Jimmie Durham:  At the Center of the World

Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World

Like many artists who have spent most or a significant portion of their career outside the U.S. or U.K. or the major art capitals, Jimmie Durham may be less than familiar to many of us who (until now) have had only the most fleeting (or even anonymous) contact with his work. (Interestingly, though, he was featured in the Hammer’s own 2014 show focusing on institutional critique in the art world, Take It Or Leave It.) Throughout his international career, his work has focused on the same, existential questions – not simply of art or culture, but of life itself. How, and what does it mean to occupy a place in the world? Durham’s work addresses the provisional nature of finding a place in the world through the provisional nature of making art. The fragmentary aspect of his art is both random and willful, deliberate; the innate aggression of the work tempered by a certain open-endedness. Fundamentally, regardless whether his work presents as sculpture, assemblage, drawing or collage, he is a bricoleur; yet the subordinate elements are carefully selected and fitted with precision – tools as much as totems. ‘There is a way we get from “here” to “there,”’ the work seems to whisper to the viewer – occasionally with the prompting of written words. (By and large, Durham uses language far more effectively in his art than in his poetry.) Identified for some portion of his career as a standard-bearer for native Americans, the work touches less upon identity specifically, than upon the registration of presence, the history of the marks we’ve left, a trace of time. One might be reminded of any number of artists here: Purifoy, Westermann, Schwitters; but racing through this beautiful exhibition, the one that stuck was Saul Steinberg – specifically in his Passport incarnation. If our horizon-line must always be “provisional” or “auxiliary,” Durham’s ‘passport’ across its frontiers will always be the mark he has just left directly behind them. 

Hammer Museum
  10899Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Show runs thru May 7, 2017