Casey Kaplan is pleased to begin the 2011–2012 season with an exhibition of new sculpture by Canadian artist, Brian Jungen. Preceded by Brian Jungen: Tomorrow, Repeated, a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario (May 5 – August 7, 2011) celebrating Jungen’s receipt of the 2010 Gershon Iskowitz Prize, this presentation marks the debut in the United States of an important evolution in Jungen’s work. Within the past few years, Jungen has focused his practice on modernist concerns and contexts, redefining his object making through the use of new materials and processes that reflect this shift, a more intimate relationship to the body, and his family’s traditions and history.
Since 2006, Jungen has lived and worked between Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Doig River Indian reserve in northern BC, where he was raised and the First Nations Dane-zaa (pronounced “dan-ney-za”) side of his family is located. Reconnecting with friends, family, and the landscape of the Peace River Valley, has increasingly personalized the vocabulary of his practice. Previously, Jungen was most well known for deconstructing Westernized, mass-produced commodities such as: leather goods, sports paraphernalia, plastic lawn chairs, and reforming them into sculpture. For this exhibition, Jungen presents two series of works that combine objects of natural and manufactured form, drawn from a range of influences and references, including modern furniture, Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, Andy Warhol’s silk screen prints, and traditional Dane-zaa drum making.
Situated in the galleries are five iconic Mid-Century Modern chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Verner Panton that have been bound and enveloped in circles cut from commercially farmed, American elk hides. Jungen has a penchant for modern furniture (many of the chairs coming from his personal collection), finding inspiration in the organic compositions and the designers’ ideologies. The corporeal quality of the chairs’ form and function, the skins of the elk, and the communal process of hand sewing the elements together is compounded further by the resulting object – a drum – which inherently implies ceremonial and social contexts, movement and sound. In Brian Jungen: Tomorrow, Repeated, the hides used in works such as The Men of My Family (2010) were sourced from animals that were hunted and skinned by the artist and his relatives. Covering aluminum car parts, they shape abstract volumes that are positioned on pedestals made from freezer chests, all materials familiar to the region of northern BC. The works were installed alongside the AGO’s collection of Henry Moore sculptures, juxtaposing the two artists’ investigations of form and figure, material, presentation, and process. Here, the dialog between these previous works and modernism is explored further within the combination of Jungen’s current subjects.
Additionally present is a new series of modular silver ink prints on polyethylene foam panels that lean on to, and hang from the gallery walls. Utilizing the remainder of the elk hides, with their cut out, empty circular forms, Jungen saturated one side of each hide in silver ink. With the aid of an assistant, and their combined weight, each inked hide was then pressed into the surface of industrial foam, leaving a textured and ghostly impression of what the skin had previously housed.
Brian Jungen was born in 1970 in Fort St. John, British Columbia. Along with his exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Jungen recently completed a series of public sculptures commissioned for the Canada Plaza, the main entrance of The Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation, at the Banff Center, Alberta. Titled, The ghosts on top of my head (2010–11), the works are three white powder-coated steel benches that reference Harry Bertoia’s furniture design and assume the shapes of elk, moose and caribou antlers. Other solo museum exhibitions include: the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton (2011); Strange Comfort, a mid-career retrospective at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC (2010); Le Frac des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou (2009); Museum Villa Stuck, Munich (2007); the Tate Modern, London (2006); Vancouver Art Gallery (2006); Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal (2006); Witte de With, Rotterdam (2006); and the New Museum, New York (2005). The artist has also participated in recent group exhibitions, such as: Hard Targets, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus (2009); Moby Dick, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2009); Revolutions – Forms that Turn, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bikargeiv, 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008); and NeoHooDoo: Art For A Forgotten Faith, The Menil Collection, Houston (2008). In 2013 Jungen will have corresponding solo exhibitions at the Kunstverein Hannover and the Bonner Kunstverein, Germany.