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"Untitled" (abstract landscape), by George Morrison, 1960, from the Tweed Museum

"Untitled" (abstract landscape) by George Morrison, 1960, Tweed Museum of Art.

Morrison works from Tweed on display at new Smithsonian museum

By Cheryl Reitan, UMD

Published on October 27, 2004

When the National Museum of the American Indian opened in Washington, D.C., this past September, it honored George Morrison (1919-2000), a member of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Eleven pieces of Morrison's work have been lent by the University of Minnesota, Duluth's Tweed Museum of Art for the yearlong Smithsonian exhibition.

Morrison, an abstract painter and an artist known around the world for his extraordinary talent and vision, is featured at the National Museum of the American Indian in a joint exhibit with Native American sculptor Alan Houser (1914-1994, Chiricahua Apache) .

Called "Native Modernism," the exhibit features Morrison and Houser, both prominent 20th-century Native artists. The exhibit is a retrospective showcasing about 100 of Morrison's mostly abstract paintings, drawings, sculptures, and wood collages, with a similar number of works by Houser.

"Morrison had a special relationship to the Tweed," says Peter Spooner. "He donated a number of pieces to us and considered the Tweed his own regional museum...."

Many Minnesota museums and collectors have joined the UMD Tweed Museum in loaning art to the show, including the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and St. Paul's Minnesota Museum of American Art. The art spans Morrison's career, with his 1950s' abstract drawings, puzzle-like wood collages assembled in the 1970s, carved totems from his 1980s work, and his more recent Lake Superior "Horizon" paintings.

Morrison painted Lake Superior at different times of day and in all seasons and types of weather. He captured its many moods and spiritual qualities. He said the lake was "a very powerful thing that changes by the hour, like a living human being."

Morrison is one of the most recognized and influential contemporary artists from Minnesota. "The Tweed Museum has one of the largest collections of Morrison's work in the country," says curator Peter Spooner. "Morrison had a special relationship to the Tweed. He donated a number of pieces to us and considered the Tweed his own regional museum. He felt strongly about having a representation of his work close to his home. The museum is frequently contacted to supply Morrison's work for exhibits and we are proud to lend this group of 11 works to Smithsonian."

The Tweed Museum of Art on the Duluth campus encompasses nearly 15,000 square feet of exhibition space in nine galleries, housing a collection of more than 4,000 artworks from the 15th century to the present.

The new, five-story National Museum of the American Indian took the last remaining spot on the grassy National Mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument--a four-acre site at the foot of Capitol Hill. It is the first new museum on the mall since 1987 and expects five million visitors a year. Exhibits will include ancient artifacts, such as a 2,000-year-old ceramic jaguar clutching a man between its paws, as well as works from modern Indian artists. The museum also will regularly host storytelling, music, and dance sessions by American Indians and will eventually attempt to reach out to those who can't physically visit the museum through an interactive Web site.

For further information on the museums, visit the National Museum of the American Indian and the Tweed Museum of Art.

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