Allan Houser

Allan Houser

(1914 – 1994)

 

Allan Capron Houser or Haozous was a Chiricahua Apache sculptor, painter and book illustrator born in Oklahoma. He was one of the most renowned Native American painters and Modernist sculptors of the 20th century.

Houser's work can be found at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and in numerous major museum collections throughout North America, Europe and Japan. Additionally, Houser's Offering of the Sacred Pipe is on display at United States Mission to the United Nations in New York City.

Born on the family farm near Apache, Oklahoma and Fort Sill, Houser was the first member of his family from the Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache tribe born outside of captivity since Geronimo's 1886 surrender and the tribe's imprisonment by the U.S. government. The tribe had been led in battle by the spiritual leader, Geronimo, who would later rely on his grandnephew, Sam Haozous, Allan's father, to serve as his translator.

In 1934, Houser left Oklahoma to study at Dorothy Dunn’s Art Studio at the Santa Fe Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Dunn's method encouraged working from personal memory, avoiding techniques of perspective or modeling, and stylization of Native iconography. Houser made hundreds of drawings and canvasses in Santa Fe and was one of Dunn's top students.

Allan Houser began his professional career in 1939, receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in sculpture and painting in 1949.

In 1962, Houser was asked to join the faculty of a then new Native American art school, the Institute of American Indian Arts . He returned to Santa Fe to head the Institute's sculpture department. Casting his first bronzes in 1967, Houser was both a student and teacher, bringing forth his own history and ideas for a student body culled from every corner of Native America. Houser began working with the iconographies of many tribes, using modernist sculptural influences to forge the tribal and the abstract into a visual lexicon all his own.

During the early 1970s, Houser continued to teach at the Institute and began the rigorous production and exhibition cycle for which he became well known. He felt compelled to work in as many sculptural media as possible, evidenced by his solo exhibition of stone, bronze and welded steel sculptures at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona in 1970. The following year, Houser exhibited paintings and sculpture at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, and in 1973 was awarded the Gold Medal in Sculpture at the Heard Museum Exhibition.

Exhibitions, awards, and accolades continued. In 1975, Houser was asked to paint the official portrait of former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall. That same year, he had a solo exhibition at the Governor’s Gallery at the State Capitol in Santa Fe. After thirteen years at IAIA, Houser's retirement in 1975 marked the beginning of the most prolific stage of his career. With time, materials, and the family compound in southern Santa Fe county, Houser honed the visual language that was to become his artistic legacy. Fusing Native subject matter with the abstract forms and sculptural voids of his Modernist peers, Houser carried the mantle of both Native American and Modernism to new levels.

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