Celebrating Fritz Scholder’s Views of the American West  

Celebrating Fritz Scholder’s Views of the American West

Blog | October 29, 2015

Three blocks away from our Denver saleroom, the Denver Art Museum is currently exhibiting Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967-1980,” hailed by The Huffington Post as one of “The 21 Art Exhibitions You’ll be Talking About this Year.” According to an article by the New York Times, the museum has also done much to change the stature of Native American art. The artist on display, Fritz Scholder, is on course to join the pantheon of artistic innovators from the late 20th century because of his uncanny ability to meld Native American heritage with passionate post-modern expression.

On exhibit at the same time, the Arts of the American West auction in Denver will feature a dozen of Scholder’s paintings and lithographs, to be sold November 11-12, 2015 in Denver.

Fritz Scholder, Sioux Burial at Mouse River

Arts of the American West, Lot 217. Fritz Scholder, (American, 1937-2005), Sioux Burial at Mouse River, 1979 Estimate: $700 to $900

A native of Breckenridge, Minnesota, Scholder found early inspiration from figures like Pop art’s Andy Warhol and the masters of Abstract Expressionism, as both movements offered a cutting-edge commentary on the state of art. Following his family’s relocation to Sacramento, California, in the late 1950s, Scholder began study with Pop artist Wayne Thiebaud, who was so impressed with Scholder’s approach that he invited him to join into an artistic cooperative. Experiencing some success, including his first solo exhibition at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum, yet still only in his early 20s, Scholder pursued continued study at the University of Arizona.

It was during these continued years of training that Scholder began exploring Native American themes through the lens of these movements. Of Native American heritage himself (he was one-quarter Luiseño, a tribe originating in Southern California), Scholder became fascinated with an exploration of the images and symbols of the culture. Never wanting to consider himself a Native American painter, and even vowing once never to paint Native Americans – as he mentioned in a 1995 Archives of American Art interview, “I think that an artist finds himself always fighting against what he became famous for” – Scholder nevertheless developed a unique niche for the Native American in art. His painting and lithograph series, stocked with blended references, allude to his contemplation of the survival of Native American culture amid the dominant pressures of mainstream American existence. Scholder complemented these themes with vibrant palettes and simplified forms that bordered on the abstract, a revolutionary blend of Abstract Expressionism from a Native American perspective.

Scholder’s work became incredibly influential, with the artist himself being featured in a number of prominent exhibitions and invited talks throughout his career. By the time of his death in 2005, Scholder was considered one of the most prominent Native American artists, a celebrity that continues today. The Denver Art Museum’s exhibition is only the latest example of this celebrity. This exhibition, which museum director Dr. Christoph Heinrich says is aimed at “[expanding] the recognition of contemporary art by American Indian artists,” features over 40 works by the artist and will travel to the Phoenix Art Museum and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in the coming months.

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, however, has the unique position of offering several of the lithographs currently on display in the Denver Art Museum exhibition, as well as several works on paper, for sale. Among these lithography offerings are the striking Sioux Burial at Mouse River (1979), which tempers the solemnity of death with the overwhelming warm wash of orange, as well as Indian at the Circus (1970) a veritable ode to postmodern Push Pin Studio design along with a commentary on Native American objectification and trivialization. The same sensibilities extend to his works on paper, wherein his fluidity in brushstroke in both acrylic, in the case of Buffalo in Grass, and watercolor, as seen in Indian on Horse with Staff, reveals both Scholder’s versatility as an artist across media as well as his crucial role as an artistic innovator in the imagining of the American West.

Fritz Scholder, Indian at the Circus

Arts of the American West, Lot 222. Fritz Scholder, (American, 1937-2005), Indian at the Circus Estimate: $500 to $700

Full Preview Schedule for Arts of the American West:

Friday, November 6 | 10am-5pm
Saturday, November 7 | 10am – 3pm
Monday, November 9 | 10am – 5pm
Tuesday, November 10 | 10am – 5pm
Wednesday, November 11 | 10am – 3pm

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