The Elkus Collection:
In Native American
Exhibit Opens May 15, 1999
SAN FRANCISCO (March 1, 1999) – Assembled by San Francisco residents Ruth
and Charles de Young Elkus and bequeathed to the Academy of Sciences Anthropology
Department in 1972, The Elkus Collection will showcase a vast array
of pottery, jewelry, carvings, paintings, textiles, and basketry created
by some of the leading Native American artisans of the 20th century. Pieces
date back to the late 19th century through the 1960's, and are primarily
from the Navajo and Pueblo peoples of Arizona and New Mexico. Cultures
from California, Alaska, and other regions will also be represented.
The diversity of The Elkus Collection reflects artistic changes
in Native American art that occurred during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. During that period, Native American society was changing as
native people interacted increasingly with non-Indians. Tourism, access
to new materials and technologies by native craftspeople, changes in education,
and the development of new markets were all important factors. Some changes,
such as painting ceremonial dances, conflicted with traditional native
beliefs and thus were controversial. Others resulted solely from the artistry
of a single individual but soon became "traditional," such as
the black-on-black pottery developed by Maria and Julian Martinez of San
San Francisco residents Ruth and Charles de Young Elkus recognized the
need to encourage and support artists from these diverse Native American
cultures, and actively sought talented artisans. Because of the Elkus'
early support, some of the leading names in 20th century Native American
art - Maria and Julian Martinez, Lucy Lewis, and Pablita Velarde - were
able to achieve international recognition and acclaim for their works.
With an emphasis on "Changing Traditions," a special area in
the center of the exhibit will be dedicated to works in each media which
illustrate artistic innovation. Included will be a dining table set with
six place settings of dinnerware by Maria and Julian Martinez and silverware
by Navajos Frank Charlie and Eckley Yazzie. Also included will be wheel
thrown pottery by Charles Loloma and Otellie Pasavaya, an early "Raised
Outline" Navajo rug, a Navajo sandpainting by Fred Stevens, the first
Navajo to make sandpaintings on boards, as well as a selection of innovative
silver jewelry items.
Southwestern Pueblo pottery is a major component of The Elkus Collection.
Works by noted potters Maria and Julian Martinez of San Ildefonso Pueblo,
Nampeyo from the Hopi Tribe, and Lucy Lewis of Acoma Pueblo will be displayed.
Historic pottery from the late 1800s and contemporary examples from other
pueblos will also be shown.
Silver and turquoise jewelry by Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo craftspeople will
fill several cases and include squash blossom necklaces, concho belts,
bracelets, rings, and other items. Hopi artist, Charles Loloma, and Navajo
artist, Kenneth Begay, who influenced generations of Indian silversmiths,
are both well represented in The Elkus Collection.
Southwestern textiles will trace the evolution of Navajo weaving from
wearing blankets of the mid-1800s to transitional blankets woven of Germantown
yarn at the turn of the century to regional style rugs woven from 1900
until the 1960s. Examples of handwoven Pueblo clothing items will also
Works by premier artists such as Narciso Abeyta, R.C. Gorman, Harrison
Begay, Awa Tsireh, Fred Kabotie, Pablita Velarde, Beatien Yazz, Otis Polelonema,
Allan Houser, Tonita Pena, and Joe H. Herrera are included in the nearly
200 works of art on paper in the collection.