MARC STRAUS presents a solo exhibition of a new body of work by Jeffrey Gibson on view from October 25 to December 13. Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972), who is half Choctaw and half Cherokee, creates sculptures and paintings that intermingle traditional Native American craft with contemporary art and culture.
Native American craftsmanship and contemporary pop culture coexist comfortably, resulting in an amalgam of the artist’s vast personal interests in popular music and literature, his political views, and his rich heritage.
The show presents 20 new works that bring together elements of indigenous art and craft, politics, music, fashion, urban subculture, and art history that include Gibson’s famous, elaborately embroidered punching bags; beaded wall hangings; monochromatic raw-hide paintings; and life-sized sculptures.
Almost all the works in the show contain text that is charged with personal meaning and political themes, elaborately embroidered in beadwork. Gibson does not consider these works as purely fine art, stressing that design too can have powerful content. Texts include appropriated phrases from popular song lyrics, social movements and, as of recently, Gibson’s own writings.
His use of language is similar to that of artist, educator and activist, Sister Corita Kent, who like Gibson does, arranged words in scattered and atypical formatting. Sentences are no longer a simple left to right read; they become fragments of a thought floating in one’s mind. In this exhibition, the two life-sized figures are made from ceramic heads perched on wooden armatures that are draped with heavily adorned cloaks. These beings resemble mythical creatures with secrets to reveal. Embodying the vitality of Native American powwow dancers, the intricately embellished punching bags are fully remade but maintain the power of its former, pugilistic identity.
For Gibson these punching bags personify a range of characters: punks, goths, rockers, queers, dancers, and the underdogs, all of whom have at one point in history, lived life as outsiders. The punching bags acknowledge Gibson’s heritage but at the same time adamantly reject boundaries or associations with any specific culture. In his new series of beaded wall hangings where the artist references textiles and blankets traditionally worn as robes, Gibson uses graphics and text to allude to immediate social issues. The thoughts behind his activist statements are revealed and become personal reveries.
In American History, a beaded quilt composition, Gibson remembers James Baldwin’s famous words, American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it. Gibson explores a greatly reduced palette in his new monochromatic paintings. Painted on rawhide, the hardedge geometric shapes accentuate the work’s materiality; reminding the viewer that it was once was a living being.
The sense of community is an important aspect to Gibson’s work, given that the process of creating an artwork as intricate as his is a laborious one, which takes a team of studio assistants to complete, all of whom the artist regards as family.
About Jeffrey Gibson
Jeffrey Gibson attended The Art Institute of Chicago (BFA) and The Royal College of Art, UK (MA).
He was raised in the United States, Germany, and South Korea. Gibson’s artworks are in the permanent collections of many major art museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Canada, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Denver Art Museum. In 2013, he had solo exhibitions at The ICA Boston, National Academy Museum NYC, and the Rollins Museum. In 2017 he will participate in an international traveling exhibition originating at The Denver Museum of Art. Gibson teaches in the Studio Arts Program at Bard College and is a 2012 TED Foundation Fellow.