While I was in D.C. recently I spent a day touring the mall and the Smithsonian Museums. I’m pretty proud of myself for seeing four monuments, three museums, one gallery, and the White House (much less impressive that I’d imagined) all in one day… it was a serious Americana binge that I’m still recovering from!
One of the best exhibits that I saw was at the National Museum of the American Indian, Brian Jungen: Strange Comfort. The show was amazing, and Jungen’s work was phenomenal. The installation of the show was really impressive, the gallery was dimly lit with spot lights only illuminating the works. It gave a very intimate/anthropological feel to the show. When you enter the gallery space, the first work that you see is a scale whale skeleton made entirely out of white plastic lawn chairs serenely suspended in the dark space. It was really awe inspiring, and considering that I had just come from the Natural History Museum, the dichotomy between form and material was even more conceptually exciting.
Jungen also had on display gas cans which had traditional Native American designs pierced into them. Monarch is pictured above. I really appreciate his honest use of consumer materials and how he blends them together with traditional symbols from his ancestry. He does a good job at transforming the original materials, and having the content become a little more subtle. Another example of this would be the traditional masks that he has stitched out of deconstructed Nike Airs.
The show was great, and I ended up buying the catalog for the show, which is a beautiful publication that has lots of interesting back story on the pieces. If you’re in D.C. this is a show that you really shouldn’t miss!