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February 23, 2024

Acquisition: Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, "An Indian Ode to the Florentines", 1980

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation), "An Indian Ode to the Florentines", 1980

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation)
An Indian Ode to the Florentines, 1980
pastel, colored pencil, and graphite on wove Arches paper
sheet: 76.2 x 55.88 cm (30 x 22 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Gift of Harvey & Lise Hoshour

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (b. 1940), a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, is among the most celebrated and prolific Native American artists working today. The National Gallery of Art has acquired our third work by the artist, a drawing entitled An Indian Ode to the Florentines (1980).

Generously given by Lise Hoshour, this drawing commemorates a 1979 visit that Smith made with Hoshour and her husband, architect Harvey Hoshour, to see the newly opened East Building of the National Gallery. Mr. Hoshour had worked for I. M. Pei, the architect who designed the East Building. An Indian Ode to the Florentines was donated on the occasion of the exhibition The Land Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans, curated by Smith.

After admiring the new East Building, the Hoshours and Smith went to the West Building to see Renaissance paintings and sculptures. Smith later presented the Hoshours with this drawing in commemoration of their trip along with a descriptive note: “It is raining in Washington / The three of us circled in blue / are admiring the Florentines.”

An example of Smith’s expressive style during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the drawing emphasizes the flatness of the paper surface and her interest in mark-making. Throughout her career as a multimedia artist, curator, activist, and educator, Smith has engaged with a range of contemporary practices, from her personalized embrace of abstraction to her riffs on American pop art and neo-expressionism. These artistic traditions are reimagined through concepts rooted in Smith’s Native American cultural practices, reflecting her belief that one’s “life’s work involves examining contemporary life in America and interpreting it through the ideology of Native peoples.” Through satire and humor, Smith’s art inverts commonly received notions of Native Americans and illuminates the many misconceptions of mainstream historical narratives. Across four decades and a variety of media, Smith has deployed visual strategies to explore sovereignty, representation, community, and belonging. She has prompted and guided dialogues concerning stewardship of the land and cultural preservation, topics that remain among the most pressing issues of contemporary art and life.

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