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) who is one of the most compelling and inventive artists working internationally today. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 subject matter ranging 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. Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World is on view at the Hammer from January 29 – May 7, 2017.