Super Indian: Fritz Scholder 1967-1980

Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art presents Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967–1980. This vivid and colorful exhibition explores the iconic 20th century artist’s signature blend of figurative and pop art influences.

Featuring more than 40 rarely seen, monumental paintings and lithographs by the renowned 20th century artist Fritz Scholder (1937–2005), this exhibition is the first to explore how Scholder blended figurative and pop art influences to create colorful, compelling and revolutionary images. Influenced by abstract expressionists including Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, as well as painters such as Francis Bacon, Francisco de Goya and Paul Gauguin, Fritz Scholder’s work was purely his own. His art reveals the raw reality of being an American Indian through the eyes—and palette—of an artist who once vowed never to paint Indians.

“Scholder claimed he was not an American Indian artist, but he was. He claimed his art was not political, but it certainly polarized the art world. For every position he took, he also explored the opposite perspective,” said John Lukavic, associate curator of Native Arts at the DAM and curator of Super Indian. “But this artist was first and foremost a colorist who used figurative art to test the limits of what paint can express.”

The opening of Super Indian will be in conjunction with the exhibition opening of Supper Club by Scott Anderson and will be on view in the Nerman’s first floor galleries June 23, 2016 through September 18, 2016. Super Indian is organized by the Denver Art Museum. Following its Denver debut, the exhibition traveled to the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas will be its last venue.

Drawing its title from the iconic painting Super Indian No. 2, the exhibition begins with Scholder’s controversial Indian series, started in 1967, and ends with his 1980 Indian Land paintings, which marked a seismic shift in palette and subject matter. Visitors to Super Indian will be taken on a thematic exploration following the development of Scholder’s style and themes: Early Indian series, pop art, psychological portraiture, stereotypes and representation and dark, mysterious subjects. The central elements that are most evident in his work are his focus on the figure, vibrant color and energetic brushwork. A selection of lithographs will show how the Luiseño-enrolled artist used the medium as a way to push the boundaries even further in terms of subject and color.

About Fritz Scholder (1937–2005)

Fritz Scholder (1937–2005) was born in Breckenridge, Minnesota, his paternal grandmother a member of the Luiseño tribe of Mission Indians. Although Scholder did not consider himself an Indian, he became known as a leader of the New American Indian Art movement. His work blended figurative and pop art influences to create challenging and revolutionary images that compel viewers to look beyond stereotypes. Scholder cultivated his interest in drawing, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Sacramento State University. During his undergraduate study, instructor and artist Wayne Thiebaud introduced him to the pop art movement and helped arrange his first solo exhibition. Eventually, Scholder earned his Master’s Degree in Fine Art from the University of Arizona and taught painting and art history at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Throughout his career, Scholder defied the label “Native American artist.” This paradox and others are evident in his renowned Indian series, which spanned the years 1967–1980. His work has been exhibited globally, including exhibitions in China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia and the United States. Several books have been published on his contributions, and Scholder received many awards and honors for his work, including the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement, the Arizona Governor’s Award and several honorary degrees.

Exhibition Catalog

An exhibition catalog, published by the DAM in association with DelMonico Books-Prestel, is available online from the Shop at the DAM. The rich and colorful volume features a foreword by Dr. Christoph Heinrich and major essays from scholars Dr. John P. Lukavic, Denver Art Museum; Dr. Jessica L. Horton, Getty Research Center National Endowment for the Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow and Eric Berkemeyer, Denver Art Museum; as well as artists David Bradley, Brad Kahlhamer, John Gritts, Donald F. Montileaux and Theodore Waddell exploring Scholder’s art and history. An essay from a collector’s perspective by Kent Logan also is included.

Exhibition Organizers and Sponsors

Super Indian: Fritz Scholder, 1967-1980, is organized by the Denver Art Museum. It is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. It is presented with generous support from Vicki and Kent Logan. Additional funding provided by John Brooks Incorporated, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, the donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign, and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).