“Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe” Presents Major Retrospective of the Yanktonai Dakota Artist’s Work

One of the 20th Century’s Most Innovative Native American Painters, Howe Challenged Stereotypes and Created Pathways for Native Painters
March 2, 2022
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Abstract painting by Oscar Howe

Oscar Howe (Yanktonai Dakota, 1915–1983), Umine Dance, 1958. Casein and gouache on paper, mounted to board, 18 x 22 in. Garth Greenan Gallery, New York 

The release was originally published Dec. 8, 2021.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York will present “Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe” March 11, 2022. The retrospective exhibition traces the artistic development of painter Oscar Howe (1915–1983). The arc of his career began with early conventional work created while he was in high school in the 1930s and continued through the emergence of his own innovative and abstract approach to painting in the 1950s and 1960s. The exhibition will be on view through Sept. 11, 2022. After it closes in New York, it will be on view at the Portland Art Museum (PAM) in Portland, Oregon, Oct. 29, 2022–May 14, 2023, and the South Dakota Art Museum at South Dakota State University in Brookings June 10, 2023–Sept. 17, 2023.

One of the 20th century’s most innovative Native American painters, Howe committed his artistic career to the preservation, relevance and ongoing expression of his Yanktonai Dakota culture. He proved that art could be simultaneously modern and embedded in customary Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux) culture and aesthetics—to him there was no contradiction. Howe challenged the art establishment’s preconceptions and definitions of Native American painting. In doing so, he catalyzed a movement among Native artists to express their individuality rather than conforming to an established style that limits artistic expression. His legacy of innovation and advocacy continues to inspire generations of Native artists to take pride in their heritage and resist stereotypes.

An online press preview will be held Thursday, March 10, 2022. For more information or to attend, email NMAIPressOffice@si.edu

The exhibition was developed in collaboration with PAM and curated by Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo), PAM’s curator of Native American art.

“We are finally at a point in the 21st century where we can recognize the impact and complexity of Oscar Howe’s incredible work as both Native American and modern American art,” Ash-Milby said. “This project is a long overdue recognition of his contribution to the field that we hope will establish Howe’s place as a 20th-century modernist.”

Major support for “Dakota Modern” has been provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. Support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support provided by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

Exhibition Catalog

An accompanying exhibition catalog, Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe, published by the National Museum of the American Indian, will be available at the opening of the exhibition. The book features the most extensive representation of Howe’s artworks to date and examines his life as artist and educator. As the first multi-authored publication to present the full scope of his career, Dakota Modern secures Howe’s legacy as a contemporary Native artist and positions his work within an expanded global history of modernism. Co-edited by Kathleen Ash-Milby and Bill Anthes, the catalog also includes contributions from Janet Catherine Berlo, Christina Burke, Philip J. Deloria, Erika Doss, Emil Her Many Horses, John Lukavic, Inge Dawn Howe Maresh, Anya Montiel, Denise Neil and Joyce Szabo.

About the Museum

In partnership with Native peoples and their allies, the National Museum of the American Indian fosters a richer shared human experience through a more informed understanding of Native peoples. The museum strives toward equity and social justice for the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere through education, inspiration and empowerment. The museum’s George Gustav Heye Center is located in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green in New York City. For additional information, including hours and directions, visit AmericanIndian.si.edu. Follow the museum via social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Portland Art Museum

The Portland Art Museum (PAM) in Portland, Oregon, strives to be an inclusive institution that facilitates respectful dialogue, debate and the free exchange of ideas. With a deep commitment to artists—past and present—and freedom of expression, the museum’s collections, programs and staff aspire to reveal the beauty and complexities of the world and create a deeper understanding of people’s shared humanity. For additional information, visit portlandartmuseum.org and follow the museum via social media on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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