press release

Let’s Walk West looks at Brad Kahlhamer’s rambling journey into his Native American heritage and the landscape of the West. His paintings are part visionary, part pop culture. Eagles, coyotes and javelinas appear like talismans, alongside caricatures of family and friends. An artist and alternative-country musician, Kahlhamer is a storyteller at heart: he paints a world of personal rediscovery that spins wildly on its axis. Born in Tucson of Native American parentage, Kahlhamer was adopted as an infant and raised in Tucson, then rural Wisconsin. He has tried to reconnect with Native culture yet, like other such adoptees, remains inevitably on the sidelines. His paintings arm-wrestle with an unknown autobiography, with people and places both real and imagined.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Kahlhamer left his downtown New York home for a retreat at his parents’ wintertime trailer park in Mesa, Arizona. In a makeshift carport studio, he produced a torrent of virtuoso drawings, influenced by his treks into the Sonoran desert and his visits with Native American rock musicians in the Phoenix area. Curated by SMoCA director Susan Krane, Let’s Walk West features these and other recent large-scale works on paper, texts excerpted from the artist’s journals and song lyrics, working photos and studies. The underdog observations and draftsmanship of cartoons have been a major influence on Kahlhamer as well as his study of late 19th-century Plains Indian ledger drawings (tribal histories recorded during forced relocations to Reservations). As a historical counterpoint, the exhibition features a selection of these ledger drawings on loan from the collection of the Heard Museum.

Organized by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Presentation made possible by N. Bud and Beverly Grossman, Sue and Bud Selig, Phyllis and Richard Stern, Tamar and Emil Weiss and the SMoCA Salon, with additional support for the catalog from Deitch Projects, New York, and with the collaboration of the Heard Museum.


Let´s Walk West: Brad Kahlhamer