Jimmie Durham: God’s Children, God’s Poem

Jimmie Durham, Maquette for a Museum of Switzerland, 2011, Sammlung Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, detail, photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich

26 August–5 November 2017
Opening: Friday, 25 August 2017

In the work of Jimmie Durham (b. 1940 in Washington, Arkansas), the examination of societal and political topics, but also the issue of the representation of civilising values, historicity and societal identity, are of central importance. His installations and sculptures reflect on the status of the object between civilizing fetish and artwork, and are metaphors for the sometimes complex and problematic encounters between the human being, technology and nature, from different cultural perspectives. Durham became internationally famous in the 1980s for his sculptures made from materials like wood, stone, and the bones and skulls of animals, with which he frequently thematised the incorporation of Native American elements into contemporary art, thus breaking down standardised visual languages and discourses. For the exhibition at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, in reference to these earlier works, Durham will realise a room-filling installation with a materiality that also addresses Durham's adopted home, Europe. Based on the skulls of the largest European animal breeds, the abstract life-size sculptures will challenge the binary rhetoric of artificial/natural, past/present and, not least, the Eurocentric norm of differentiation between art and craft. Durham is seen as one of the most important «artist's artists»: he has had a considerable influence on a generation of younger artists.

Jimmie Durham lives and works in Berlin and Naples. He is an artist, poet, essayist and political activist. His works have been presented in numerous exhibitions around the world, most recently, for instance, at the Armand Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles (2017), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2014, 2003, 1993), the Venice Biennale (2015, 2005, 2003, 2001, 1999), Museo Madre, Naples (2013, 2008), M HKA – Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp (2012), Swiss Institute in New York (2012), Documenta in Kassel (2012, 1992), the 29th São Paulo Biennial (2010), Centre Pompidou in Paris (2010), Kunsthalle Bern (2010), Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2009) and Museum Ludwig in Cologne (2006).

This exhibition is curated by Heike Munder (director, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst). In cooperation with the artist, a monographic JRP|Ringier publication shall be released to accompany the exhibition.

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