Danny Lyon: Heart Butte

New York

1 June — 19 July 2002

Press Release

Pictures of American Indian Reservations in the Western United States
1 JUNE - 19 JULY, 2002
Reception for the artist, Saturday June 1, 2-4 PM

Danny Lyon’s most recent series, Heart Butte premieres at Edwynn Houk Gallery on 1 June. The show, which consists of 35 black-and-white prints, runs until 19 July. A reception for the artist will be held at the Gallery on Saturday, 1 June from 2 to 4 PM. The exhibition coincides with the release by Twin Palms of Lyon’s new book, Indian Nations.

For four years, Lyon visited the Sioux, Apache and Western tribes, returning with a sincere and romantic portrait of the people that once held the vast plains and deserts of America. Shot on the reservations where many of these first Americans now reside, these photographs explore a reality that remains largely ignored. In Lyon's own words, “capturing a people and sad beauty that is at the core of our history and our country.” This is reflected in the title of the exhibition, Heart Butte: a poetic name of place imbued with the vivid Indian sense of imagery and which stands symbolically for all the sites which Lyon visited.

The people in Lyon's photographs have a striking presence. As expressed by Pulitzer prize winner Larry McMurtry in the introduction to the Twin Palms book: “In fidelity to, and in the context of their ancient places, his [Lyon’s] subjects preserve a hard-worn dignity. Clear your eyes and look.”

The question of identity is at the center of the series, both that of the onlooker who is asked to reflect on the meaning of being an “American”, and that of the Native American subjects whom the photographer often confronted with their own image. Using a large format Polaroid, Lyon was able to show the pictures he was taking to the people pictured in them. In a number of the photographs, the subjects are seen holding their portrait made just minutes before. The pictures that make up Heart Butte are a serial documentary, a form that Lyon pioneered and that helped create the “new journalism”.

Self-taught in photography, Danny Lyon initiated his career during the Southern Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960s as the staff photographer for the Atlanta-based Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Lyon's involvement with the Chicago Outlaw Motorcycle Club produced the cult book, The Bikeriders. Also a writer and filmmaker, Lyon has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation in filmmaking and photography. Last winter, the Art Institute of Minneapolis presented a retrospective of Lyon's work, Danny Lyon: Photographs, 1962-2000. Danny Lyon lives and works on a farm with his family in New York State.