Harry Fonseca (Maidu, 1946–2006), (left)In the Silence of Dusk They Began to Shed Their Skin, 1995, mixed media on paper, (right) American Dream Machine, 2005, mixed media on paper; Autry Museum

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Autry Museum of the American West has acquired the estate of the late Maidu/Portugese/Hawaiian artist Harry Fonseca, a collection including more than 500 works of art and all of his personal journals and papers.

“In this single step, with the acquisition of the main and the most important works in the estate of the late Harry Fonseca, the Autry has transformed its position as a national center of collecting, researching and interpreting contemporary Native fine art,” said W. Richard West Jr., president/CEO  of the Autry. “Fonseca is already highly respected, specifically for his immense gifts as an artist and the uniformly high quality of his prodigious volume of work.

“In addition, 21st Century art history will view him, more generally, as an undeniable and valued bridge between Native art and the broader international contemporary art world.”

The roughly 500 artworks include 19 large-scale murals, 69 sketchbooks and a selection of prints, posters and collages.

Fonseca, born in Sacramento, gained fame in the 1970s for his Coyote series, described by the Autry as a symbol of the “Native idea that the world is not to be controlled but to be enjoyed and embraced.” He died in 2006.

“His work will always be relevant as he painted universal themes and issues that affect not only Native peoples but the world at large, such as Christianity, genocide, religion, greed, money and gold,” said Patsy Phillips, director of the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. “Through his art, Fonseca examined and considered the human condition, speaking directly to the challenges of life.”