is a part of this community.

Best regards,

-Kade

Kade L. Twist
http://nativelabs.com/
http://postcommodity.com/

June 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm


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