National Museum of the American Indian

New York, NY



Instrument of Change: Jim Schoppert Retrospective Exhibition, 1947-1992


The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian will host an exhibition of contemporary Native art from Alaska, titled "Instrument of Change: Jim Schoppert Retrospective Exhibition, 1947-1992." The traveling exhibition features more than 50 works--ranging from large carved panels to sculptures, paintings and poetry by this Tlingit artist. The exhibit will be on view Oct. 3, 1999 - Feb. 6, 2000 at the museum's George Gustav Heye Center, One Bowling Green in lower Manhattan in New York City. (left: Another Feather from Moon's Nest, 1990, carved wood, 15 x 46 inches, National Museum of the American Indian; right: Teasing Eagle, 1993, carved wood, 62 x 36 inches, Anonymous Lender)

"As a transitional artist, Jim Schoppert challenged the conventions of traditional Northwest Coast art," said W. Richard West (Southern Cheyenne), director of the National Museum of the American Indian. "The museum is proud to celebrate this Tlingit artist, whose unique artistic expression contributed to the evolution of contemporary Native art."

Schoppert (l947-l992) was an innovator, an instrument of change, who, as curator Dave Nicholls says, "stretched the boundaries of Alaska contemporary art and, in so doing, occasionally caused consternation among the advocates of a more traditional Native arts style."

As Schoppert himself noted, "There is tremendous pressure for conformity from collectors and scholars, who want work that fits into the classic definition of Northwest Indian art. When things don't fit their expectations there's a raised eyebrow, and a sort of suggestion of 'What do we do with it now?'

The exhibition features several major carved wood panels produced in the 1980s, including "Where Eagles Talon Salmon from the Channels," a large muitipaneled 17 by 7-foot One Percent for Art piece, an example of his larger public commissions; "Blueberries," another multipaneled 6 x 6-foot favorite from the Anchorage Museum of History and Art's collection; and "Thunderhead," a 6 by 6 foot multipaneled piece from a private lender.

These carvings incorporate the strong contoured lines of traditional Tlingit and Haida "formline" designs, but this traditional style became a point of departure for Schoppert. His embellishments and abstractions of formline were, in his view, a part of the natural evolution of styles inherent in Native arts for millennia. For example, his carved panels are painted with bright colors in a very loose and expressionistic manner, the direct opposite of the traditional black and red colors painted in a formal and controlled manner of formline.

The exhibition also includes numerous carved and painted masks, works in ivory, and paintings such as "Meditations" and "Miro and the Midnight Sun," which pay tribute to some of the European artists who influenced his art. Two pieces from the Museum of the American Indian's collection will be featured in the exhibition: "Another Feather from Moon's Nest," acrylic on carved wood, and "Whale Hunting in America," acrylic on rice paper.

"Instrument of Change: Jim Schoppert Retrospective Exhibition, 1947-1992" is accompanied by a full-color catalog, available in the museum shop. "Instrument of Change" was organized by the Anchorage Museum of History and Art and the Anchorage Museum Association. The Heye Center venue and associated free programming are made possible, in part, by a generous gift from Con Edison.

We invite our readers to also see THE AMERICAN INDIAN OBSERVED: Sketches and Documents From the Collections of the Archives of American Art.

Read more about the National Museum of the American Indian in Resource Library Magazine

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in1999 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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