The Evolution of Jeffrey Gibson

robohontas with gibson

I remember the first time I saw Jeffrey Gibson’s work. It was in the “Off the Map” exhibit at the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian. At the time I was more interested in work by some of the other artists who were part of that show such as James Lavadour and Erica Lord. But I did find his work to be refreshing in that it pushed the boundaries of contemporary Native art in unexpected ways. Bright, lush, and messy, those pieces evoked jungles and fantastical landscapes in my mind.

The next work of his I saw was at Crow’s Shadow Institute where several of his prints from a residency were on display. These were very graphic and restrained compared to the earlier paintings. I found them enticing and used one as a backdrop for a picture of Robohontas (see image above).

And then a friend sent me a link on Facebook last week to an article in Hyperallergic: Native American Iconography Meets Modernist Aesthetic and Material. I’m sure she sent it because of the style of work shown (triangles!) which has similarities with some of my own work. But I was so surprised to find it was Jeffrey Gibson’s work again! And the geometric paintings on stretched hides is so spare compared to those first pieces of his I saw. I really loved seeing how his art has changed and evolved over time and that he is still experimenting with a variety of styles. The punching bags are also super cool and really bring an interesting element of violence into the conversation. Is it political? Is it whimsical? Is it historical? It may well be any, all, or none of those things in the mind of the artist. The important thing is that it made me think.

I’ve included links to the work and articles I was talking about, which I figured is easier than trying to include and credit images from other websites. Also, I’m writing this on my last day in Minnesota after three weeks here. I think I’ve managed to stuff everything into my bags somehow. Looking forward to being home!

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