ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A painting by artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is joining works by the legendary pop artists Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol at the National Gallery of Art.
Smith’s “I See Red: Target” is the first painting on canvas by a Native American artist to enter the collection. The gallery announced the purchase of the painting this week.
Smith, a Corrales resident and an enrolled Salish member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation in Montana, told the Albuquerque Journal she was shocked to be the first Native American painter to appear in the national museum.
“Why isn’t Fritz Scholder or R.C. Gorman or somebody I would have expected?” included, she asked.
“On the one hand, it’s joyful; we’ve broken that buckskin ceiling,” she said. “On the other, it’s stunning that this museum hasn’t purchased a piece of Native American art” before.
Gallery spokeswoman Anabeth Guthrie said that while Smith’s work is the first painting by a Native American to be acquired, the museum owns two dozen works on paper by Indigenous artists.
The 11-foot-tall (3.3-meter-tall) mixed media painting addresses racism through the commercial branding of Indigenous American identity through Smith’s assemblage of ephemera and painterly touches.
“It’s Indians being used as mascots. It’s about Native Americans being used as commodities,” Smith said.
“I see Red: Target” belongs to a series about the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America. Smith was responding to the appropriation of Native American names by sports teams, specifically the Washington Redskins.
Historic photographs of Native Americans and red stripes form the body of the piece. Newspaper clippings, the Char-Koosta News (the official publication of the Flathead Reservation, where Smith was raised), a comic book cover, fabric and a pennant cover the work.
The piece was created in 1992.
“(Racism) is still happening with Black Lives Matter,” she said. “It’s been 25 years and I thought ’Oh, this will be obsolete.'”
“I See Red: Target” is on view in the East Building pop art galleries, among works by Johns and Warhol, who also incorporated recognizable imagery into their signature styles.
Like another work in the gallery, Warhol’s “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” Smith’s piece makes use of grid, repetition, photographic elements and painterly effects..
Smith’s roles as artist, teacher, curator and activist have resulted in hundreds of exhibitions across four decades. Her work hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Albuquerque Museum.