|" The Peiper-Riegraf Collection "
NAASA Conference Presentation 10 - 27 - 2005 in Phoenix, AZ
1- It is a privilege to be here. Thank you Jaune (Quick-to-See Smith) for suggesting a
presentation on the Peiper-Riegraf collection. My thanks to Zena (Pearlstone ) and to all who
have made this introduction possible.
Making a commitment to Native modern art reflects in the cultural manifestation of an art
collection the experiences of my own cross-cultural biography and identity. Moving from
Germany to the US, we lived in Los Angeles and New York from 1980-1990. We then
moved back to Frankfurt, where I opened my gallery for modern, contemporary Native art. I
had to close it when we moved again to New York where my husband and I live since 2002.
My commitment for serious collecting was triggered by a lecture given by Jaune Quick-to See
Smith in 1983 at the South West Museum in Los Angeles. Yet, it took me four more years to
accept the complex issues of contemporary native art, Jaune had passionately advocated,
while also exploring the art historic context and significance from my own Western
perspective. Both cultural sensibilities established my cross-cultural commitment for
collecting and bringing this art to my country. So, whatever reasons people may collect for, I
was driven by an inner necessity, once I had connected the dots, linking individual artistic
expressions to what I perceived as one of the most complex phenomenon in modernist art
movements and modern art history: Native American Modernism.
Before I present images from the collection, I have to mention that we started collecting
against all odds: First of all, we did not have the money. We had to shift our priorities,
sacrifice other opportunities, and I had to circle my entire live around building this collection.
Furthermore, the artists resented for reasons I well understood, to seeing their work collected
in the context of other native artists. This was painful for me, but with my rationale for
collecting, only a group of artists can bear evidence of an art movement just as it is collected
and presented in every important modern art museum, giving at once evidence of great artists,
a socio-cultural phenomenon and an art movement. To my amazement, I did not see this kind
of presentation and acknowledgement for Native Modernism given in any modern art
museum in this country, which made it all the more a necessity for me to collect.
Let me give you a first overview with this painting by David Bradley.
“Bridges and Boundaries – the American Indian Art Ambassadors”
2 - I commissioned this work in 1988. It’s the cover image for my second small catalogue, which
features with works by the depicted artists the diversity of art forms and the evolving process
towards Native Modernism.
David’s painting tells many revealing stories related to history, the artists and the art transfer
from the Southwest to Frankfurt – but let me just introduce the artists in this fictional
gathering: David Johns; Charles Supplee (with selling his and Tchin’s jewelry I earned
money to buy art) Neil David, Bob Haozous , William Franklin, David Bradley, Jean LaMarr,
Emmi Whitehorse, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Delbridge Honanie, David Dawangyumptewa,
Darren Vigil-Gray, Linda Lomahaftewa, me, which first made me cry when I saw that David
had put me in there; Marie Romero, Tchin and Maxine Toya. I later added works by Dan
Namingha, Edgar Heap of Birds and Rick Bartow’ to the collection. This painting can be seen
in the upcoming show at the Wheelwright Museum””About Face” curated by Zena Pearlstone
David Bradey “Indian Market Manifesto”, 1997
I think my story, and that of artists, collectors and the then booming Native art market cannot
be told without Indian Market and all the gallery and Museum exhibitions in Santa Fe-
“Indian Market Manifesto” is a visual and in parts biting, controversial commentary on the
Native art scene by David Bradley.
3 - Rick Bartow, I connected with Rick Bartow’s work in his New York gallery and at a group
exhibition curated by Lloyd Oxendine at the American Indian Community House where I
acquired “Seated Crow Woman”1988
Rick Bartow „Seated Crow Woman"1988 juxtaposed with “Cormorant Mask" 1989
by Tsungani, adopted Kwakiutl
I often exhibited “Seated Crow Woman” in juxtaposition with “Cormoran Mask” done in
the same year by Tsungani to exemplify the simultaneously existing and different art forms
representing individually interpreted tribal tradition and native modernism that both derive
from similar mythological traditions – both are masterpieces in their own right. But in this
presented context these two works allow to understanding the modern artist’s process of
transforming and transcending a collective tradition into an individually reflected singular
modernist expression that is no more “ethnic” but modern art.
Please google the image of a work not in my collection “Prototype for New Understanding
# 8”. It is a “mask” created out of Nike Air Jordan shoes by conceptual artist Brian Jungen
with reference to his native descend. These three works exemplify a full circle of today’s
significant but distinct forms of expressions by native artisans and artists.
I argue, that it creates a lot of confusion, when, as often practiced, every expression is
labeled “contemporary native American art” where critical distinction of traditional,
modernist and post-modernist works and artists is a necessity for the art historic discourse
and context, focus of collections, presentation and curatorial practice – and first of all for the
still missing national and international acknowledgement of the modernist Native American
4- In 1994 I gave Rick his first Solo exhibition in Germany and Europe.
”Sweat Lodge” 1993 was on the gallery invitation.
Rationale for the Peiper-Riegraf collection of Native modern art
Before continuing with images I share the underlying rationale and purpose for the collection:
It gives evidence of artists manifesting Native modernism. It reveals the art historic
significance in the context of native cultures and Western modernist art movements.
it acknowledges these artists in their own right with a body of works which represents at
least a few of the series these artists created over the years and some signature works.
It acknowledges these ground-breaking artists as role models in their indispensable
achievement as innovators, transformers and cross-cultural mediators
It represents each artist with his/her singular, personal reflection on being a native artist,
each adding a distinct style, content and perspective to the diversity in Native modernism
This in depth commitment to a few artists had to painfully exclude other significant artists
which in my collection narrows the actual broadness of Native modernism.
The following images will exemplify the rationale for the collection.
Bob Haozous “Men/Women Scull”, 1989 from his Apache Mask series .
5- Bob Haozous was artist in residence in Frankfurt, where he created in 1992 the installation
“Apfelbaum _ Sacred Images” seen in my gallery This catalogue documents it.
In 1996 I commissioned an edition from the sculpture “I-Beam Woman”. Haozous had
created the prototype in Frankfurt – The symbolism of this work is so complex – it can take
the viewer through the history of mankind. Five of the edition of nine are in different
collections - unfortunately none in an American museum.
David John’s work was never part of the “circle” of Native artists and curators:
David Johns “Yei Dancer” 1989
”People in Ceremonies” 1990.
David John’s work as well as abstractions, are in my opinion under- appreciated as to
inclusion in Native American group exhibitions and collections.
7 - I consider “Vuarneted Indian Cowboy” from 1984 by Jean LaMarr , a signature work of
contemporary native American art.
8 - In 1996 I added “White Shell Woman’ s Story” to the collection, also from 1989
when the gallery owner Arlene LewAllen notified me of its availability.
I want to commemorate Arlene here with my deepest gratitude and affection. She was my
ever encouraging mentor and collaborator.
Since 1993 Emmi explores an intriguingly complex new theme of microcosms expressed in
9 - Leading to her lecture at this NAASA conference I end the presentation with works by
Jaune Quick-toSee Smith “Sunset On the Escarpment” 1987
“Indio, Indian Indigenous” from 1992,
which I decided for with the encouragement of Prof. Christian Feest, seeing the work evolve
in a German TV documentary.
10 - Two works in the collection represent Jaune’s theme with the Plains women’s dress –
“Women Dancing with the Wolves – Flathead dress” 1998
and image 17 “Ghost Dance Dress” 2000”
11 - The haunting, visionary work on paper “ The Changing shape of America” from Nov. 2000
reminds me daily that it is art and images that inform our collective memory vs. the
bombardment of information which is only transitory.
To sum it up: All in all, there are some 100 works in the collection, complemented by those I
sold from the gallery shows. The collection was shown in various venues in Germany. At the
time of this lecture, three works are on view in three different museums in Santa Fe
- Advocacy -
Since I never collected for private purposes, advocacy was and is an ongoing endeavor.
I want to mention just my biggest obstacle when reaching out into the art world in Germany:
Not stereotypes, not disinterest as you may suspect – but Jimmy Durham’s work. To cut many
stories short: he had become the token Indian artist that preoccupied every body’s interest in
a way like a wall, excluding most other native artists to even be considered for exhibitions and
discourse. I saw Durham’s work at the documenta, Venice Biennale, in museums, discussed
in catalogues and art magazines. I clearly understood why: his work fitted perfectly into the
postmodern context vs. Native Modernism. As an avant-garde movement within it’s own
cultural context, it had emerged when Western cultures moved on to the now global
phenomenon of post modernism, indicated in the arts by total subjectivity and no more avantgarde
movements and styles, but singular conceptual ideas. I mention this time shifted context
here because it became more and more clear to me, even more so, with a next generation of
native artists, working conceptually, that I have to reason within a retrospect art historical
context in advocating Native Modernism, serving also as the key foundation for the present
recognition of these native artists. My advocacy in short:
From my perspective, Native Modernism has to be acknowledged in, first of all modern art
museums in the United States of America for it’s unprecedented, singular contribution to the
12 - so far dominantly represented Western modern art movements. It has to become integral part
of art history and our collective memory.
Excluding Native modernism not only deprives artists and their cultural perspectives of
representation and its wider appreciation, but narrows our understanding of the far reaching
complexity of modernism.
In fact, if we contemplate it even further, Native modernism can serve as a groundbreaking
bridge in art history preceding today’s almost predominantly cross-culturally informed
conceptual art. Both phenomenon express a cultural “hybridity”, which in our globalized
world reflects a new reality of interdependence and dominance most people and cultures find
their lives determined by. More than anything else, the artists and the arts give us the
guideline how to cope with it, truthfully to our humanity and defying global conformity with
a distinct cultural consciousness.
Power Point Presentation by Dorothee Peiper-Riegraf
at the NAASA ( Native American Art Studies Association )
14th Biennial Conference October 26 – 29, 2005 Scottsdale, Arizona