Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World

Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World

Hammer Museum

Jimmie Durham, Malinche, 1988–92. Guava, pine branches, oak, snakeskin, rope, polyester bra soaked in acrylic resin and painted gold, watercolor, cactus leaf, canvas, cotton cloth, metal, feathers, plastic jewelry, glass eye. 70 × 23 5⁄8 × 35 in. (177 × 60 × 89 cm). Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent, Belgium. Photo: S.M.A.K. / Dirk Pauwels.

December 1, 2016
Jimmie Durham
At the Center of the World
January 29–May 7, 2017
Hammer Museum
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
United States
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The Hammer Museum presents Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World, the first North American retrospective of artist, performer, poet, essayist, and activist Jimmie Durham (b. 1940, Washington, Arkansas). One of the most compelling and inventive artists working internationally today, Durham has been an elusive figure for American audiences. After studying art in Geneva and then returning to the United States and working for the American Indian Movement for several years, Durham became part of the vibrant New York downtown art scene in the 1980s. In 1987 he moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, and then to Europe in 1994. While his work has been widely shown and critically embraced in Europe and elsewhere, he has rarely exhibited in the US during the last two decades. Nonetheless Durham’s work is meaningfully connected to important activities, movements, and genres of American art since the 1980s—including assemblage using found objects, appropriation of text and image, institutional critique, the politics of representation, performance art—and, moreover, to the colonial history and political struggles of the country.  

At the Center of the World, the artist’s first major US exhibition since 1995, features nearly 200 works from Durham’s expansive practice including sculpture, drawing, collage, printmaking, photography, and video, dating from 1970 to present. With strategic wit and humor, his works tackle important issues like the vital role of art in critical thinking, modes of representation, genocide, and statehood. Boundlessly curious, Durham takes on wide-ranging subject matter from specific historical events or figures—such as Malinche and Cortez—to classical architecture, religious martyrdom, quantum physics, and literary sources from Shakespeare to Jose Saramago. Durham’s work offers a vital perspective on present-day discussions about the relationship between the local and the global; the interface between art and activism; and the history of sculpture as a medium tactically and conceptually entwined with everyday life.

The retrospective is organized in roughly chronological order, elucidating various aspects of Durham’s practice:
–At the core of Durham’s practice is process-driven sculptural assemblage, which can take the form of a small wall relief, a human-scale freestanding sculpture, or a room-size installation.
–The exhibition traces Durham’s ongoing use of natural materials such as wood, stone, and animal parts (skin, fur, bone) alongside found manufactured objects and highlights his deep knowledge of not only the physical properties of his chosen materials, but their geographic, economic, and cultural histories.
–Durham is committed to philosophical and critical inquiry and positions his art in opposition to categorization, monumentality, and what he sees as corrupt systems of belief.
–An accomplished writer, Durham’s works often combine texts with objects, putting language and materials into energetic interplay. The combinations suggest possible meanings while also elucidating the playfulness of language, how it can be wielded to mislead or oppress, and its limited capacity to truly describe our experiences.

Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World will travel to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from June 22–October 8, 2017; Whitney Museum of American Art in New York from November 3, 2017–January 28, 2018; and Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Canada in spring 2018.

Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World is accompanied by a beautifully illustrated catalogue comprising several scholarly essays, an interview with the artist, a chronology, and a selection of Durham’s poetry and essays dating from 1974 and including a new essay written for this volume. With a major essay by exhibition curator Anne Ellegood and contributions by the renowned scholars and writers Jennifer A. González, Jessica L. Horton, Fred Moten, Paul Chaat Smith, MacKenzie Stevens, Elisabeth Sussman, and Jessica Berlanga Taylor, the catalogue examines the impact and importance of Durham’s work. The catalogue is designed by Purtill Family Business and co-published by the Hammer Museum and DelMonico Books•Prestel.

Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World is presented by 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 Lindemann.

Major support for the catalogue is provided by kurimanzutto.

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Hammer Museum
December 1, 2016

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