Jeffrey Gibson is a multimedia artist whose practice includes painting, sculpture, fiber, ceramics, video and performance. His upcoming solo exhibition, Jeffrey Gibson: Speak To Me, will feature recent artworks that draw upon his Native American heritage (Choctaw and Cherokee) and intertribal aesthetics and traditions. He effectively combines this mix of references into unique artworks that additionally employ text to address issues and events beyond his own subjectivity. Gibson’s artworks draw thoughtful attention to these cultural and historical traditions while affirming their vitality and relevance to contemporary life.
Gibson’s mother, Georgia Gibson, is originally from Brigg’s Community, just outside of Tahlequah, but he did not grow up in Oklahoma. Gibson grew up moving around the world due to his father’s job and lived in many places, including the United States, Germany, Korea and the United Kingdom. His connection to a Native community became increasingly important to him when he left home to study at the Art Institute of Chicago and later at the Royal College of Art in London. He began to research intertribal aesthetics and Native histories early in his career and became particularly interested in the powwow culture that some of his family members took part in.
A powwow is a social gathering that happens across the country throughout the year. It is an opportunity for community and family members to reconnect, exchange and share through mostly competitive dancing, singing and drumming. Gibson was inspired by the unique and spectacular dance outfits that he feels inherently challenge notions of what traditional and contemporary can be with regard to Native American cultural aesthetics. It immediately made sense to him to source many of his materials from the vendors that supply the makers involved in the pow wow circuit and community.
The centerpiece of Speak to Me is a video, titled one becomes the other, that Gibson produced during a residency at the Denver Art Museum. one becomes the other brought together members of the Denver pow wow community with objects from the museum’s vast Native American collection. The video shows a series of conversations between the individual dancers and their chosen objects. The objects are addressed as living beings, and the expected notion that they are inanimate objects only to be looked at is subverted through the unscripted and genuine dialogue captured in the video.
This idea — that we can have conversations with objects, that objects can tell stories — extends to the rest of the artworks in the exhibition. From the ceramic heads that reference the often-untold stories of the Mississippian culture to beaded panels with quotes from pop songs that relate to Gibson’s search for his own identity, each artwork has a narrative, which often shifts and changes in relation to the viewer’s own experience.
Gibson is an internationally known artist whose works are in the permanent collections of many major art museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Canada, the Smithsonian Institution and the Denver Art Museum. In 2013, he had one-person exhibitions at the ICA Boston, National Academy Museum NYC and the Rollins Museum. In 2018, he will have a one-person internationally traveling exhibition originating at the Denver Museum of Art. We are honored to present this very personal exhibition of his work here in Oklahoma, home of his family’s roots. Gibson has visited the state many times and has worked with local artists as a mentor, but has never had a solo exhibition here.
This exhibition is sponsored by the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
3-5 p.m. Saturday, April 1
New Native Art
Sound artist Nathan Young performs Lullaby for Peyote Tapes followed by a curated selection of video art and film shorts by Native American artists.
The Learning Gallery offers visitors additional ways to interact with Jeffrey Gibson's Speak to Me. The gallery includes touch tiles, so that guests can explore how the materials Gibson uses in his works feel and sound, and a threading station for families to create their own art, as well as a popup library in collaboration with the Metropolitan Library System.
In addition to the hands-on materials, visitors can view Lester Harragarra's large-scale photographs from powwows and other cultural gatherings. These images illustrate how Gibson's materials in Speak to Me are sourced from Native American culture.