Indelible: The Platinum Photographs of Larry McNeil and Will Wilson

June 07, 2014–January 05, 2015
Washington, DC

By the end of the 19th century, the platinum print process was of primary importance to art photographers—valued for its permanence, wide tonal variation, and “fuzzy” aesthetic. Photographers such as Edward S. Curtis, Gertrude Käsebier, and Joseph Keiley famously printed their photographs of North American Indians on platinum paper, using the prints’ highly romanticizing softness to represent the “Vanishing Race.”

Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisgaá) and Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagaana) challenge this visual ideology. McNeil uses the platinum process to topple expectations of what constitutes the Native portrait and, more generally, Western conceptions of portraiture. Wilson creates portraits of “today’s Indians” on metal plates, then digitizes the plates, makes large-scale digital negatives from the scanned images, and uses historic printing processes in a wet darkroom—calling attention to the manufactured nature of all photographic images.

Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisga’a), b. 1955, Elders, from the Feather series (3 of 5), 1992. Platinum print. (26/9282)
Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisga’a), b. 1955, 1491, from the Feather series (1 of 5), 1992. Platinum print. (26/9280)
Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisga’a), b. 1955, 1492, from the Feather series (2 of 5), 1992. Platinum print. (26/9281)
Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisga’a), b. 1955, Circle of Rebirth, from the Feather series (4 of 5), 1992. Platinum print. (26/9283)
Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisga’a), b. 1955, 1992, from the Feather series (5 of 5), 1992. Platinum print. (26/9284)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Nakotah LaRance, Citizen of the Hopi Nation, 6-Time World Champion Hoop Dancer, Member, Dancing Earth, Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations, CIPX SFAI, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9278)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Nicholas Galanin, Citizen of the Tlingit Nation, Trans-Customary Artist, CIPX NDN MRKT, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9271)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Zig Jackson, Citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, Professor of Photography, Savannah College of Art and Design, CIPX NDN MRKT, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9272)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, William Wilson, Citizen of the Navajo Nation, Trans-Customary Diné Artist, CIPX NDN MRKT, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9279)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Cory Van Zytveld, US Citizen, CIPX DAM, 2013. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9273)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Raven Knight, Citizen of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, Dancer, Dancing Earth, Indigenous Contemporary Dance Creations, CIPX SFAI, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9275)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Joe D. Horse Capture, Citizen of the A’aninin Indian Tribe of Montana, Associate Curator of Native American Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, CIPX NDN MRKT, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9274)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Gerald McMaster, Citizen of the Siksika First Nation, Curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Co-Artistic Director, the 18th Biennale of Sydney, 2012, and Lynn McMaster, Canadian Citizen, CIPX IAIA, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9276)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Kevin Gover, Citizen of the Pawnee Nation, Director, National Museum of the American Indian, CIPX NDN MRKT, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9270)
Will Wilson (Diné/Bilagáana), b. 1969, Cara Romero, Citizen of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, Indigeneity Program Director, Bioneers, CIPX NDN MRKT, 2012. Platinum print, 1/20. (26/9277)
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