Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo
August 16–November 28, 2021
Jules Tavernier and the Elem Pomo explores the intercultural exchange between French-born and trained American artist Jules Tavernier (1844–1889) and the Indigenous Pomo community of Elem at Clear Lake in northern California.
Investigating Tavernier’s life and career, the exhibition is centered around his rediscovered masterwork Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, California (1878), which depicts a ceremonial dance of the Elem Pomo known as mfom Xe, or “people dance,” in an underground roundhouse. Commissioned by San Francisco’s leading banker, Tiburcio Parrott, as a gift for his Parisian business partner, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, the work celebrates the rich vitality of Elem Pomo culture, while also exposing the threat posed by White settlers, including Parrot, who was then operating a toxic mercury mine on the community’s ancestral homelands.
The exhibition will bring together approximately 50 works—including paintings, prints, watercolors, and photographs—to tell the story of Tavernier’s travels through Nebraska, Wyoming, California, and the Hawaiian Islands, incorporating a multiplicity of voices and perspectives, including those of Pomo cultural leaders and curators, who will offer new interpretations of his work. Major paintings by Tavernier will be shown alongside examples of 19th- to 21st-century Pomo baskets and regalia, including works by contemporary weaver Clint McKay (Dry Creek Pomo/Wappo/Wintun), to celebrate the resiliency of the Indigenous Pomo peoples and highlight their continued cultural presence today. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with Elem Pomo cultural leader and regalia maker Robert Geary and Dry Creek Pomo scholar Sherrie Smith-Ferri, Ph.D.