Born 1940 in Washington, AR
Lives and Works in Berlin, Germany
Jimmie Durham has worked as a sculptor, performer, essayist, and poet for more than thirty years. Many of his sculptures from the 1980s combine found and constructed elements with text. In Choose Any Three, on view in the Biennial, the artist hand-painted lettering across the bird’s wings, instructing us to “choose any three” names written on the nailed wooden slats. Both the historical figures Durham lists and the sculpture’s vertical orientation spark varied interpretations. If the viewer identifies the names of Native Americans Annie Wauneka, Sequoya, or Sitting Bull, each with different tribal affiliations, the structure’s form may appear totemic and therefore stereotypical of indigenous art. Alternatively, for an eye drawn to “Kristus” (“Christ” in several European languages), the sculpture may resemble a cross. The numerous political revolutionaries and activists, such as Emiliano Zapata and Sojourner Truth, might lead another spectator to see the sculpture as a metaphorical proclamation: a stake in the ground. While the varied relationships between the historically charged names and ordinary materials resist one single meaning, Choose Any Three ultimately reveals the artist’s wry, yet deeply critical, sense of humor.
Jimmie Durham’s work is on view in the Museum’s second floor galleries.