A Native American Vision for D.C.

(Courtesy Of Suzan Shown Harjo)
Friday, April 13, 2007

"American Icons Through Indigenous Eyes," a show by Native American artists opening tonight at the DC Arts Center, has more to offer than politics and provocation, though to be sure, it is chock-full of both.

There is, for example, its prolific and fascinating organizer, Suzan Shown Harjo. A curator, writer and activist who was part of the movement to found the National Museum of the American Indian, Harjo also happens to be a lead petitioner in the first trademark challenge of the Washington Redskins name and mascot back in 1992 (a case that continues to this day).

And there is the art itself, more than 50 contemporary works by 12 artists. All were given but one direction by Harjo: Use this show to say something that could only be said in Washington -- something to Washington. That explains the political nature of the show, from Bunky Echo-Hawk's paintings illuminating the changes produced by toxic dumps in tribal areas to Mateo Romero's "War Painting Prelude," a foggy photo-transfer with mixed media depicting the artist's nephew's harrowing duty in Ramadi, Iraq.

The show is also a rare chance to see what is not often exhibited here: modern works by Native Americans that don't necessarily reflect craft traditions, anthropology or history, just a viewpoint and a vision for art. Catch it tonight when it opens with a reception, 7-9 p.m. Through May 6. DCAC, 2438 18th St. NW. Free. 202-462-7833.

-- Lavanya Ramanathan

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