one becomes the other
From February 19 – March 25, 2012, PARTICIPANT INC is proud to present one becomes the
other, a solo exhibition by Jeffrey Gibson, and his first exhibition devoted entirely to
sculpture and video.
In 1941, months before the U.S. entered World War II, the Museum of Modern Art mounted
an exhibition titled Indian Art of the United States. The entire first floor of the
exhibition framed the then contemporary artworks as ‘Indian Art for Modern Living,’ thus
positing an expanded depiction of modern art, progressively comprehensive for the 1940s.
The significant embrace of alterity expressed by the MoMA exhibition and its relevance
to contemporary culture seemed to quickly subside with the onset of the war. The gap
widened between the established canon of modern art and its inclusion of Native American
artists; and the burgeoning post-war Native American art world went on to define an
independent trajectory, separate from more mainstream 20th century arts and cultural
discourses. Seventy-seven years later, Jeffrey Gibson imagines where this dialogue may
have led if parallel advancements continued, and these aesthetic and conceptual
histories perhaps even merged.
Gibson is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and is half Cherokee. He
grew up with the knowledge of obvious Native American stereotypes, manifested in mass
produced “Indian” totem poles, and symbols representing Indian warriors, chiefs, and
maidens. For Gibson, such cliché formats are not representative of Native American
culture, but do provide strategies for a critique of cultural value and representation.
As a Western-trained artist, ethnographic ready-mades and found objects have appeared in
many of his previous sculptural and collage works. However, to bridge this historical
gap required a community. This provided the impetus to travel and ultimately commission
works by artists whose practices draw from different spheres of knowledge, and whose
work is made for very different reasons.
Integrating materials, processes, and commissioned objects, Gibson began working with
them in tandem with the formal, abstract languages common to his work, equally
influenced by being Native, queer, urban, and also by the communities he forged, both
local and peripheral. Objects commissioned join hybrid sculptures that reflect the
relationship between the local, the regional, and the global.
Included in the exhibition are beadwork pieces by Whitney Minthorn and Frankie Skye Hawk
that make reference to Gibson’s paintings; a personal account of the trading of one
skateboard for another, made with David Rowland; drums made by GenderQueer artist and
dancer Jesse McMann-Sparvier and a quilt by Mary Felicia, hand-painted by Gibson; German
silver engravings by JhonDuane Goes In Center and Booger Masks by Roger Cain that join
sculptural works made by Gibson. These are objects that Gibson himself could not make.
Although he learned about the materials and processes that inform them, the belief
systems that motivate, define, and imbue these objects with a specific sense of history
and power are not necessarily his own. Treading a fine line between ethnographic
installation and Gibson’s personal collaborative investment, his totemic structures
engage with tradition, modernity, cultural specificity, and the fluctuations of
contemporary material culture.
A concurrent solo exhibition of works from one becomes the other will take place at
American Contemporary from February 19 – March 18, 2012. American Contemporary is
located at 4 East 2nd Street at Bowery, NYC.
A catalogue documenting one becomes the other, including essays by James Luna and Lia
Gangitano, will be published in late spring in conjunction with Samson Projects, Boston.
Jeffrey Gibson is a painter and sculptor living and working in Brooklyn, New York. His
work has been shown nationally and internationally at museums, galleries, and art fairs.
Selected exhibitions include No Reservations at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum,
Ridgefield, CT (2006), Off the Map at the National Museum of the American Indian,
Washington, D.C. (2007), SONOTUBE at The Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum (2007),
Solution at Diverseworks, Houston, TX (2009), and Totems at Sala Diaz, San Antonio, TX
(2009). He received a visual arts grant from Creative Capital Foundation in 2005; the
Eiteljorg Museum Fellowship in 2009; and a Percent for Art commission by the Department
of Cultural Affairs in New York City in 2010. His work has been featured and reviewed in
numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Boston
Globe, ArtNews, Art Lies and The Brooklyn Rail. Gibson’s work has recently been included
in exhibitions at The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Plug-In Institute of Contemporary
Art, Winnepeg; The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA; and will be included in an upcoming
exhibition at The Museum of Art and Design, New York. He is a 2012 TED Foundation
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