Essay written by 2009 DPDF Empires of Vision Fellow and 2011 IDRF Fellow Jessica L. Horton, featured in American Art, Volume 29, No. 1:
This essay reevaluates the early paintings of Hopi artist Fred Kabotie (ca. 1900–1986) in light of their forgotten inclusion in the U.S. Pavilion of the Venice Biennale in 1932. Kabotie painted images of ceremonial dances alongside Pueblo peers in Santa Fe in the 1910s, at the height of federal assimilation policies. American patrons supported the painters as a means of constructing an indigenous artistic identity for the nation. But the display of Pueblo paintings in Venice marked the limits of aesthetic nationalism, failing to convince overseas audiences that America possessed an artistic treasury older and more authentic than that of Europe. The author recovers Kabotie’s broader engagement with issues of displacement, memory, and embodiment. She proposes that the paintings share a visual logic with musical notation and other diagrams, transmitting the sensibility of Hopi dances across gaps in time and space. They resonate with the politics of memory in recent work by Native artists at the Venice Biennale.