Three artists, nearly 20 works and an embodiment of ideas
How does knowledge travel from generation to generation? For most communities, this transfer of intergenerational knowledge comes in multiple forms, including written text, oral histories and art. Patterns of Knowing, opening May 18 in the Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery, explores this movement of history, specifically patterns sourced from Indigenous cultures that embody lineages of ideas and how they evolve over time.
“Artists Jordan Ann Craig (Northern Cheyenne Tribe), Benjamin Harjo Jr. (Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma/Seminole) and Jeri Redcorn (Caddo Nation of Oklahoma/Citizen Potawatami) create works using shapes, colors and symbols that are part of a living culture,” says Associate Curator Pablo Barrera. “By anchoring their inventive compositions to the heritage of their respective communities, the artists simultaneously preserve Indigenous visual language and contribute toward its evolution as a contemporary art form.”
The three featured artists’ approach to patterns is showcased through nearly 20 artworks: ceramics, paintings, prints and drawings. Craig creates large-scale works that draw upon the color and rhythm of Indigenous patch- and beadwork. By painting symmetrical, repeated blocks of color in various hues, Craig typifies North America’s long-standing relationship with abstract art while simultaneously articulating time, space and intimate experiences. Also, visitors will find something new in the third floor gallery: a corner covered in Craig-designed wallpaper, inspired by her artist book, also on view.
The internationally known Harjo Jr. — who has been named a Red Earth Festival Honored One and won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native American Art Studies Association — is known for rich and vibrant prints and paintings that tend to feature figures in motion, contrasted against a background of vivid symbols. A member of Absentee Shawnee and Seminole Tribes, Harjo Jr. experiments with traditional tribal patterns to generate perspective depth within his works. Through his use of triangles, squares and stripes, Harjo Jr. celebrates the limitless boundaries of Indigenous pictorial vocabularies, another avenue for language.
Redcorn is a leader in the revitalization of Caddoan pottery, carrying this traditional practice into the contemporary art world. Embracing the mathematical and philosophical principles behind this tribal style, the 83-year-old artist’s geometric patterns weave and intersect to form scrollwork meandering across the surface of vessels. Redcorn’s work evokes the journey that heritage Caddo designs have traveled between communities, contemplating their personal and collective significance. In addition to two ceramic works, Redcorn collaborated with local artist Kristin Gentry (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) to translate her pottery design into a large-scale mural, a reimagining of Ayo Wahdut Kuku (Sky Earth Water), featured at the First Americans Museum. The color was created by incorporating dirt from grounds in Oklahoma and Texas where Caddo nations have ancestral territory and sourced clay. Redcorn’s works are in national collections, including the White House (First Lady Michelle Obama acquired Intertwining Scrolls).
“The artists’ exceptional works help to transform conventional narratives of American art and culture and encourage more inclusion and celebration of creative expressions from communities whose voices and artistic practices have long been marginalized and ignored,” Barrera says. “Patterns of Knowing invites viewers to learn more about the lineage of artistic practices tapped by Craig, Harjo, and Redcorn, and the ways they are contributing toward the constant evolution of Indigenous patterns and artistic principles.”
An opening reception will be held May 18 from 5-7 p.m. with light bites and a cash bar. Craig and Redcorn will join Barrera for an artist talk at 6 p.m., during which the artists will discuss the relationship between pattern and information in their works. All are encouraged to attend this free event and celebration of Indigenous art.
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