1940, United States
In his artistic research, Jimmie Durham is interested in what happens “away from language”, in the relationship between forms and concepts. Working against Western rationalism, his practice is rooted in uncertainty and paradox. Durham creates in an array of mediums: drawings, installations, video —which he uses to document his performances—, and sculptural constructions often combined with written messages, photographs, and objects. Covering a broad range of topics in artworks as well as in essays and poetry, his production is often laced with the agility of wordplay, a dry, highly critical humor and, above all, insight. He consistently addresses the political and cultural forces that construct our contemporary discourses, the history of oppression, the futility of violence, and the powerlessness of the minorities in the world. Jimmie Durham works with both natural and artificial materials, but he is particularly drawn to the intrinsic qualities of those that have been used throughout history as tools: stone, wood, bone, iron and glass. Stone is a primary material for Durham due to its role in defining power dynamics of culture and society through architecture and ideas of monumentality; He uses it to underscore the polemics of nature vs. culture, religion, architecture, and Eurocentric ideas of history.
Jimmie Durham moved to Geneva in 1969 and enrolled in the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts where he worked on sculpture and performance. In 1973 he moved back to the U.S. and became involved in the American Indian Movement as director of the International Indian Treaty Council and its representative before the United Nations, thus becoming the first official representative of a minority within this organization. In 1980, he focused his attention back to art, but remained concerned with dismantling stereotypes of American Indians that had been widely accepted and disseminated in American culture: a theme he returns to in many of his essays. Durham gained notoriety within the New York art scene, but found his work was seen as “Indian art” and failed to encourage fundamental —political or artistic—discussions about how American Indian history and culture have been misrepresented by others. Disappointed by this misunderstanding and by the American government’s intractable policies regarding the Indian movement, he left the U.S. in 1987 and moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico where he remained until his return to Europe in 1994.
Jimmie Durham received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Acheivement prize at the 58th Biennale di Venezia on 2019.
Jimmie Durham lives and works between Berlin and Naples.
Jimmie Durham had his first solo show in 1965; ever since he has had many important solo exhibitions: The beneficial catastrophe of art, Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples, Italy (2019); Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada (2018), Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017-2018), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017), The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, United States (2017); Evidence, Mönchehaus Museum Goslar, Germany (2017); Jimmie Durham: God’s Children, God’s Poem, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich, Switzerland (2017); Jimmie Durham. Sound and Silliness, MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome (2016); Jimmie Durham: Various Items and Complaints, Serpentine Gallery, London (2015); Venice: Objects, Work and Tourism, Museo della Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2015); Jimmie Durham, Here at the Center, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.), Berlin (2015); Traces and Shiny Evidence, Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London (2014); A Machine Needs Instructions As a Garden Needs Discipline, MARCO Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Spain (2013); A Matter of Life and Death and Singing, M HKA- Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, Belgium (2012); Jimmie Durham, Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples, Italy (2012); Rocks Encouraged, Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany (2010); Pierres rejetées..., Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2009); Jimmie Durham, Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples, Italy (2008); Jimmie Durham: Essence, de Pury & Luxembourg (Phillips), Zurich, Switzerland (2007); The Imaginary Number, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2006); From the West Pacific to the East Atlantic, Musée d'Art Contemporain [mac], Marseille, France (2003); Between the Furniture and the Building (Between a Rock and a Hard Place), Kunstverein München, Munich, Germany (1998); The Center of the World, Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art, Middelburg, The Netherlands (1995); Original Re-Runs, BOZAR - Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (1993), among many others.
His work has also been included in group exhibitions such as: On the spiritual matter of Art, Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI), Rome (2019); Soil and Stones, Souls and Songs, Para Site, Hong Kong (2017), Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok, Thailand (2017), Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD), Manila, Philippines (2016); The Absent Museum, WIELS, Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2017); Whither the Winds, Lund Konsthall, Sweden (2017); A Sense of History, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.), Berlin (2016); Surrealism: The Conjured Life, MCA- The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, United States (2015); Rights of Nature, Nottingham Contemporary, United Kingdom (2015); America is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); Existential Visual Worlds: Reinking Collection, Weserburg, Bremen, Germany (2014); Advance through Retreat, Rockbund Art Museum (RAM), Shanghai (2014); What Models Can Do, Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Germany (2014); Yes, Naturally, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands (2013); Project XXII, Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples, Italy (2013); In the Holocene, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, United States (2012); Nouvelle présentation des collections contemporaines des années 1960 à nos jours, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2011); On Rage, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin (2010); Faux Jumeaux 15, S.M.A.K.- Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst Gent, Belgium (2009); Transmission Interrupted, Modern Art Oxford, United Kingdom (2009); Experiment Marathon Reykjavik, Reykjavík Art Museum – Kjarvalsstaðir, Iceland (2008), and Tiempo al tiempo/Taking Time, MARCO Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Spain (2007), among others.
Durham has also participated in the following biennials: 58th Venice Biennale (2019); La triennale des 50JPG, Geneva, Switzerland (2016); Sharjah Biennial 12, United Arab Emirates (2015); 7th Moscow International Biennale of Contemporary Art (2015); Whitney Biennial, New York (2014, 2006, and 1993, respectively); 55th, 51st, 50th, 49th, and 48th Venice Biennial, Italy (2012, 2005, 2003, 2001 and 1999, respectively); 5. and 13. İstanbul Bienali, Turkey (1998 and 2013); dOCUMENTA (13) and XI, Kassel, Germany (2012 and 1992, respectively); 2010 SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul, South Korea; 29a Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2010); 1st Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art, Yekaterinburg, Russia (2010); Manifesta 7, Trento, Italy (2008); Taipei Biennial 2012, Taiwan; 14th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2004); 5th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2004); and Yokohama Triennale 2001, Japan.