What do Modernism and Native American heritage have in common? Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson will show and tell us at the National Academy Museum in New York (May 23-September 8, 2013). The exhibition of his work “Said the Pigeon to the Squirrel” is a play on indigenous folklore that suggests a dialogue between two urban animals as characters in a contemporary creation myth. Gibson is creating new pieces specifically for the show, with hand-held antique mirrors covered by hide (a favorite technique of his) and used as the support for abstract paintings. If you can’t get your head around that, don’t worry, Gibson’s signature painted and beaded punching bags will be there, too.
Jeffrey Gibson earned his BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago (1995) and MFA from the Royal College of Art (1998), a degree which was paid for by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Choctaw history is marked less by pigeons and squirrels than by rabbits–specifically the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which in 1830 transferred 11 million acres of land to the US government and precipitated the removal of the Choctaw to Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears. De Toqueville, who was writing Democracy in America at the time, witnessed the emigration and reported that the whole scene had an “air of ruin and destruction, something which betrayed a final and irrevocable adieu.” That is practically the definition of modernism. Gibson now lives and works in Brooklyn.