Brad Kahlhamer: Swap Meet
Feb 26 - Oct 9, 2022
New York City-based Native American artist Brad Kahlhamer draws his inspiration from the ethnographic experience of fieldwork at swap meets throughout the Southwest, fueling an artistic practice in varying mediums of painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, performance, and music.
New York and Arizona-based Native American artist Brad Kahlhamer first exhibited at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) in 2004 with his hugely successful Let’s Walk West show in 2004. For his second SMoCA exhibition over 15 years later Swap Meet, Kahlhamer presents new work made in both his Brooklyn and Mesa studios, where he works between the mediums of painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, performance, and music.
Engaging in fieldwork at swap meets throughout the Southwest since the age of 18 (his first road trip resulted in collecting a javelina head at a Tucson flea market), Kahlhamer draws from this ethnographic experience. He also pulls from his fascination with Ledger art—drawings done by Indigenous warrior-artists from the Northern and Southern Plains of the contiguous United States and Canada from the mid-19th to early 20th century—and his time spent with Native art communities while living and working back in the Sonoran Desert in Mesa, Arizona.
The social and cultural space of the Arizona desert swap meet reflects, models, and fuels Kahlhamer’s recent artistic practice and preoccupations. At the intersection of neighborhoods, city sprawls, and open-space land, swap meets fill in the cultural gaps between communities and are spontaneous meeting spaces, where many social networks form between individuals of different ages, residency status, cultures, and race. Like a museum or gallery, or the art world itself, the swap meet is a site of exchange and experience. What we think of as a “third-space”—a gathering space for an affective community—with like-minded strangers or friends who seek out a place of meaning, belonging, or surviving. At the cross-section of American cultures and his own culture as an artist Swap Meet becomes Kahlhamer’s meditation on a nomadic and intersectional contemporary condition.
Brad Kahlhamer is represented by Garth Grennan Gallery in Chelsea in New York City and works between his Brooklyn and Mesa studios. An indigenous person adopted in infancy by a German American family, where he was raised in Tucson, Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. Then moved to the mid-West for adolescence later finding himself in the post-punk era of the ’80s East Village in New York City, where his art career commenced. To this day, his biological parents and his tribal affiliation remain unknown to him. It is in this nationless identity space that Kahlhamer has created what he calls his “nomadic” itinerant contemporary art practice.
For this exhibition, SMoCA has commissioned the central installation, which is composed of a mobile home trailer studio (purchased in cash at a Mesa swap meet in 2019) with a built-out proscenium for performances, in addition to a new series of Zombie Botanicals, Nomadic Studio Sketchbooks, paintings, a large-scale dream catcher kinetic sculpture, a dream catcher American flag, and new rock sculptures Rock Shop (Geological Studies), among other elements.
The exhibition is curated by guest curator Dr. Natasha Boas and is accompanied by a series of performances including Navajo Nation Country act Dirt Rhodes, and an illustrated catalog published by Temblores Publicaciones, the publishing house of Terremoto, Mexico City. Founded in 2017, Temblores seeks to enable editorial spaces that activate critical dialogues between the work of contemporary artists and that of professionals within the field of curatorship and research in the arts. The catalog features writing by Dr. Natasha Boas, the exhibition curator; Gerald McMaster, Plains Cree and a member of the Siksika Nation, a curator, artist, scholar, and Director of the Wapatah Centre for Indigenous Visual Knowledge, OCAD University, Toronto.
Brad Kahlhamer: Swap Meet is organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and guest curated by Dr. Natasha Boas. The exhibition is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Brad Kahlhamer (b. 1956, Tucson, AZ) lives and works in New York City and Mesa, Arizona. Kahlhamer’s works explore the American landscape, often fusing references to multiple regions in a single work. Through graffiti, pop culture, and abstract expressionism, Kahlhamer draws from his Native American heritage, cutting across tribal traditions as an unidentified “tribally ambiguous” individual. He creates works which explore his displacement, authenticity, and representation within the Native American art discourse, as an individual having been adopted and raised by German American parents. His works have been exhibited internationally and within the United States. Upcoming and recent solo exhibitions include Brad Kahlhamer: 11:59 to Tuscon (2022), Tuscon Museum of Art, AZ; Brad Kahlhamer: A Nation Of One (2019-2020), Plains Art Museum, Fargo, North Dakota, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art, MN; Bowery Nation + Hawk + Eagle (2019), Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis, MN. His group exhibitions include Larger Than Memory: Contemporary Art from Indigenous North America (2020), Heard Museum, Phoenix; Taking a Stand: Art & Society, Artists from the Deutsche Bank collection (2020), Frieze London & Frieze Masters Online; and Open Spaces (2019), 21c Museum Hotels, Kansas. His works have been collected by the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, NY; the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC, NY; Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colorado; San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art in San Fransisco, CA; the Milwaukee Art Museum in Milwaukee, WI; and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary in Vienna, Austria. Among the numerous awards he has received, his most recent is the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Visual Arts Grant (2020). He has been a visiting artist and lecturer at notable institutions such as the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, as well as completed residencies at Columbia University; The Monet Foundation, France; and at the Rauschenberg Foundation, NY. He has also recently been published in The Brooklyn Rail. https://www.bradkahlhamer.net/about.
Dr. Natasha Boas is a French American international independent curator, scholar, and critic based in San Francisco and Paris. She has been curating for over 25 years as an advocate for under recognized artists for such institutions as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou Paris, and LACMA as well as galleries and artist spaces throughout the world. Her work has gained international critical recognition most recently with Baya: Women of Algiers at the Grey Art Gallery NYU 2018. Boas views curating as a form of problem solving, a way to work through art-historical challenges posed by certain art and artists. She currently has a particular investment in understanding and presenting works by transnational women artists and makes useful connections within the broader, newly reconstructed, narrative of Western Art history.
Related Press Releases
Brad Kahlhamer in the press
“New art for the new year: Metro Phoenix museums, galleries have exciting shows scheduled” on Arizona Republic, Dec. 16, 2020.
“BRAD KAHLAMER with Susan Harris” on The Brooklyn Rail, Dec. 12, 2020.