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Stretching the Canvas: Eight Decades of Native Painting at the National Museum of the American Indian (until autumn 2021) presents nearly 40 paintings by Native American artists who subverted market-driven restrictions on the aesthetic of indigenous art. The show is organised chronologically and traces the emergence of formal arts curriculums devoted to Native American arts in the early 1930s in New Mexico—which then reinforced so-called traditional styles and subjects, typically rendered in a flat, illustrative manner—to the assimilation of Native American art with Abstract Expressionism and other avant-garde movements in the 1940s. The show features monumental compositions (all drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, of which around 2% is devoted to modern and contemporary art) by 30 artists, including several pieces by Fritz Scholder, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Kay WalkingStick. Similar shows of contemporary art could be on the horizon for the museum. “We still have a modest collecting budget—around $100,000 or so,” says the associate director, David Penney. “But all of that budget is now going toward contemporary art.”

-Gabriella Angeleti

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