Fritz Scholder is a leading figure in American art history, best known for his groundbreaking reinvention of the way Native Americans are portrayed in contemporary art. At the height of his fame in the early 1980s, Scholder departed from the subject matter that had made him famous—the Indian paintings, created from 1967-1980—to paint subject matter inspired by his own diverse personal interests in mythology, the occult, the human psyche, sexuality, and dream imagery. LewAllen Galleries is pleased to present this extensive exhibition that focuses on this lesser known but crucial dimension of Scholder’s prolific career.
The non-naturalistic, warped portrayal of the figure—inspired by the art of his heroes, Bacon, Munch, and Oliveira—had always been the central touchstone of his art, as he explored themes of identity and psychology in his Indian series and beyond. In this new direction, figural distortion became a means of aesthetic and spiritual disruption—rather than sociological, as in his Indian series—delving beyond appearances towards deeper mysteries of the psyche. The mysterious, phantasmagoric paintings and works on paper included in From the Indian to the Mythic in particular demonstrate Scholder’s distorted figuration taken to its most existential extreme.
In these works, Scholder exteriorized a vast inner realm of dreams, passions, and psychic tension, turning to spiritual and religious archetypes as he grappled with issues relating to fame, love, and mortality. By invoking these kinds of stories and figures in his paintings, Scholder takes on the character of a shaman himself. In the words of Pulitzer Prize winning indigenous writer N. Scott Momaday, “[Scholder] did not lift the spirits, he awoke them.”