Arts + Culture

Fowler Museum to host two exhibitions about Native American arts and culture

'Rigo 23: From the Heart of Santa Madera' and 'Fowler in Focus: The Yaqui Masks of Carlos Castaneda' open May 4

Ceremonial Pahko’ola mask

Pahko’ola mask (ceremonial)

As part of its 50th anniversary year, the Fowler Museum at UCLA is presenting two exhibitions that highlight its collection of Native American art and long-standing commitment to displaying the works of indigenous cultures. "Rigo 23: From the Heart of Santa Madera" will be on exhibit May 4 through Aug. 31 in the Museum's Goldenberg Galleria, and "Fowler in Focus: The Yaqui Masks of Carlos Castaneda" will be on display in the Fowler in Focus gallery May 4 through Aug. 17.

Rigo 23: From the Heart of Santa Madera

Drawing from the Fowler's Native American collections and artist Rigo 23's own long history of collaborating with native and indigenous communities around the world, the work will incorporate a variety of media to create an immersive exhibition that addresses the invisibility of Native American cultures by highlighting contemporary struggles and cultural renewal.

"Rigo 23: From the Heart of Santa Madera" will consist of eight wall-sized canvases that incorporate photography, painting, graphic art, poetry, recorded sound, film stills and other media, along with artifacts from the Fowler's collections. The subject matter of the compositions incorporate elements as diverse as the film "The Exiles," Indian Island in Eureka Bay, contemporary Tongva voices, United Nations General Assembly voting records, the continued imprisonment of Lakota tribesperson and American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, and quotes by Jean Paul Sartre and Franz Fanon. 

In his work, Rigo 23 has long considered social issues, including concerns for international workers in the global economy, the incarceration of political prisoners and the treatment of Native Americans. In 2010 he temporarily changed the appearance of The Warehouse Gallery at Syracuse University to host a fictional museum, the Taté Wikikuwa Museum, focusing on Leonard Peltier. His work was also included in the exhibition "No Reservations: Native American History and Culture in Contemporary Art" (2006–07) at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

Rigo 23 was born in 1966 on Madeira Island, Portugal, and lives in San Francisco.  He has exhibited nationally and internationally since the mid-1980s. His murals, paintings, sculptures and public interventions have been exhibited at REDCAT, Los Angeles; the Serralves Museum, Portugal; the New Museum, New York; Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Brazil; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santiago, Chile; and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum; and have been included in several biennials and international exhibitions. Rigo 23 earned a master of fine arts degree from Stanford University and a C.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute.

This exhibition is organized by the Fowler Museum's Sebastian Clough, director of exhibitions, and Wendy Teeter, curator of archaeology.

Fowler in Focus: The Yaqui Masks of Carlos Castaneda

With long beards cascading from their chins and hair sometimes falling over their eyes, the painted and etched wood masks by the Yaqui of northern Mexico are haunting, humorous, playful and arresting. "Fowler in Focus: The Yaqui Masks of Carlos Castaneda" showcases the collection of Yaqui pahko'ola masks and rattles field-collected in the 1960s by famed author and UCLA-trained anthropologist Carlos Castaneda. 

The exhibition includes video and photographs that show the masks in context and in performances during pahko'ola rituals. 

Pahko'ola masks offer a glimpse into some of the most ancient and respected aspects of their makers' worldview. They are most often carved to resemble human faces or goat heads, and the name, pahko'ola, may be translated as "old man of the fiesta," suggesting the wisdom and comprehensive knowledge associated with age. The masks usually employ red and white design elements on black backgrounds, and they are a part of birthdays, weddings, death ceremonies, religious holidays and other celebrations. 
In the past, the pahko'ola dances communicated with the animals to ensure safe and successful deer hunts.  Although such hunts are no longer essential to Yaqui survival, pahko'ola performers today entertain crowds as clowns and narrators. They joke with and tease spectators and ritual participants, but they also bless the ritual ground, making it safe from negativity and any potential for harm. 
Carlos Castaneda (1925–1998) received his bachelor's and doctoral degrees from UCLA; his Ph.D. was earned primarily for his work with a Yaqui Indian named Don Juan Matus. In his best-seller "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge" (1968) and subsequent books, Castaneda described his apprenticeship with Don Juan. After several well-publicized exposés questioned the validity of Castaneda's claims, many scholars doubted that Castaneda had done research among the Yaqui communities in Mexico, and Time magazine described him as "an enigma wrapped in a mystery." 
His contribution of the Yaqui masks on display in this exhibition is therefore exceptionally valuable, as the acquisition documents prove that Castaneda was in the Yaqui pueblos during the time of his dissertation field work. Additionally, the quality of the masks and the artistry of the mask-makers are undeniable.

This exhibition is curated by David Delgado Shorter, associate professor and vice chair of World Arts and Cultures/Dance at UCLA.

The Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the country's most respected institutions devoted to exploring the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. The Fowler is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday. The Fowler Museum, part of UCLA Arts, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking is available for a maximum of $12 in Lot 4

Related programs

6–8 p.m.
Thursday, May 1 
Reception and preview
Meet Rigo 23 and preview his work, and join guest curator David Shorter for a first look at "Fowler in Focus: The Yaqui Masks of Carlos Castaneda." Live music and light refreshments.

12 noon
Friday, May 1
Culture Fix: Rigo 23 on Rigo 23
Preview the exhibition and hear the artist discuss what links the eight works in his latest project, on display in the Goldenberg Galleria.

7:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 22
Screening: "The Exiles" (Director: Kent Mackenzie, 72 minutes, black and white)
One of the images in Rigo 23's exhibition comes from the rarely screened 1961 film "The Exiles," which chronicles one night in the lives of young Native American men and women living in the Bunker Hill district of Los Angeles. Based entirely on interviews with the participants and their friends, the film follows a group of exiles — transplants from Southwest reservations — as they flirt, drink, party, fight and dance. A talkback with artist Pamela Peters follows the screening. 

Additional programs taking place this summer will be announced online at

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