The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) announced eight new contemporary art acquisitions from this summer and fall, including the first two works of contemporary Native American art to join the museum’s holdings. The museum’s collection now includes a mixed-media garment by Jeffrey Gibson (Choctaw and Cherokee) that combines Indigenous weaving techniques with pop cultural and queer iconography, and an aluminum signage piece by Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne and Arapaho) that references referencing the forced relocation of Native Americans by the US government in the 1830s.

Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, “Trail of Tears” (2005), four aluminum panels (edition 2/6), 18 x 105 inches (© Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds)

The new additions to the collection span photography, painting, mixed media work, video, and installation and include work from artist-activist LaToya Ruby Frazier’s important series Flint is Family (2016–2017), a record of the effects of water pollution on community members of Flint, Michigan. The acquisitions come as part of a larger effort to expand the museum’s photographic holdings, diversify the collection with work by women artists and artists of color, and ensure that Texan artists — whom Suzanne Weaver, the museum’s interim chief curator and curator of modern and contemporary art, calls “the lifeblood of our communities” — have ample representation.

Of the eight works acquired, four are by Texan artists. Two of the works, a glitched “scanner painting” by Liz Trosper and a colorful, drippy oil painting by Marcelyn McNeil, were featured in SAMA’s exhibition Texas Women: A New History of Abstract Art, which ran from February to September 2020 and was the first major survey show to focus on women abstract and non-objective artists in Texas. The works were gifts, from the Barry Whistler Gallery in Dallas and the artist, and from the Ackerley Family Collection in Houston, respectively. A trompe l’oeil painting by self-taught Texan artist Kirk Hayes was also a gift, from New York-based collectors Alex Schmelzer and Lisa Rotmil. The remainder of the works were purchased through the Brown Foundation Contemporary Art Acquisition Fund, which also paid for several contemporary Latin American art acquisitions this March, including sculptures by Brazilian artist Sonia Gomes and Mexican artist Jose Dávila.

Marcelyn McNeil, “Ramp Painting #2” (2018), oil on canvas, 95 x 44 inches (bottom)/38 inches (top) (© Marcelyn McNeil, Courtesy of the artist)

In a statement on the latest acquisitions, Weaver said: “The ongoing expansion and enrichment of the Museum’s contemporary art collection reflects our deep commitment to bringing diversity, inclusivity, and new narratives to the contemporary art collection.” She continued, “We look forward to developing fresh installations and programming to engage our audiences with these new acquisitions and to continuing to build our contemporary art collection in diverse, meaningful, and lasting ways.”

Emily Sano, the museum’s co-interim director and senior advisor for Asian art, told Hyperallergic:

We are immensely proud to add these works to our Contemporary collections. They represent an exciting range of media and artistic practices — as well as a true diversity of voices — that advances the Museum’s relevance to local, national, and international audiences. Beyond their obvious beauty, each piece offers visitors fertile ground for contemplation and, more importantly, dialogue.

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