Henry Payer work at K Art

Henry Payer, Historically Superimposed, 2019, mixed media and collage on wool blanket

Through February 23

The Cadence of Night & La Garnison Mentalité

at K Art

thek.art, 216-2941

K Art is one of few galleries in the United States dedicated to promoting the work of contemporary Indigenous artists, and the only one owned by a member of a Native nation. The gallery is a long-time-in-coming project of brothers Dave and Michael Kimelberg. Tragically, Michael passed away before the gallery opened in 2020. On K Art’s second floor, a small gallery dedicated to him displays some gems from the brothers’ collection.

In recent months, K Art has risen above international radar. This past summer, the New York Times wrote about one of the gallery’s artists, Luzene Hill, whose sculpture was on display during the US Open in Queens.  Then in September, ARTnews, a respected national arts magazine, selected K Art as a top-ten booth at the New York’s Armory Show, which hosted a total of 280 international galleries; the Armory has provided an important survey of contemporary and modern art since 1994. Another one of the gallery’s artists, Peter Jemison of Seneca Nation’s Heron Clan, had several works purchased by the New York’s Museum of Modern Art and by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. This past December, Edgar Heap of Birds was selected for a documentary and special exhibition at the Meridians space as part of K Art’s presentation at Art Basel Miami. Art Basel Miami is one of the most celebrated international contemporary art fairs with almost 300 art galleries and more than 4,000 artists being presented.

Now that the gallery is receiving a great deal of recognition, it’s even more important for Federico Rosario, the official gallery associate and a jack of all trades, to find and promote underrecognized Indigenous artists. The best way to do this by scouring the internet, especially social media.  

This month, K Art features the artwork of Duane Slick in The Cadence of Night and Henry Payer in La Garnison Mentalité. Slick’s works have been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States and Canada, and he is the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award and the Robert Motherwell Fellowship. He has also been the Chair of the Painting Department at Rhode Island School of Design and serves on the Board of Directors for the College Art Association. His recent work incorporates overlapping layers of iconography from his Meskwaki and Ho-Chunk background combined with the spirituality of abstract minimal imagery. The work connects the ambiguity of the past and clean crisp representations of the present. The viewer is attracted by the contrast of the clean shapes and lines against darker backgrounds, then held in place by the complexity of shapes and its relationship to the seductive subtle imagery.

Payer, recipient of the 2022 Joan Mitchell Fellowship and the 2008 Elizabeth Rubenhall Artist in Residence, has exhibited primarily in the Midwest but has recently received national recognition. He received his BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and his MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Payer sees himself as “interpreting Ho-Chunk culture for non-Natives and outsiders.” His narrative works incorporate elements of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art through their use of intuitive mark-making, color field shapes, and simplified references to contemporary society, which are juxtaposed with historical imagery of Indigenous peoples. These paintings are constructed over army blankets, which have particular significance since, as early as the 1700s, such blankets were infected with smallpox, then given to Native Americans by North American colonists as one of the earliest forms of biological warfare. Seventy percent or more of Native Americans ultimately died from smallpox and measles epidemics.

The Cadence of Night and La Garnison Mentalité run through February 23.


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