The exhibition offers a refreshing perspective on Native North American art. It moves away from traditional romantic notions of indigenous culture, as well as vices such as alcoholism, drugs and violence, that are typically associated with modern native North American society.
Ralph Lauren polo shirt meets war robes
This collection of modern art created by Native North American artists and groups at Museen Dahlem provides a social commentary on the fusion between traditional customs and modern American culture. The portrayal of the interaction between old and new is at times comedic, though carries serious undertones about the way modern industrial life influences the lifestyles and environment through which native North American culture survives. David Bradley’s ‘Pueblo Feast Day’ (2005) is particularly provocative in this regard. He portrays a scene reminiscent of the last supper. The painting provides a playful mix of traditional native North American food and clothes worn by some of the visible figures, alongside three well-known characters from contemporary dominant Western culture: a modern version of Mona Lisa, the Lone Ranger, and well-known American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe.
Guten Appetit! David Bradley – “Pueblo Feast Day” (2005), Courtesy of Museen Dahlem
Further displayed artworks centre around more historic aspects of native North American life, following the perspective of featured artist Virginia Stroud, who is quoted to have said ‘art is a way for our culture to survive, perhaps the only way’.
Regardless of the perspective of the painter, what shines through the collection is a sense of pride, power and positivity. The bold colours and designs, conveying elements of tradition alongside modern industrial life are a far cry away from bleak portrayals on native North American communities as scourged by social problems. ‘Native North American Modernism’ is a wholly stimulating exhibition of vibrant compositions.
The Museen Dahlem houses three galleries which are all worth a peek. I particularly recommend the Museum for Asian Art It houses South, Southeast, and central Asian Art. Especially stunning is the collection of Japanese paintings.
Into the Wild
Dahlem may not be heaving with cute cafes and trendy bars to hang out in after a trip to the museum but it is just down the street from Berlin’s primary forest, Grunewald. Take a break from the buzz of the city and stroll through this wild terrain, accessed from Königin-Luise-Straße.