Article By John Photos 11/18/2009, Santa Fe Reporter
Hyde’s solo exhibition, Continuum, at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, illustrates the cross-contamination of his Native heritage with pop culture icons. A typical composition includes a depiction of a Native figure or artifact juxtaposed with a mass-produced object, often dessert, floating amid a field of dots or bright color. He caps them with witty titles that reference pop songs. The results are hectically layered motifs, equal parts humor and anger.
Among the clutter, Hyde includes cheeseburgers, cupcakes, a bottle of Tide, archers, a man in a headdress, buffalo, iPods and Wii controllers. By jumbling commonplace objects with Native iconography, Hyde wryly comments on the depiction of his heritage; it is often treated as no more than a brand, complete with logos. Like a dessert, it is something that can be purchased and consumed. Like a video game, it is a source of entertainment for children. Like a stain, it is something that can be washed away with detergent.
The struggle in which Hyde engages is complex. When an artist addresses identity in his or her artwork, he or she risks being marginalized. The artist ceases to be an artist; he or she becomes a “Native” artist.
Perhaps this is fine for some, but Hyde understands these labels can carry with them an expectation on the part of the market, and kowtowing to expectations is a dead end as far as art is concerned. In this way, Hyde’s work is a sharp rebuke to the market’s tendency to package everything so neatly.
His palette is further proof of this. As viewers move through the room, confronted by the conflicting subjects, they won’t find anything approaching a mid-tone or neutral. It is as though Hyde doesn’t mix his paints, opting to use straight-outta-the-tube color. There is nothing nuanced here. This is advertising after all and, truth be damned, we need to get your attention.