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Sandra Hale Schulman
Special to Indian Country Today

In the art world, being included in the Whitney Biennial is a big, prestigious deal.

Opened in 1932 by the museum’s founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, it's the longest-running exhibition of its kind that charts trends and artistic developments in the United States.

The exhibition takes place in the Whitney Museum of American Art on the Hudson River in Manhattan, in one of the most famous and architecturally beautiful museums in the country.

A constellation gathering of the most relevant art and ideas being put forth from contemporary artists, the 2022 exhibition is the Biennial’s 80th edition. Entitled “Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It's Kept,” this edition has four Indigenous artists in its roster who create art that ranges from performance to music to installation.

Raven Chacon, Diné, is a composer, performer and installation artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. Born in 1977, Chacon lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“This is the second time that I will be exhibiting in the Whitney Biennial (the first time was as a member of Postcommodity), and I am very honored to be included with my solo work,” Chacon told Indian Country Today by email.

As a solo artist, Chacon has exhibited, performed, and had works performed widely in venues from Los Angeles to SITE Santa Fe to The Kennedy Center. As a member of Postcommodity from 2009-2018, he co-created artworks presented at the Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, Carnegie International 57, as well as the 2-mile long land art installation Repellent Fence.

Raven Chacon, Diné, is a composer, performer and installation artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. (Courtesy photo)

A recording artist over the span of 22 years, Chacon has appeared on more than 80 releases. His music is a mix of symphony sounds and ambient sonar, performed in the desert and on concert stages. The artwork he creates is sheet music made of arrows and Native blanket patterns. His 2020 Manifest Destiny opera “Sweet Land,” received critical acclaim and was named 2021 Opera of the Year by the Music Critics Association of North America.

Duane Linklater, Omaskêko Ininiwak, is a Canadian artist educated in upstate New York and based in Ontario. His art explorations include sculpture, photography, film and video, installation and text works. Some paintings use unusual materials such as sumac and charcoal, teepee poles, printed sweatshirts and works in sculpture and video that focus on tribal practices such as hunting, berry gathering, and fur trading; he digitally changes up tribal artifacts held in museum collections; and oversize structures made with teepee poles. For teepee cover paintings, Linklater uses the traditional Cree dwelling as a backdrop for naturally dyed digitally printed imagery.

Among these recognizable forms are personal references to his family, childhood home, favorite bands, movies, and clothing to expand ideas of identity. Linklater works to counter misrepresentation and that can hinder Indigenous potential. In his art, he creates what he calls “a zone of non-interference.”

Dyani White Hawk, Sičáŋǧu Lakota, is an artist and independent curator based in Minneapolis. She served as gallery director and curator for the All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis, and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

White Hawk focuses on using an Indigenous aesthetic in abstract painting and Lakota quillwork to tell stories of hierarchies.

Her artwork recalls Navajo blanket patterns as well as Southern quilt designs. She seeks to start a conversation with European and American abstract art histories, to show the differences and the similarities in patterns, shapes and thought process.

"I am deeply grateful to be exhibiting at the 2022 Whitney Biennial,” White Hawk told Indian Country Today by email. “I am especially excited to be one of four Native artists included in this year's biennial. It does my heart good to know that this group of Indigenous artists will have their work and voices in conversation with a diverse body of artists in one of the farthest reaching exhibitions in the country. Indigenous artists should without a doubt have consistent and regular presence in our public art spaces.

“The work I created for this exhibition, with the help of an amazing team of assistants, is a large-scale mixed-media beaded piece rooted in Lakota aesthetics."

Rebecca Belmore, Anishinaabe, lives in Vancouver, Canada and is an internationally recognized multidisciplinary artist. Addressing the political and social realities of Indigenous communities, her work makes connections between physical bodies, land and language.

Her work in sculpture, video or photography is performance-based. Addressing the politics of representation, her art looks to change up official narratives, using repetitive gestures and organic materials.

Her work is angry at times, reflecting the distress caused by displacement, prejudice and brutal violence often experienced by Indigenous peoples. Seeking to give voice and awareness to the attempted erasure of Native culture, Belmore was the first Indigenous woman to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2005, another influential art world event that is seen as showcasing important artists.

The Whitney Biennial opens March 31 through Sept. 5.

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