Artist Jeffrey Gibson blends art histories and cultures with seeming effortlessness. His work isn’t the pastiche of past decades, a witty pairing of disparate influences. Rather, Gibson’s work appears more to be rooted in contemporary remix culture. Portions of modern and contemporary art styles inhabit art pieces along traditional Native American artwork with an inclusiveness that’s refreshing. Interestingly, the gallery statement of his latest exhibit at Shoshana Wayne Gallery notes:
“This mash-up of visual and cultural references comes from the artist’s Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, moving frequently during his childhood—to Germany, Korea and the East Coast of the U.S. , and his early exposure to rave and club cultures of the 1980s and 1990s. Gibson cites that the sense of inclusiveness and acceptance, the celebratory melding of subcultures and an idealistic promise of unity all galvanized by the DJ’s power to literally move an audience to dance to his beat, continues to serve as a primary inspiration for his inter-disciplinary practice.”
Still, the way in which the Native American styling especially stands out makes the Native American artists largley left out from the discourse of modern art history conspicuous. The gallery statement continues about this relationship: “The paintings are done on elk rawhide stretched over wood panels. Gibson arrived at this format after years of looking at painting techniques found in various non-Western art histories, of paintings on shields, drums and parfleche containers (animal hides wrapped around varying goods). The paintings also read within a modern and contemporary art context whereas artists from the 1950s and 1960s were looking towards traditions such as Native American and Oceanic art to create ideals of spirituality, animism and purity. One can infer artistic influences from Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Donald Judd.”
It’s in this way that Gibson inserts himself and his heritage into art history: by this smart mixing and remixing, and an artist’s eye at the past.