Contemporary artist Jeffrey Gibson effortlessly blends the past and the present to create unique, hybrid objects that wittily pair two disparate influences: traditional then and present now. Moving beyond a habit of pastiche, Gibson makes art that appears more to be rooted in contemporary remix culture. His style incorporates traditional Native American pattern and color in with a modern inclusiveness. THe result is very refreshing, vibrant, and respectful to Native American peoples, remembering them as they were while concurrently reminding us that they are still here. 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.”
Often and sadly, Native American works are marginalized in Western art history cannon because of the singularity of thestyle. The bright colors and buzzy patterns have been called abrasive, tackless, and worse “crafty.” Native American beading and weaving are highly skilled techniques that deserve as much or more appreciation in art history discourse as any Western art medium. The gallery statement continues about the relationship between Native American and Western art: “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.”
Using his artist statement, Gibson cleverly appropriates the past and inserts himself and his heritage into art history by mixing and remixing, trully giving history a new look with his artist’s eye.