Fritz Scholder (American, 1937-2005)
Human in Nature # II, 1990
Oil on canvas 80 in. x 68 in. (203.2 cm x 172.72 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Artist1997.6
“I’ve always contended that whatever my current interests are, they show up in my work. This is not a conscious thing, but it has always been there. My life and my art are inseparable and it is natural for me to express what I am involved with at the time.”1 Scholder first did so over the power of cliché and its detriment to Native Americans, depicting them as never before by painting individuals bluntly, wrapped in American flags or holding cans of beer. He created such images on the heels of national events: the Native American occupation of Alcatraz in 1969 and the 1973 demonstration at Wounded Knee. What separated Scholder from others offering social critique was the isolation of the figure in his color fields. His paintings were emotional and meant to speak over time to universal values. In this, Scholder exhibits the lessons of Bay Area Figuration and especially the influence of Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos, with whom he studied in Sacramento. Scholder’s sardonic wit registers only after we realize the pathos of his subjects. Scholder has always painted in series based around the human figure, as in this example from the Human in Nature series. The inspiration for setting the figure, his most important subject, before chaotic fields of jarring colors came from Scholder’s 1990 involvement with a California environmental group. From this experience, he began to view painting as a tool of consciousness-raising, a vehicle by which to steer others inward. His approach is moral, not didactic, and thus the aggressive painting with slashing swipes and jabs of the loaded brush are choreographed to stir the emotions and inspire action. —EA
1. Charlene Acevedo, Interview with Fritz Scholder, Fritz Scholder: Paintings and Monotypes (New York: Alexander Gallery, 1991).