At the Center of the World
Jimmie Durham is one of the most compelling, inventive and multifaceted artists working today. A political organizer for the American Indian Movement during the 1970s, he was an active participant in New York City's downtown artistic community in the 1980s. In 1987, Durham moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico and then to Europe in 1994, where he has lived ever since. Predominantly a sculptor, Durham frequently combines everyday objects and natural materials and incorporates text to expose Western-centric views and prejudices hidden in language, objects and institutions. Calling himself an "interventionist," Durham is often critical in his analysis of society, but with a distinctive wit that is simultaneously generous and humorous.
The first North American retrospective exhibition of Durham's work, At the Center of the World traces his remarkable attentiveness to materials and characteristic approach to assemblage while demonstrating his commitment to shedding light on the complexities of historical narratives, notions of authenticity and the borders and boundaries that try to contain us. For Durham, a rock, a piece of driftwood, a dirty shirt, a car bumper, a heap of trash or a moose skull found in a dumpster are all equally fertile objects to be incorporated into his work. With close to 175 objects dating from 1970 to the present and accompanied by a comprehensive monograph, the exhibition outlines how Durham's insatiable curiosity and adeptness with materials have led to an expansive practice—spanning sculpture, drawing, collage, printmaking, painting, photography, video, performance and poetry.
Durham's life and career are extraordinary, in part, for his embrace of a particular type of "homelessness"—one that has led him to live and work in numerous places. While many would feel unmoored and disoriented by this constant relocation, it is the artist's natural state. He immerses himself in the culture, history and culinary habits of each temporary and adopted home, always choosing to consider wherever he happens to be "the center of the world."
Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World provides a much-anticipated opportunity for audiences to gain a deeper understanding of, or perhaps encounter for the first time, the richly rewarding work of this complex, absorbing and peripatetic artist.
Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World is organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and curated by Anne Ellegood, Senior Curator, with MacKenzie Stevens, Curatorial Associate. Remai Modern's presentation is organized by Sandra Guimarães, Director of Programs & Chief Curator.
The Hammer's presentation of this exhibition was funded by Beverly Center and its owner Taubman. Lead support for the exhibition is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Generous support is provided by Maggie Kayne and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding is provided by Lonti Ebers, The Ampersand Foundation/ Jack Kirkland and Adam Lindermann.
Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World has previously been exhibited at the Hammer Museum; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Remai Modern's presentation of this exhibitions was made possible by the generous support of the Frank & Ellen Remai Foundation.
Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World is organized by the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and curated by Anne Ellegood, Senior Curator, with MacKenzie Stevens, Curatorial Assistant. Remai Modern's presentation is organized by Sandra Guimarães, Director of Programs & Chief Curator.
"I feel fairly sure that I could address the entire world
if only I had a place to stand."
—Jimmie Durham, 1988
Jimmie Durham (b. 1940) is an American artist based in Europe. In 1968 he enrolled at L'École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, where he worked primarily in performance and sculpture. With three other artists, he formed the Draga group, which explored ways to integrate art into public life. At this time, he also formed an organization with Indigenous friends from South American called Incomindios, which attempted to coordinate and encourage support for the struggle of Indians of the Americas. A lifelong activist, in 1973 he returned to the United States to participate in the occupation at Wounded Knee, in South Dakota, and became a full-time organizer for the American Indian Movement (AIM); he would become a member of their Central Council in 1975. That same year he became the executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) in New York City and was made the representative of American Indians to the United Nations, the first minority group to have official representation within the organization. From 1975 to 1980, he was the coeditor of the Treaty Council News, a monthly newspaper of the IITC, and edited the second edition of the Chronicles of American Indian Protest in 1976, published by the Council on Interracial Books for Children. In 1980 he left AIM and returned to a focus on art making. Throughout this decade his work addressed questions of identity, modes of representation, and colonial violence and genocide, specifically related to the experiences of Indigenous peoples in the Americas. He was the director of the Foundation for the Community of Artists in New York City from 1981 to 1983, and from 1982 to 1985 edited their monthly Art and Artists Newspaper (formerly Artworkers News).
In 1987 Durham moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, and in 1994 he immigrated to Europe. He has lived in Dublin, Brussels, Marseille, and Rome, and currently splits his time between Berlin and Naples. Since moving to Europe, his work has been less explicitly about his personal experiences or background and has addressed cultural politics more broadly, returning to subjects such as language and translation, monumentality, history, and ideology. During this time, Durham has repeatedly scrutinized two aspects he considers to be at the heart of European tradition: architecture and belief systems.
Durham and his work have been of longstanding relevance to artists, curators and scholars in Canada. Presentations of his work here include the solo exhibition The Bishop's Moose and Pinkerton Men (1989), Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec; and group exhibitions Land, Spirit, Power (1992), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years (2010), Plug In ICA, Winnipeg; Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art (2013), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Durham's work is held in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, and one of his works is permanently installed at Plug In ICA.
Durham's exhibition history spans several decades and continents. His work was featured in Documenta XI (1992) and dOCUMENTA (13) (2012); the Whitney Biennial (1993, 2006, and 2014); Venice Biennial (2001, 2003, 2005); Sydney Biennial (2004); Manifesta 7, Trento, Italy (2008); and 13th Istanbul Biennial (2013). Durham's works are held in major public collections around the world, including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; and Museo Jumex, Mexico City, among others.
An essayist and poet, Durham has published many texts in journals such as Artforum, Art Journal, and Third Text. His publications include books of poetry, Columbus Day (1983, West End Press) and Poems That Do Not Go Together (2012, Wiens Verlag and Edition Hansjörg Mayer); the collection of essays, A Certain Lack of Coherence (1993, Kala Press); and Jimmie Durham: Waiting to Be Interrupted, Selected Writings 1993-2012 (2013, Mousse Publishing and Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp).
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