Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2008


Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2008, pp. 163-64.


Copyright 2008 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Arguing that Native artists developed a unique modernism between 1940 and 1960 as a response to cross-cultural encounters requiring both accommodation and resistance, Bill Anthes explores how differing styles of abstraction and growing artistic freedom coexisted with Native identity. During the 1920s and 1930s, a style of flat application of color, firmly outlined forms, and readily recognizable nostalgic Native images developed in Oklahoma and Santa Fe. Dominating Indian art for decades, this style became "traditional" Indian painting with its tenants upheld by institutions like the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa where annual Indian painting competitions began in 1946. Between 1940 and1960 artists broke from these restraints in various ways that have not been examined in detail elsewhere.

Anthes begins with Pueblo artists Jose Lente and Jimmy Byrnes who worked with anthropologists Elsie Clews Parsons and Byron Harvey, providing views of Pueblo life. He sees both artists as culture brokers struggling to become modern. Decisions to provide outsiders with insider information were costly, probably more so for Lente who lived at Isleta than for Byrnes in Albuquerque.