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Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe

Oct 29, 2022 - May 14, 2023
1219 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR
General accessibility


Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe introduces new generations to one of the twentieth century’s most innovative Native American painters. Howe (1915–1983) committed his artistic career to the preservation, relevance, and ongoing expression of his Yanktonai Dakota culture. He proved that art could be simultaneously modern and embedded in customary Očhéthi Šakówiŋ (Sioux) culture and aesthetics—to him there was no contradiction. Howe challenged the art establishment’s preconceptions and definitions of Native American painting. In doing so, he catalyzed a movement among Native artists to express their individuality rather than conforming to an established style. This legacy of innovation and advocacy continues to inspire generations of Native artists to take pride in their heritage and resist stereotypes.

Dakota Modern traces more than forty years of the artist’s career and development from early conventional work created while in high school in the 1930s through the emergence in the 1950s and 1960s of his innovative and abstract approach to painting.

Dakota Modern makes the case for Howe as a nationwide household name and for the longevity of his work, which feels relevant today.”

Lizzie Acker, The Oregonian

Organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Portland Art Museum. Curated by Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum. Major support provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional support provided by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. Support for the Portland Art Museum installation provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, grant MA-249741-OMS-21.


Artist Oscar Howe sitting on a ladder in front of a wall of his paintings.
Oscar Howe, seated in front of a selection of his paintings at South Dakota State University. March 30, 1958. Oscar Howe papers, Richardson Collection, Archives and Special Collections, University Libraries, University of South Dakota, courtesy of the Oscar Howe Family.
Dakota Modern Activity Guide
Abstraction after Wakapana painting by Oscar Howe
Dakota Modern Image Slideshow
Painting of a Native elder talking to a group of Native children sitting around a blanket
Children’s Books by Indigenous Authors


Lead Corporate Sponsor

  • Bank of America Foundation

Major Sponsors

  • Ameriprise Financial 
  • The Standard
  • Greg and Cathy Tibbles


  • The Boeing Company
  • Ed Cauduro Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation
  • Janet H. Geary and John Miller
  • William G. Gilmore Foundation
  • Melvin Mark Brokerage Company
  • Caryll and Norman F. Sprague, Jr. Foundation
  • Pat and Trudy Ritz
  • Bob and Liz Warren


  • Joe and Cathleen Karcher
  • KeyBank
  • Wells Fargo Foundation

Support for this exhibition is also provided by the Maribeth Collins Exhibition Endowment Fund.


  • Froelick Gallery