Joe Harjo: Indian Removal Act II: And She Was
Through Sunday, May 5, 2024
Indian Removal Act II: And She Was by Joe Harjo is the second part of a three-part exhibition series that looks at historical and contemporary issues impacting Native American communities. The title takes its name from the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which forcibly relocated tribes to land west of the Mississippi not yet settled by colonists or within established state borders. Harjo’s own tribe the Muscogee (Creek) Nation were relocated from the eastern coast to Oklahoma. Harjo’s work highlights the inaccuracies and harmfulness of how mainstream American culture depicts and appropriates Native identities. His practice is multidisciplinary, including performative photo and video works, sculptural and found object, and print and text centric works which subvert the misrepresenting and homogenizing of native peoples.
This exhibition focuses strongly on Muskogee women, specifically the stories of Harjo’s family members to highlight the history of removal policy. The exhibition highlights the shift from matrilineal culture to patriarchy within the Muskogee nation.
Amongst the array of works in a multiplicity of media, the exhibition will include one of Harjo’s large, text-based wall drawings. His current series of wall drawings one word or phrase is composed of the repetitive writing of another word or phrase. Together they complete one another. The work requires being read at a distance and up close. In the performative execution of the work, the artist is “writing lines” (handwriting the same words again and again as a form of punishment). Performing this common primary school punishment also reflects on to the removal of native children from their families and placement in Residential Boarding Schools. This action is a meditation on the artists part and Harjo is interested in how the repetition can render the words meaningless or unrecognizable to their scribe.
This exhibition follow Harjo’s residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Summer 2023 as an awardee of Contemporary’s Berlin Residency Program and is the second in a 3 “Act” solo exhibitions series happening sequentially across Texas. These exhibitions take on the narrative three-act structure–the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution. The first exhibition Indian Removal Act I: American Progress was featured at Galveston Art Center, October 7, 2023 – January 7, 2024; the second here at the Contemporary February 2, 2024 – May 5, 2024; and Harjo’s closing of the series will be at TCU.
“The title of this body of work derives from the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forcibly displaced Native nations – including my own, the Muscogee nation – to “unsettled” lands west of the Mississippi River. Through addressing the current misrepresentations, homogenization, and undervaluation of Native culture, the work brings visibility to and emphasizes Native growth, contributions, resourcefulness, adaptability, and our existence within contemporary spaces.”
Indian Removal Act II: And She Was is curated by Jacqueline Saragoza McGilvray. The exhibition will be accompanied by public programs and an opening, February 2, 2024 6-9pm.