– Summer 2015

Events, Works, Exhibitions

Postmodern Ambush

Lucy R. Lippard

Postcommodity are part of a generational vanguard of Native artists that has refused to be ghettoised or confined to identity politics or traditional mediums. Their refusal to abandon their commitment to their roots has not limited them to ‘Indian art’ contexts, though that is unavoidably where they are best known. For all their theoretical savvy, Postcommodity and their cohorts consistently honour Native traditions, albeit in ways that many traditionals might not immediately recognise. The group of four represents no single tribal viewpoint or tradition, which has freed them to cross other boundaries as well. Raven Chacon is Navajo; Kade L. Twist is Cherokee; Nathan Young is Pawnee/Delaware/Kiowa; and Cristóbal Martínez, the newest member, identifies himself as Mestizo and ‘Alcaldeño’.1 (Navajo painter Steven Yazzie was a co-founder but left because of conflicts with the group’s intense travel schedule.) Working with ‘whatever form, medium or sensory experience’ best expresses ‘a participatory set of ideas at a given time’,2 they have entered the indigenous and mainstream art worlds (overlapping but still separate) with less overt baggage than many of their contemporaries.

Although they also work internationally, Postcommodity’s focus is on indigenous lands and cultures, especially in the Southwestern US — New Mexico, Arizona and Oklahoma, where the members all live or have lived. This is where our paths have crossed. I share their preoccupation with the indigenous present in a region where it can be publicly overshadowed by

  1. Cristóbal Martínez grew up in the community of Alcalde in northern New Mexico.

  2. Conversation with the artists, January 2015.

  3. ‘It Wasn’t the Dream of Golden Cities: Postcommodity’, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2 August 2010—2 January 2011, curated by Ryan Rice.

  4. Debbie Jaramillo, quoted in Chris Wilson, The Myth of Santa Fe: Creating a Modern Regional Tradition, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006, p.165.

  5. Unless otherwise stated, all quotes are from Postcommodity’s website, available at http://postcommodity.com (last accessed on 16 February 2015).

  6. Conversation with the artists, January 2015.

  7. ‘Wet’ water designates the amount of water available, whereas ‘paper’ water is the amount of water that an individual or group has the legal right to use.

  8. Conversation with the artists, January 2015.

  9. See Gerald Vizenor, Manifest Manners: Narratives on Postindian Survivance, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

  10. The Trail of Tears refers to a series of forced relocations of Native American nations following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.

  11. Conversation with the artists, January 2015.