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Fritz Scholder

Fritz Scholder was 25 years old before he openly identified himself as American Indian.

Despite his vow to never paint anything "Indian," it was his depictions of Indians in the late 1960s and early 1970s that launched him into the stratosphere of the international art world.

Scholder, along with other contemporaries such as T.C. Cannon, is credited with forever changing how American Indians were regarded in contemporary art.

"He broke the mold for Indian style. It was not the old romantic paintings. He's the one that really set the stage," said James McGrath, a retired art director for Santa Fe's Institute of American Indian Arts.

Scholder has always worked in series of paintings. In 1967, his new series on the Native American, depicting the “real Indian,” became an immediate controversy. Scholder painted Indians with American flags, beer cans, and cats. His target was the loaded national cliché and guilt of the dominant culture. Scholder did not grow up as an Indian and his unique perspective could not be denied. Scholder resigned from IAIA in 1969 and traveled to Europe and North Africa. He returned to Santa Fe and acquired a small adobe house and studio on Canyon Road.

In 1970, Tamarind Institute moved from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. Scholder was invited by Tamarind to do the first major project, a suite of lithographs, Indians Forever. It was the beginning of a large body of work in that medium for the artist. Scholder/Indians was published by Northland Press, the first book on Scholder’s work. In the same year, Scholder had his first one-man show at the Lee Nordness Galleries.

He had become a major influence for a generation of Native American artists. He was invited to lecture at numerous art conferences and universities including Princeton and Dartmouth. In 1972 an exhibition of the Dartmouth Portraits opened at Cordier and Ekstrom in New York to favorable reviews. In the same year, Adelyn D. Breeskin of the Smithsonian American Art Museum visited Scholder and suggested a two-person show of the work of Scholder and one of his former students. Scholder chose T. C. Cannon. The show opened in Washington, D.C. to good reviews and traveled to Romania, Yugoslavia, Berlin, and London. Scholder was invited to have a one-man show at the Basil V International Art Fair in Switzerland in 1974. After Basel, Scholder traveled to Egypt and painted the sphinx and pyramids.

  “Thank you dear Fritz. Your spirit is still with us and you left us an extraordinary body of work that portrayed the mystery of life at its best and most beautiful, at its worst and most painful. You showed us the humorous and absurd, love and passion in its darkest and brightest moments. Yes, you felt it all. “Now, rest in peace.”

David Witt, curator at the Harwood Art Museum in Taos, New Mexico



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