Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains

Unbound: Narrative Art of the Plains

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by Emil Her Many Horses (Editor)

New publication celebrates the dynamic tradition of narrative art among Native nations of the American Great Plains.

Unbound shows the full expression of Plains narrative art, from historical hides, muslins, and ledger books to contemporary works. Illustrating everything from war deeds and ceremonial events to family life, Indigenous identity, and pop culture, the artworks are as diverse as the individuals who created them. Early narrative warrior-artists recorded their battle exploits on buffalo-hide shirts, and robes. In the late nineteenth century, as trade broadened, artists painted elaborate scenes of battles and ceremonies on large muslin tipi liners. When ledger books became available, artists filled their pages with narrative drawings. Native artists began reviving “ledger art” in the 1970s, creating a vibrant form that takes on contemporary topics, uses a variety of media, and is widely collected.

Organized chronologically, Unbound juxtaposes traditional works from the National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI’s) renowned collection with drawings and paintings commissioned from eleven contemporary Native artists.

The book accompanies an acclaimed exhibition of the same title that appeared in 2016 at the museum’s New York venue and will reopen in late Spring 2024 in the Washington, DC, museum.

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