Jeffrey Gibson USA, b. 1972

Overview

Jeffrey Gibson’s aesthetic position is rooted in the spaces where narratives collide. Gibson is a member of the Chocktaw and Cherokee nations. Combining Native American traditions with the visual languages of Modernism, his work re-contextualizes relationships between popular culture, identity politics, personal experience, memory, and canonized versions of history, inviting viewers to question the myths and assumptions that empower contemporary social structures.

 

As a child Gibson lived for long periods of time in Germany, Korea, and the United States. His multicultural perspective informed his study of art history and influenced the development of his aesthetic language. While moving around, Gibson found solace and friendship in the music scene, at various times exploring the sounds and social traditions of the punk, rave and PowWow communities. Song lyrics are a major aesthetic element in several of Gibson’s bodies of work, including his large-scale beaded paintings, his monumental installations and public works, as well as his beloved and highly influential series of beaded punching bags.

 

The power of musical performances is also integral to Gibson’s long running series of ceremonial garments. Alternately presenting as wearable fabrics and purely aesthetic relics, Gibson's garments elucidate the value of costumes as transformative objects that can help people take agency over their own identities. Exhibited in such environments as the entrance to the Whitney Biennial and the New York Armory Show, Gibson’s garments express a range of perspectives and influences, like symbols of history and culture that possess both personal and wider social meaning.

 

The intertwining and unraveling of cultural and material themes continues in Gibson’s recent series of Quilt Block Paintings. The pastiche appearance of these ambitious works is a material reflection of the intertextual narratives within. Says Gibson, “My grandmothers made quilts, and I collect quilts. I’m drawn to their patchwork quality. If you know where the fabrics are coming from, there’s a story that can be played out through material culture.”Images of Indigenous people appear throughout the Quilt Block Paintings, interrogating differences between how Native Americans represent themselves and how they are represented by others. Ranging from the cartoonish, to the melodramatic, to the profane, these images draw attention to inherent biases within intercultural visual narratives, such as the tendency of non-Indigenous artists to attribute dark skin tones to their perceived foes and light skin to individuals, such as Pocahontas, whom they wish to convey as friendly to colonial concerns.

 

All of Gibson's works deftly intermingle popular culture, literature, art history, memory, politics, myth, and material meaning. The source content he so insightfully remixes into new forms incites questions about whose representations of people and cultures should be validated; which memories and artifacts should be exalted; what creative products should be deemed to have constructive social value; and who decides. The works feel starkly original and idiosyncratic, but unified—a phenomenological manifestation of the complex, interwoven cultural fabrics that compete within our contemporary social space, and yet keep us stubbornly, inextricably bound.

 

Gibson is a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grantee; Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grantee; TED Foundation Fellow; Smithsonian Institution Contemporary Arts Grantee; HARPO Foundation Grantee; Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellow; Creative Capital Foundation Grantee; Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Tribal Scholarship awardee. His work is in the permanent collections of many of the most influential museums in the world, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY; Rose Museum of Art, Waltham, MA; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonia, TX; Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, IN; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; Newark Museum of Art, Newark, NJ; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; Art Bridges Collection, Bentonville, AR; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH; Minneapolis Museum of Art, Minneapolis, MN; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME; Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, MN; and the Thoma Foundation, Santa Fe, NM and Chicago, IL.


Gibson holds an MA at the Royal College of Art, London, and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA. Recent major exhibitions of Gibson's work include Jeffrey Gibson: THE BODY ELECTRIC, Site Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM, USA; Jeffrey Gibson: Beyond the Horizon, Kavi Gupta | Elizabeth St, Chicago, IL, USA; Jeffrey Gibson: When Fire is Applied to a Stone It Cracks, Brooklyn Art Museum, New York, NY, USA; Jeffrey Gibson: CAN YOU FEEL IT, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; She Never Dances Alone, Times Square Arts, New York, NY, USA; Jeffrey Gibson, Infinite Indigenous Queer Love, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA; Jeffrey Gibson: This Is the Day, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX, USA; Wellin Museum of Art, Clinton, NY, USA; Jeffrey Gibson: The Anthropophagic Effect, The New Museum, New York, NY, USA; Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO, USA; Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art, curated by Dr. Alexandra Schwartz, Ph.D., Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY, USA; and Love Song, ICA, Boston, MA, USA.

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