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The Poetry of Line: The Pen and Ink Drawings of Earl Biss

April 12 - October 12, 2008

 

Gilcrease Museum's newest exhibit, The Poetry of Line: The Pen and Ink Drawings of Earl Biss, opened April 12, 2008. The exhibit will continue through October 12, 2008.

More than 50 drawings make up the exhibit, which is the first time on display since becoming part of the Gilcrease permanent collection in 2004. While Biss is widely known for his paintings, these drawings let the visitor view his work from a different perspective.

"Biss was among the most thoughtful of his generation of artists," Randy Ramer, interim senior curator, said. "His subjects are often very emotional and speak to his upbringing at Crow Agency in Montana."

Earl Biss (Crow/Chippewa) was a central figure during the 1960s as he helped change the face of Indian and Southwest Art. "Biss' work represents an important departure from traditional approaches to Native American art," Carole Klein, assistant curator in the art department at Gilcrease Museum, said. "Biss became a central figure among a group of very innovative artists during the 1960s at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe that included Fritz Scholder, T.C. Cannon, and Kevin Red Star."

Biss contributed to the changing face of Native American art and experimented with Abstract Expressionalism, allowing him an emotional outlet which he used as a tool to present a contemporary Native American perspective, portraying in a modern visual language the Indian living in the modern world. His landscapes and themes drawn from the history of the Crow Nation allow Biss to present a Native American perspective using contemporary visual language.

The drawings explore the expressionistic nuance of shadow and light affected by dark ink on paper. The drawings that make up the exhibit were produced in 1992 and 1993.

Once the Gilcrease exhibition finishes on October 12, 2008, The Poetry of Line: The Pen and Ink Drawings of Earl Biss will travel to other museums throughout the country.

 

Gallery text panels from the exhibition

by Carole Klein

 

THE POETRY OF LINE
The Pen and Ink Drawings of Earl Biss
 
BIOGRAPHY
 
Earl Biss (Crow/Chippewa) was born in Renton, Washington, in 1947. He was given the name "Meadow Lark Boy" as a child, and later as an adult took the name "Spotted Horse". Raised by his grandmother at Crow Agency, Montana, he would return frequently throughout his life to live and work. His creative approach represents an important stylistic departure from traditional Native American art. A central figure during the 1960s among a group of artists at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, including Fritz Scholder, T.C. Cannon, and Kevin Red Star, Biss contributed to changing the face of Indian and Southwest Art. A classically trained artist, he was exposed to Abstract Expressionism while studying under Fritz Scholder. Incorporating this style into his work and using it as an emotional outlet, Biss presented a contemporary Native American perspective, portraying in a modern visual language the Indian living in the modern world. After graduating, he attended the San Francisco Art Institute. In a subsequent year of independent study in Europe he frequented museums and painted, maintaining a studio in the Netherlands and painting on the Greek island of Corfu for six months. Biss was impressed by the translucent skies of Turner, the impressionistic brushwork of Monet, the illusive suggestiveness of Whistler's landscapes. He also had great admiration for the stark emotional statements of Edvard Munch and Oscar Kokoschka. These influences are seen in his work.
 
 
THE DRAWINGS
 
Biss began his expressive and responsive drawings with specific ideas, abstracting his forms and figures. He focused on gesture rather than detail, universalizing his experiences. His subject matter is drawn from the landscape and the rich cultural background of his people, the Crow Nation of the northern plains. Once a nomadic people roaming freely, their spirituality is built upon oneness with the earth and the elements.
 
Biss's art is both Indian and not Indian, representing a common spirituality. In his work, one can sense the pulsation of all living things. Using the artistic element of line, he creates mass, volume and movement. Free-flowing, the lines dance across the paper with energy, liveliness and rhythm, creating a kind of visual poetry. He pulls the viewer into the image and sets his mind adrift. The drawings are subtle yet powerful-images of ephemeral moments reflecting the transience of time.



QUOTES: Earl Biss for gallery walls

(all these by Earl Biss himself)

 
I am not concerned with capturing the outward image of nature, but rather those powers or forces of nature which play such an important part or basis for the way things are.
 
I feel that too many of us have lost touch with the beautiful world that is around us. If I can share with people a dream that is pleasant, I feel that I have fulfilled a responsibility that I must share with my fellow man.
 
I like to think of my painting as windows to another time and place -- a magical window through which one's mind may drift: a place that is good and right.
 
If I had my way the world would be beautiful, alluring, idyllic, simple, poetic and heroicI know the old days will never be again, but in my dreams I see them


(above: Earl Biss, Full Headdress Chief, Pen and ink on paper. 13.3929. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma

 

 

(above: Earl Biss, Stampeding Buffalo with a Shadow, Pen and ink on paper. 13.3896. Gilcrease Musuem, Tulsa, Oklahoma)

 

 

(above: Earl Biss, Shocking the Hay, Pen and ink on paper. 13.3893. Gilcrease Musuem, Tulsa, Oklahoma)

 

Object labels from the exhibition

Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Rainbow Warriors
in Search of the Southern Cross
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3892
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Native American Family Portrait -
Circa 1878 , Two Years after Dr. Zhivago
pen and ink on paper
13.3894
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Shocking the Hay
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3893
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Stampeding Buffalo with a Shadow
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3896
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Two of the Chief's Horses in Short Grass
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3895
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Racing Stripes Work Just Fine on Hot Rods
Racey Spots Suit our Needs Just Fine
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3897
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Left Handed Drawing
of the Chief wth a Cross
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3898
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Wagons with Oxen
pen and ink on paper
13.3899
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
A Kind Hearted Compadre
pen and ink on paper
13.3901
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Empty Wagon in the Dark
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3900
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Outlaw Horses for Outlaw Indians
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3903
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Nine Horses Running About
Before the Storm
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3902
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Where the Poplar and Pines
Meet the Mountains and Sky
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3905
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Death Riding A Grey Horse in 1876
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3904
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Digging a Ditch
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3907
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
He Had Designs on Spotted Ponies
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3906
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Portrait of a Baby Being Born as a Sketch
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3909
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Waiting for the Train
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3908
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Quick Sketch of a Group of Mixed Riders
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3911
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Crying in Baton Rouge
One Mid July Afternoon
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3910
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
A White Horse Going into the Woods
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3913
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Foreward Scouts on the Lookout
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3912
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Towards the End of Harvest
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3915
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
A Peasant's Banquet
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3914
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
No Way to Treat an Animal
pen and ink on paper
13.3917
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Striped Vest
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3916
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
His Feathers Went Every Which Way
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3919
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
He Had Deer Medicine
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3918
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
A Portrait of Natti White Arm
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3921
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Below the Wolf Mountains
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3920
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Warriors Under the Moon
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3923
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
A Portrait of the Kind Old Sheriff
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3922
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Untitled
pen and ink on paper
13.3925
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Where the High Plains Meet the Foot Hills
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3924
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Ladies with Parasols in the Woods
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3927
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Hunter and the D.C. Boys
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3926
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Full Headdress Chief
pen and ink on paper
13.3929
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Five Chiefs in the Moon Rise
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3928
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Dark Spotted Pony Without a Shadow
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3932
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Portrait of the Vanishing American
Fading into Black
pen and ink on paper
13.3930
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Walking with Carriage in the Background
pen and ink on paper
13.3935
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Three Ladies Before Three Steeples
pen and ink on paper, 1993
13.3934
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Fixing Her Hair at Night
pen and ink on paper
13.3938
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
All the Other Bears Teased Him
Cause of His Mickey Mouse Ears
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3940
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
The Carriage Driver
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3939
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Yes I Know that Scream Very Well
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3944
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Leaning and Crying
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3943
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
In the Madness of an April
Not So Far Away
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3948
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
A Portrait of Sorrow by a Window
pen and ink on paper
13.3945
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
A Portrait of Freedom as a Native American Princess Who Holds the Key,
Yet Her Freedom Has Made Her Prisoner
To Those Who Do Not Understand
pen and ink on paper
13.3951
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
 
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
The Little Boy Had All He Could Bear
and Could Do Nothing But Cry
pen and ink on paper, 1992
13.3949
Museum purchase, Carlson Bequest, 2004
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Rising to the Call
lithograph on paper, 1980
1437.835
Gift of Mike Quinn
Earl Biss (1947-1998) Crow/Chippewa
 
Battle Talk
monoprint on paper, 1979
14.872
Gift of Gary Carson, 2003
Kevin Red Star (b.1943) Crow
 
Pipe Carrier
lithograph on paper
15.1121
Gift of Gary Carson, 2003
 
T.C. Cannon (1946-1978) Caddo/Kiowa/Choctaw
 
Woman in Window
woodcut on paper
15.1121
Gift of Joyce Cannon Yi, 2004

 

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