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Modern Spirit | The Art of George Morrison opens this Saturday

by Jennifer Complo McNutt, Eiteljorg curator of contemporary art | Mar 25, 2014


George Morrison (Chippewa), Cumulated Landscape, 1976, wood, 48 x 120 x 3 in.

In 1999, the Eiteljorg gathered artists, the Native American advisory council, board members, and staff to determine the format for the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. There was one aspect of the program that elicited no discussion, only agreement. It was unanimous; George Morrison (Chippewa) would usher in the program as the first distinguished artist.

“An artist who happened to be Indian,” as he liked to say, Morrison worked with the abstract expressionist in the1950’s and is an important modernist and role model for generations of young Native and non-Native artists. The Eiteljorg will exhibit Morrison’s prolific work beginning Mar. 29, 2014, in the Harvey and Hunt galleries.

To celebrate the work and importance of this artist, the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) in St. Paul, Minnesota has assembled the first comprehensive retrospective of this key Native American modernist. The exhibition, Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison includes drawings, paintings, prints, and sculpture that bring together concepts of abstraction, landscape, and spiritual reflection. A total of 80 works in all, most from MMAA, represent Morrison’s life’s work in breathtaking depth. 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.


The Red Painting (Franz Kline Painting), ca. 1960, oil on canvas, 47 x 79 in. Loan courtesy of Dorit and Gerald Paul

This stunning group of artwork holds one piece with special significance to the Eiteljorg. It is owned by our friends and supporters Gerald and Dorit Paul. The Red Painting is an example of Morrison’s facility with the paint and his interest in the landscape, especially of his beloved Red Rocks, his home in Grand Portage, Minnesota. Not only is this painting incredibly significant in modernist terms, it also holds a fascinating story. While in New York City, Morrison became friends with Franz Kline, another important modernist painter. Morrison and Kline agreed to art barter and Morrison gave Kline The Red Painting. However; prior to fulfilling his end of the bargain, Kline died. It took some negotiations to retrieve the painting from Kline’s widow! For collectors, like the Pauls, it is always satisfying to have interesting stories as part of the artwork’s provenance.

George Morrison died in 1999, months after he was honored by the Eiteljorg. The museum is proud to exhibit his work through Sep. 14, 2014.

Opening Day Schedule
Saturday, Mar. 29
Doors open at 10 a.m.
Public talk by exhibit curator Jackson Rushing
1 p.m.
Join us for an illustrated lecture by Morrison curator Jackson Rushing that documents, celebrates, and investigates the artistic achievement of George Morrison - a distinguished and beloved Chippewa modernist (1919-1999) whose artwork is held in numerous public and private collections.

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