Artist and activist Jimmie Durham (b. 1940) has worked as a visual artist, performer, essayist, and poet for more than forty-five years.
A political organizer for the American Indian Movement during the 1970s, he was an active participant in the downtown New York City artistic community in the 1980s. In 1987 he moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, then to Europe in 1994, where he has lived ever since. Predominantly a sculptor, Durham often combines found 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 oftentimes critical in his analysis of society but with a distinctive wit that is simultaneously generous and humorous.
Durham’s expansive practice spans sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, video, and performance, and the exhibition includes approximately 120 objects dating from 1970 to the present. It is accompanied by a catalogue comprising several scholarly essays, an interview with the artist, a chronology, and a selection of Durham’s own writings, both old and new. The first North American retrospective 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.
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. The Whitney’s presentation is organized by Elisabeth Sussman, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, and Laura Phipps, assistant curator, Whitney Museum of American Art.
The exhibition is made possible, in part, by generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Henry Luce Foundation.
In New York, generous endowment support is provided by The Keith Haring Foundation Exhibition Fund.
Installation view of Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, November 3, 2017–January 28, 2018). From left to right: The Forest and Brancusi, 2012; Elephant Skull Study #2, 2012; Smashing, 2004; Self-Portrait Pretending to be Maria Thereza Alves, 1995-2006; Self-Portrait Pretending to be Rosa Levy, 1994; Self-Portrait Pretending to be a Stone Statue of Myself, 2006; Something…Perhaps a Fugue or an Elegy, 2005; The Bluebird of Happiness and the Miner’s Canary (Classic Rock), 2008; Drawn Lines and Faces, 1998; Three Faces, 1998; Over the River and Through the Woods, 1989; Confessional, 2006; Wahlverwandtschaften [Elective affinities], 1992; Jesus (Es geht um die Wurst) [Jesus (It’s all about the sausage)], 1992; Untitled (It’s Got Mr. Durham’s Teeth), 1992; Head, 2006. Photograph by Ron Amstutz