ARTS & CULTURE
03/05/2014 08:44 am ET | Updated Mar 07, 2014

11 Contemporary American Indian Artworks That Blend Tradition And Experimentation

An Everlast punching bag covered in ornate beads, a woman languishing next to a life-size, four-legged balloon animal, a black cedar mask made distinct by its fire truck red lips -- these are the powerful images now adorning the walls of the Nerman Museum in Kansas. Hints of traditional crafts like weaving and basketry mingle with contemporary art trends like readymades and inflatable sculpture, amounting to a sweeping sample of an oft-overlooked segment of today's art world: contemporary American Indian art.

nerman1

Wendy Red Star (Crow), Fall, Four Seasons Series, 2006, Archival pigment print on Museo silver rag on dibond, 35.5 x 37", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2014.06, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

The exhibition, conveniently named "Contemporary American Indian Art: The Nerman Museum Collection," hit the Overland Park location last month, bringing 55 works by 43 different artists to the forefront of its gallery spaces. The artists hail from the far corners of the country, from the Pacific Northwest across the Plains to the Northeast, providing an overview of not only the museum's ongoing efforts to build a major collection of contemporary American Indian art, but also the wild and vibrant aesthetics that exemplify the genre.

gibson

Jeffrey Gibson (Cherokee/Choctaw), American Girl, 2013, Found punching bag, wool blanket, glass beads, steel studs, artificial sinew, tin jingles and chain, 43 x 16 x 16", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2013.45, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS, Gift of the H Tony and Marti Oppenheimer Foundation

From Jackie Larson Bread's "The Cover of the Rolling Stone," embroidered in buckskin and beads on a laptop sleeve, to Clinton Work's embellished polyurethane "Clamming Bucket," the works on view displace time and ritual, merging the utilitarian artifacts of traditional culture with the political and philosophical musings of contemporary society. Bits of popular and commercial culture, such as branded sporting equipment, are transformed into figments of a hybrid universe, one that simultaneously pays homage to indigenous art forms while nodding to the experimentation of American Indian artists across media and perspectives today.

bread

Jackie Larson Bread (Blackfeet), The Cover of the Rolling Stone, 2011, Buckskin, beads, paint and laptop sleeve, 16 x 13 x 1.75", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2013.41, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

The Nerman Museum, part of the Johnson County Community College, has been devoted to collecting and showcasing contemporary American Indian art for the past decade. They join institutions like the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe and the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis in celebrating modern art trends from artists within the Cherokee, Choctaw, Crow, Kwakwaka’wakw, Cochiti Pueblo, Blackfeet and many more.

Scroll through a preview of the exhibition below, and let us know your thoughts on the works in the comments.

wilson

Joe Wilson (Kwakwaka’wakw), Wild Woman, 2002, Red cedar and horsehair, 21 x 12 x 8.5", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2014.13, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

work

Clinton Work (Kwakwaka'wakw), Clamming Bucket, 2014, Polyurethane bucket with cedar bark, felt and plastic buttons, 14 x 12 x 12", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2014.11, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

kaukaas

Thomas "Red Owl" Haukaas (Lakota), Economic Conundrum, 2010, Brain tanned Elk hide, antique and contemporary glass beads, Nymo thread, cotton cloth and Hawk bells, 11 x 12 x 36", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010.10, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS, Gift of Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust

schultzq

Marilou Schultz (Navajo), Untitled, 2008, Wool, 6 x 4', Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008.14, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

johnson

Joann Johnson (Navajo), Shiprock, 2010, Sumac, 21" diameter, Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2009.64, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

kahl

Brad Kahlhamer (American), Waqui Totem USA, 2006, Watercolor and ink on paper, 82 x 62", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2006.45, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS, Gift of Marti and Tony Oppenheimer and the Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation

romero

Diego Romero (Cochiti Pueblo), Large bowl depicting Cochiti feast dance gold rim with water and corn design, 2011, Native clay, native clay slips and commercial gold, 15 x 6", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2011.52, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

holiday

Elsie Holiday (Navajo), Changing Woman Basket, 2008, Sumac, 2.75 x 15.875", Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 2009.50, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, KS

"Contemporary American Indian Art: The Nerman Museum Collection" will be on view until May 18, 2014. For a complete list of artists, check out the exhibition information here.

CONVERSATIONS