Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art

Edited by Karen Kramer Russell, with Janet Catherine Berlo, Bruce Bernstein, Joe D. Horse Capture, et al. . Yale Univ./Peabody Essex Museum, $65 (248p) ISBN 978-0-300-17732-9
This supplemental volume to the exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass. aims to dispel the notion that Native American art is "predictable" and "lodged in the past." While traditional values linger, globalization has transformed both production and perception, ensuring that "artistic and cultural development" not only persists, but flourishes. This confluence of past and present is enacted in many of the pieces featured in this compelling volume, such as Brian Jungen's Cetology, a 50-foot whale skeleton comprising deconstructed plastic patio chairs. Other works deftly comment on the usurpation of traditional forms of documentation, as in Dwayne Wilcox's After Two or Three Hundred Years You Will Not Notice—a contemporary riff on Plains-style ledger art featuring a U.S. government official shackling a red, white, and blue ball and chain to a Native America's leg; and Rebecca Belmore's Fringe—a striking photograph of a reclining woman with a gash that runs the length of her back and is sewed up with thread and red beads. Interspersed with the artwork are illuminating essays by critics, curators, and artists, and each piece is accompanied by a brief but informative blurb. Russell and her colleagues admirably achieve their goal of asserting the vibrant relevancy of Native American art in this stunning book that will appeal to a general audience, as well as art aficionados. Color illus. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/26/2012
Release date: 02/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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