Past Exhibitions

Creative Spark! : The Life and Art of Tony Da

February 13, 2011 through December 31, 2011

Untitled, 1977
UNTITLED 1977. Casein This painting demonstrates the early influence of Mimbres designs in Tony Da’s paintings with the two Mimbres lizards spiraling out from the center. In the alternating corners are a feather pattern and two Mimbres scorpions.  The addition of turquoise pieces to paintings was one of Da's innovations.  Collection of Jim and Marina Calfee.

Three Generations Photo
Photo from the 1967 Three Generations exhibition in Washington, D.C. Maria Martinez and her son Popovi Da are shown with their pottery while Tony is standing by his painting.  Albuquerque Museum Photo Archives.  PA1978.141.219.

Creative Spark: The Life and Art of Tony Da is the artist’s first comprehensive museum retrospective. On view will be the largest group of Da’s paintings and pottery ever gathered in one place.

The exhibition opens at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on February 13, 2011 running through December 31, 2011. Come join us Feb. 13th for a wonderful opening from 1-4pm.

Creative Spark! The Life and Art of Tony Da is a groundbreaking exhibition that features approximately 40 ceramic pieces and 20 paintings and offers an unprecedented exploration of Tony Da’s life and the works he created.

The grandson of famed potter Maria Martinez and the son of Popovi Da, Tony rose to the legacy of his talented family while pioneering bold innovations in his dynamic but tragically short career. This exhibit will be his first comprehensive retrospective in a museum and will feature major works, some never before seen by the public.  Spanning the 1950s to the 1980s, the exhibit includes paintings and pottery, from public and private collections, ranging from red, black and polychromatic jars and plates to sculptural bears and turtles.  The first book dedicated to Tony Da’s life and work, written by Charles King, owner of King Galleries in Scottsdale and Richard L. Spivey, author of The Legacy of Maria Poveka Martinez, will be available, in conjunction with the exhibition, in August 2011. The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture has in its permanent collection the works of Maria Martinez, Julian Martinez, and  Popovi Da. As a descendant of this renowned San Ildefonso family, Tony Da took Native American art to new heights and having his work on display is especially relevant at this pivotal time in the Museum’s growth.

Tony Da left an impressive legacy in his short career.  Born in 1940, he showed early enthusiasm and skill as a painter. As a youth he excelled in art, even winning a Hallmark Card contest.  While attending Western New Mexico University in Silver City he was exposed to prehistoric Mimbres pottery which held great influence on his artistic future. Da started painting full time after his discharge from the United States Navy and was soon recognized for his talent, winning top prizes for his artwork.

Tony Da used his favorite source, prehistoric Mimbres designs, as a subject for his paintings and pottery alike.  At other times he explored the traditional, interspersing with the abstract, realistic and semi-realistic.  During the six years that he lived with his grandmother, Maria, in the late 1960s, he started making pottery.  His artistic skill in ceramics developed rapidly and in 1967, Tony began to work on his sculptures, creating an exciting new form of Pueblo ceramic art.  These sculptures included turtles, owls, and bears.  As a tireless experimenter and innovator, he was the first to etch sgraffito designs into the clay; the first to incorporate the use of turquoise on pottery, then adding coral, jet, mother-of-pearl, shell and turquoise heishi, and silver; and the first to use a torch to create his black and sienna pots.  All were fresh, uses of materials and daring techniques.

Da led a very modern life as he navigated between the two worlds of his Indian culture and the non-Indian world.  In 1982, Tony sustained severe head injuries in a motorcycle accident. Although he was no longer able to make pottery, Da continued to paint while living in a care facility until his passing on February 12, 2008.  Tony Da’s artistic legacy is not isolated in the past, but one which continues to inspire artists and challenge them to become transformational in their creative explorations.

DEER WORSHIPER 1965.  Casein  Collection of Richard and Lynne Spivey.   Tony deconstructs the central and rim designs of a Mimbres bowl and used them in abstract sections of this painting.

Matte Jar
Matte jar with an avanyu which has rounded carved edges with inset turquoise in the horn and a single band of shell hei-shi.  Signature:  DA.  4 ¾”w x 4”h.  Collection of Charles S. King. Photo by Charles King.