As Bristol’s beloved Rainmaker Gallery – the only dedicated contemporary Native American art gallery in Europe – prepares to open its first exhibition at its new premises on Whiteladies Road, we take a closer look at the rise of Indigenous art…
There is an explosion of contemporary Native American art happening right now in major art institutions in the United States of America. Concurrently, Bristol’s very own indigenous art gallery, Rainmaker Gallery, has expanded into a beautiful new space on Whiteladies Road in Clifton.
Frequently ahead of the arts and culture curve, Bristol boasts the only dedicated contemporary Native American art gallery in Europe. For over three decades Rainmaker Gallery has championed many of the same artists now lauded by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Whitney Museum of American Art. These venerable New York institutions are at last embracing contemporary Native art and are currently vying for the best artists and exhibitions. Chemehuevi fine art photographer Cara Romero, whose astonishing images have been featured in shows at Rainmaker Gallery for over ten years, is the inspiration for the exhibition Water Memories that opened at The Met this spring. Also featured in the exhibition is the community-driven work of artist Cannupa Hanska Luger from Standing Rock. Both artists have visited Bristol for exhibitions at Rainmaker Gallery and both were featured on The New York Times Magazine covers this summer. In fact, Cara Romero’s photography has also graced the covers of two of our own issues in recent years.
For over three decades Rainmaker Gallery has championed many of the same artists now lauded by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Whitney Museum of American Art
It is not just the large institutions and international press getting in on the action. Leading Manhattan galleries are tussling to sign up artists they would have dismissed as unmarketable in years gone by. Rainmaker Gallery owner Jo Prince is understandably delighted by this long overdue acknowledgement of these artists whom she cherishes as friends as well as colleagues.
“For centuries Native artists were excluded from the mainstream art world and relegated to natural history museums. At last, they are getting the recognition they deserve,” Jo says.
For Rainmaker, the timing couldn’t be more perfect as this month the gallery celebrates the official opening of its new space at the top of Whiteladies Road. Events kick off on 27 September with an exciting new exhibition, a fascinating artist’s talk and a fun artists’ reception. This celebration has particular significance for Jo as a way to thank all of the people who enabled Rainmaker Gallery to make the transition to their fabulous new home. Rainmaker had to leave its previous location of sixteen years and the future was uncertain. Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign and a substantial grant from Bristol City Council, the gallery is powering ahead for a fourth decade, bigger and better than ever.
“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of so many customers and artists. It proves just how much they value the work we do. The new gallery is a collective achievement by everyone who has supported us and I can’t begin to express how grateful I am,” says Jo.
Keepers of the Fire is the first exhibition in the new space showcasing the work of multidisciplinary artist Jason Wesaw. A citizen of the Pokagon band of Potawatomi, Jason works in ceramics, textiles, photography, original drawings and installation art. His exquisite minimalist drawings are the focus of this exhibition. Through expanses of carefully chosen colour drawn with oil pastel on incised archival paper, he describes a deep connection to nature and his ancestral lands.
“The beautiful quiet tales that have been told in the Great Lakes by my tribal ancestors are familiar and personal. Yet, they hold a universal perspective that inspires me to reinterpret these stories into my work and bring them to a global audience,” says Jason.
The artist’s abstract works are complimented by the bold oil paintings of landscape artist Douglas Klemm, also a citizen of the Pokagon Potawatomi Nation. The opening will be attended by Jason, Doug and his family, as well as Diné sculptor Jazmin Novak. Rainmaker Gallery also carries a unique selection of Native American jewellery, carvings and blankets.
The artist talk with Jason Wesaw will take place on 27 September from 2-3pm, with a reception from 3-7pm. To book a place, contact the gallery. Keepers of the Fire will be running from 27 September – 5 November | rainmakerart.co.uk