Media Release

Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison


Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison will tour to five venues across the United States


Images are available upon request.


Minneapolis, MN—The Minnesota Museum of American Art is launching Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison, an exhibition of about 80 drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures from an important Native American modernist at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, North Dakota on June 16, 2013. Modern Spirit 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.


"George Morrison's importance to our understanding of twentieth-century Native American art is unparalleled,” says Kristin Makholm, executive director of the Minnesota Museum of American Art. “This first, comprehensive retrospective of his work will reveal how visions of identity and place play an essential role in assessing American art of the 20th century and beyond."


Part of a unique collaboration between the Minnesota Museum of American Art and Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest, which helped organize and launch the exhibition, Modern Spirit will tour to five venues across the United States before closing in May 2015: Plains Art Museum (Fargo, North Dakota); Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (New York, New York); Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art (Indianapolis, Indiana); Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona); and the Minnesota History Center (St. Paul, Minnesota).


“We are looking forward to bringing the exhibition to so many extraordinary venues across the country,” says David Fraher, president & CEO of Arts Midwest. “Arts Midwest is thrilled to showcase this important Minnesota artist to national audiences—finally providing Morrison with the critical attention he deserves and helping to expand understanding of his incredible contributions to Native American and modern art.”


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 paintings 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 and 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 www.mmaamorrison.org.

About Minnesota Museum of American Art
The Minnesota Museum of American Art was founded as the St. Paul School of Fine Arts in 1894, and formally incorporated in 1927 as the St. Paul School of Art. From the 1950s on, under the name Saint Paul Art Center, it pursued an innovative program of exhibitions and acquired art collections distinguished in 20th-century American painting, drawing, sculpture, and studio craft. Renamed the Minnesota Museum of Art in 1969, and in the mid-1990s, the Minnesota Museum of American Art, it became a leading presence on the Twin Cities art scene until it lost its building in 2009 due to the redevelopment of the building it was occupying. Since then, it has organized exhibitions throughout the state and metro in an “on the road” series and has recast its vision to invest in community engagement practices, recently announcing the opening of a 3,700 square foot gallery space in the Pioneer-Endicott Building in Lowertown St. Paul. The mission of the Minnesota Museum of American Art is to showcase art of the past and present, unleash the creative potential of our community, and inspire the artist in us all. The museum strives to make the visual arts more accessible to members of our community through exhibitions, programs, educational initiatives, and collaborative ventures. For more information, visit www.mmaa.org.


About Arts Midwest
Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six nonprofit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, visit www.artsmidwest.org.


About Plains Art Museum
Plains Art Museum is a nonprofit, regional fine arts museum accredited by the American Association of Museums with significantly expanded programming through the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center of Creativity which opened fall 2012. Museum programs are made possible, in part, by major funding from members of the Museum; The FUNd at Plains Art Museum; the cities of Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo through The Arts Partnership; The McKnight Foundation; the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; the North Dakota Council on the Arts through an appropriation by the North Dakota State Legislature; and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. More information is available at 701.232.3821 or at www.plainsart.org.

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