Exposition Art Blog: George Morrison - Abstract Landscape in Art

George Morrison - Abstract Landscape in Art

George Morrison (1919 – April 17, 2000) was an American landscape painter and sculptor. His Indian name was Wah Wah Teh Go Nay Ga Bo (Standing In the Northern Lights)
"George Morrison  has been called the “grandfather of Native Modernism”; he kept deep connections both to 20th century abstract expressionism and to his home-land on the north shore of Lake Superior. Morrison was part of that bohemian world of post-World War II painters and beat writers who hung out in Greenwich Village at the Cedar Street Tavern. He also had deep connections to his Chippewa homeland and the ages old Spirit Little Cedar Tree near Lake Superior. As an artist and a Native man, he was the composite of many places: cosmopolitan, urban, activist, world traveler, teacher and intellectual. His world included both the Cedar Tree and Cedar Tavern.
For most Natives, the connection to the land and tribal community informs their worldview and animates the way they live. As important as these traditional, long-standing connections may be to Indians, and contrary to some of the stereotypes about them, they also are connected to a global world with all its complexities. As revealed in the lives they lived and the art they made, many Native artists drew inspiration from the duality of their particular homeland and its deeply personal tribal roots, as well as their worldly experience.
As artist Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee) articulates so well, Morrison “never made art with feathers and beads; he did not paint ponies and war bonnets; he did not paint about ‘identity politics’. (He) was an abstract expressionist.” In Morrison’s own words, “I always just stated the fact that I was a painter, and I happened to be Indian.” In the contemporary Native arts field, especially in the fine-arts domains of painting and sculpture, an ongoing polemic debates whether an artist is a “Native artist” or an “artist who happens to be Native.” Morrison certainly made art reflecting both his artistic era and his surroundings. His Native cultural roots were augmented by his training, artistic influences and where he lived much of his adult life. Clearly, his work expressed a profound cultural link to his direct experience on Lake Superior.
As curator David W. Penney articulates in his introductory essay “Water, Earth, Sky” for Before and after the Horizon: Anishinaabe Artists of the Great Lakes:   “Morrison created a visual language for painting based upon a lifelong commitment to modernist artistic practice and urbane experience as one of the leading practitioners of abstract expressionism. While worldly in technique (he studied and taught modern painting in universities), his work almost invariably references the sky, water, and shore of his Lake Superior homeland. The Red Rock paintings, named for his studio on the Lake Superior shore, offer introspective meditations on the transient light that shimmers over the elemental substances of rock, water, cloud and atmosphere. "(americanindianmagazine.org)

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