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Museum hosts first comprehensive retrospective exhibition ever staged of a key Native American modernist

by User Not Found | Mar 10, 2014


For Immediate Release                      

For more information:
DeShong Perry-Smitherman
Public Relations Manager



Museum hosts first comprehensive retrospective exhibition ever staged of a key Native American modernist
Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison Opens March 29 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

[Attached image: Cumulated Landscape, 1976, wood, 48 × 120 × 3 in. Collection Minnesota Museum of American Art. Gift of Honeywell, Inc. Additional images are available upon request.]

Indianapolis, INModern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison, on view at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art from Saturday, March 29 to Sunday, September 14, 2014, presents more than 80 drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures from an important Native American modernist. The exhibition surveys the prolific career of George Morrison (1919–2000), a distinctive and well-loved artist whose works bring together concepts of abstraction, landscape, and spiritual reflection and draw from his physical and spiritual homelands— speaking to both American urban settings and to the solitude of Northern Minnesota.

“It is fitting that Modern Spirit be presented at the Eiteljorg, given our museum’s mission to share and celebrate the contributions of Native American artists,” says John Vanausdall, Eiteljorg president and CEO. “We are honored to present this first comprehensive retrospective of Morrison’s works and to finally provide Morrison with the critical attention that he so deserves.”

This will not be the first time Morrison’s work will be seen at the Eiteljorg. In 1999, Morrison was recognized as the first distinguished artist of the museum’s Native Contemporary Art Fellowship. Morrison died that same year, just months after he was honored by the Eiteljorg.

“George liked to say he was ‘an artist who happened to be Indian,” says Jennifer Complo McNutt, Eiteljorg curator of contemporary art. “He’s an important role model for generations of young Native and non-Native artists.”

The Eiteljorg is one of five institutions across the country showing Modern Spirit before the exhibition closes in May 2015. Throughout its run, Modern Spirit will include tours and public talks:

Saturday, March 29
Opening Day
1 p.m.

Public talk by Morrison curator, W. Jackson Rushing III

Saturdays: April 12, May 10, June 14, July 12, August 9, September 13
Curator-Led Tours and Art-Making Activities

1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Morrison-related art-making activities including collage-building, printmaking and drawing

The core of this retrospective issues from one of the largest and most important collections of Morrison’s artwork in the country, the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul, Minnesota. Some of these pieces were lent for a two-person show with Allan Houser that helped inaugurate the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. in September 2004. Supplemental works are borrowed from important private and public collections of Morrison’s work throughout the country.

The exhibition is curated by W. Jackson Rushing III, Adkins Presidential Professor of Art History and Mary Lou Milner Carver Chair in Native American Art at the University of Oklahoma.  "George Morrison was both a major American modernist and an influential Indian artist,” says Rushing III, “whose beautiful images and objects have inspired generations of viewers, including younger artists. His later paintings especially are imbued with what he called inherent Indian values, affirming the importance of place."

Modern Spirit spans the entire breadth of Morrison’s oeuvre, from early figurative drawings and Regionalist paintings of the 1940s to monumental abstract landscapes and wood sculptures of the 1970s onward. Many of the works in the exhibition draw from Morrison’s early career in New York, Providence, and Provincetown and refer to important art historical movements such as Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. Modern Spirit also presents Morrison’s works from the 1970s to the 1990s, which were inspired in part by the artist’s home on the north shore of Lake Superior. This body of work includes line drawings on colored papers, sketches of constellations over Lake Superior, and several painting of forms breaking up in front of the abstracted shoreline. In terms of technique, these later paintings—quiet, lyrical, and meditative—synthesize Impressionism with Expressionism, while retaining the artist’s trademark representation of nature, land, and the horizon.

A full-color catalogue published by University of Oklahoma Press accompanies Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison. The exhibition is also supported by an interactive website that includes images, biographical information on Morrison, as well as educational resources to support student and adult learning about Morrison’s contributions.

Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison is organized by the Minnesota Museum of American Art and Arts Midwest, with the Plains Art Museum. The exhibition and its national tour are supported by corporate sponsor Ameriprise Financial and foundation sponsor Henry Luce Foundation. Major support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and the generous contributions of individuals across the Midwest. Learn more at

About the Eiteljorg
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western art seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America. This year, the Eiteljorg celebrates 25 years of telling amazing stories. The museum’s 25thanniversary is presented by Oxford Financial Group. LTD. The Eiteljorg is located in Downtown Indianapolis’ White River State Park, at 500 West Washington, Indianapolis, IN  46204. For general information about the museum and to learn more about exhibits and events, call 317.636.WEST (9378) or visit

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