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 George Morrison  (1919 - 2000)

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Lived/Active: Minnesota/New York / France      Known for: abstract expressionost painting, modernist Indian, collage

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George Morrison
from Auction House Records.
Traversal
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
From Grand Marais, Minnesota, George Morrison was an abstract-expressionist painter and sculptor, known for his wood collages and paintings inspired by Lake Superior. His focus was on texture: "I like the so-called magical surface of a painting, the marks the painter makes". (234-Herskovik)

HIs training was in traditional art but in the late 1930s and early 1940s, he became established as an Abstract Expressionist and "for year was better known outside Native American art circles than within". (375-Lester).

He was born on the Grand Portage Ojibwa Reservation in northern Minnesota and earned a scholarship to study commercial art in Minneapolis. He graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, went to New York City to the Art Students League, and then to Paris on a Fulbright Scholarship.

For 20 years he lived in New York and also taught at the Rhode Island School of Design, but returned to Minnesota in 1970. There he founded the Indian Studies Program at the University of Minnesota and was a professor of art until 1983. After that, he moved to the North Shore of Lake Superior until his death.

He became the first artist honored with the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art from the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana, and in 1992, the Tweed Museum at the University of Minnesota in Duluth and the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul gave him a retrospective exhibition. In 2003, a solo exhibition is planned at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian.


Source:
Marika Herskovic, Editor, "American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s"
Jeanne Snodgrass, "American Indian Painters"
Patrick Lester, "Biographical Directory of Native American Painters"
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Note March 2004 from Jacquelyn Wesolosky

Book on the life of George Morrison:

Title: Turning the Feather Around, My Life in Art

Author: George Morrison as told to Margot Fortunato Galt
Pub: Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, MN., l998

The book is about his life and talks quite a bit about abstraction which was truly what he appreciated. He speaks of Hans Hoffman, also of Picasso and speaks of the surrealists in general. His mentor/teacher at the Art Students League in New York was Morris Kantor. He mentions Alfred DeCredico from the time he spent in the East as well. He met Jackson Pollock and also Willem de Kooning. He speaks of Elaine de Kooning, Ilya Bolotowsky, Norman Bluhm, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko-all from shows at the James Gallery Invitational Annual where Morrison also had his work shown.

Later in his book when he had moved back to Minnesota his ties to other Indian artists were more in evidence...artists such as Kay WalkingStick, Frank LaPena, Oscar Howe, Koe Herrera and Patrick Des Jarlait (who is also an Ojibway from Minnesota like Morrison), Fritz Scholder, R.C Gorman, Amy Cordova, Frank Bigbear, and Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. His second wife is also an artist and her name is Hazel Belvo.
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George Morrison will be one of the featured artists in the opening of the Smithsonians American Indian Museum on the Mall in September. There will be a catalogue of this exhibit ...which is a work in progress now I believe.




Biography from Kramer Gallery, Inc.:
Born in northern Minnesota in the Grand Portage band of Chippewa (Ojibway) Indians, George Morrison made abstract paintings, wood collages, and sculptures that enlarged the notion of Native American art beyond the stereotypical Indian subject matter.

Morrison had a traditional Ojibway upbringing on the Grand Portage reservation before attending an Indian boarding school in Wisconsin. He studied art at the Minneapolis School of Art (today the Minneapolis College of Art and Design) and the Art Students League in New York. Living and working in New York in the 1950s and 60s, he participated in the prime of the Abstract Expressionist movement with richly colored abstract paintings and Surrealist drawings

Morrison taught art at the Rhode Island School of Design in the 1960s. On returning to his home state in 1970, he taught in the studio art and Indian studies programs at the University of Minnesota until retirement in 1983. His late works included large relief sculptures, as wide as twenty feet, composed of found and prepared wooden elements collaged together. He also made a series of commissioned wooden column-like sculptures he called “Totems,” and painted many small (one foot wide or less), thickly-painted abstractions known as the “Horizons” series. Morrison’s art was featured in a debut exhibition (with Allan Houser) at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in 2004.

Written and submitted by Thomas O'Sullivan, museum curator and freelance writer.

Citations
Galt, Margot Fortunato: TURNING THE FEATHER AROUND: MY LIFE IN ART (1998)
Highwater, Jamake: THE SWEET GRASS LIVES ON: FIFTY CONTEMPORARY NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN ARTISTS (1980)
Lowe, Truman T.: NATIVE MODERNISM: THE ART OF GEORGE MORRISON AND ALLAN HOUSER (2005)

Museums
National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis MN
Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, Duluth MN
Heard Museum, Phoenix AZ


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George Morrison is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Abstract Expressionism

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