May 9 Tues Met: Renowned Collection of American Indian Art from Fenimore Art Museum at Gallery 359 (May 9 Tues- Oct 8 Sun)

No this is not a rude gesture. Potlatch figure holding a copper (detail), c. 1880-1895. Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl), northwest Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Red cedar, paint, nails. Thaw Collection of American Indian Art, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York. Photo: Richard Walker

A selection of 38 superb works of art created by Native North American artists will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning May 9 Tues. Drawn from the more than 870 pieces assembled by philanthropists Eugene and Clare Thaw, American Indian Art from the Fenimore Art Museum: The Thaw Collection attests to the long-standing excellence of the aesthetic traditions of North America’s Native peoples.

Spanning the first millennium to the 20th century, it will showcase indigenous masterpieces in various media—sculpture, painting, drawing, basketry, textiles, ceramics, and decorative arts. Among the highlights are a rare whelk shell gorget (ca.1100–1400) carved by a Mississippian sculptor; a monumental war record (ca. 1880) vividly painted on animal hide by Plains masters; a rare, nearly life-size Kwakwaka’wakw potlatch figure from the late 19th century; and a waterproof Kamleika garment (or parka) made of seal or other sea-mammal gut from the Arctic region.

The exhibition will feature a variety of Native artistic creations, including an ancient Arctic carving made of sea mammal ivory; examples of the dramatic sculptural arts of the Pacific Northwest; painted ceramics and weaving from the millennia-long tradition in the Southwest; refined basketry from California and the Great Basin; iconic pictorial narratives chronicling events of the Plains; and robust aestheticized weaponry of the Eastern Woodlands.

The impressive achievements of female basket weavers from California and the Great Basin region are evident in an award-winning basket made by the renowned practitioner of that art form, Louisa Keyser (or Dat So La Lee); a signature work by her sister-in-law, Scees Bryant Possock; and, by the Yokuts weaver Mrs. Dick Francisco, a monumental woven gambling tray made for a dice game called huuchuish.

Also of great emphasis in this selection of Fenimore holdings is a collection of several singular Plains Indian creations, the most notable of which is a rare 19th-century war record memorializing a battle between the Lakota and Crow (Apsa’alooka). A landmark intact ledger book by the artist Black Hawk (Sans Arcs Lakota) is a treasure trove of information about life on the Plains; it illustrates hunting and dance scenes and includes natural history drawings and numerous depictions of warfare and ceremony.

Exhibition Dates: May 9–October 8, 2017 Exhibition Location:
The Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 359

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