Jeffrey Gibson at Aspen Art Museum

The Aspen Art Museum presents Jeffrey Gibson: THE SPIRITS ARE LAUGHING, a major exhibition of new work by the artist whose practice mixes Indigenous aesthetic histories with the visual language of Modernism to explore culture, history, and identity. Opening November 4, 2022, and on view through fall 2023, Jeffrey Gibson: THE SPIRITS ARE LAUGHING will span the museum’s galleries and rooftop.

On the Aspen Art Museum rooftop, Gibson (Choctaw, Cherokee) presents an assemblage of anthropomorphized sculptural heads that incorporate stones, fossils, and other natural materials, representing the passage of geologic and natural time. These are shown in dialogue with a grouping of Gibson’s signature bright flags, each with a different pattern, text, lyric, or slogan.

In the galleries, Gibson presents a corresponding video filmed on site in the Aspen landscape that features a group of 15 flag spinners performing and speaking to the land. Performers from the Denver area with a background in colorguard gathered in Aspen in the summer of 2022, creating choreography paired with song lyrics by musicians Lucien Dante Lazar and Ultra-Violet Archer from Velsum. The songs praise the land we share, acknowledging the sun, the water, the trees, the mountains, the animals, and the moon and stars. THE SPIRITS ARE LAUGHING invites viewers to immerse themselves in the mountainous landscape of the Roaring Fork Valley, and honor natural elements that nourish and enrich our lives. Helmets designed by Gibson and worn by the performers in the video are also on display.

An iteration of the performance, also titled THE SPIRITS ARE LAUGHING, took place on August 3, 2022, at Anderson Park Meadow at the Aspen Institute, as part of the museum’s annual Aspen ArtWeek, a week-long roster of artists’ projects, discussions, performances, and community events.   

Performers featured in THE SPIRITS ARE LAUGHING include Danya Ahram, Leo Balcer, Katie Cox, Donna Daugherty, Natalie Harris, Madi Miller, Serenity Monroe, Nazhoné Morgan, Madeline Morales, Emily Nunemaker, Omar Pena, Elijah Sena, Rosie Small Farley, Megan Templeton, and Ryan Vela.

The visual works presented in this exhibition have evolved out of conversations around Indigenous kinship philosophy—the idea of seeing the land as an extension of one’s own family or oneself and prioritizes looking at everything in our surroundings as an equal living entity.

“Jeffrey Gibson is generously bringing his profound perspective to the Aspen Art Museum this season. The work on view explores our ancient relationship with the natural world using a modern aesthetic that conveys the contemporary urgency of the messages in the exhibition,” Nicola Lees, Nancy and Bob Magoon Director of the Aspen Art Museum, said. “A Colorado-born member of the Choctaw and Cherokee nations who has lived and worked across the globe, Gibson approaches these nuanced topics with his signature humor and engaging aesthetic that I believe will give every visitor a point of entry to this timely exhibition.”

Gibson’s work spans artistic mediums, using garments, sculpture, performance, video, and painting to consider the complex and fluid narratives surrounding selfhood in the United States. Using natural surroundings as primary sources, Gibson mixes references from contemporary politics with pop culture and queer iconography to create unexpected connections within the world.

Jeffrey Gibson, THE SPIRITS ARE LAUGHING, performed August 3, 2022, at Anderson Park Meadow at the Aspen Institute, Aspen, Colorado. Photo by Adrianna Glaviano. Courtesy Aspen Art Museum.
Jeffrey Gibson, THE SPIRITS ARE LAUGHING, performed August 3, 2022, at Anderson Park Meadow at the Aspen Institute, Aspen, Colorado. Photo by Adrianna Glaviano. Courtesy Aspen Art Museum.

ABOUT JEFFREY GIBSON

Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972, USA) combines Native American traditions with the visual languages of Modernism to explore the contemporary confluence of personal identity, culture, history, and international social narratives. Gibson is a member of the Choctaw and Cherokee nations. He currently lives and works in Hudson, New York.

Growing up, Gibson traveled extensively with his family, living for long periods of time in Germany, Korea, and the United States. While moving from place to place, he found solace and friendship in the music scene, at various times exploring the sounds and social traditions of the punk and rave music of his generation, and the Pow-Wow traditions of his Native heritage. These influences helped him to contextualize the power of costumes as objects that can transform the wearer, and helped him understand the contemporary desire to be able to take agency over our own identities.

Gibson’s multicultural perspective also informed his study of art history, and helped him to develop his personal style. That style has manifested across several dynamic and diverse bodies of work, in which traditional Native materials like animal hides, beads, and tipi poles intermingle with modern mediums like spray paint, acrylics, ceramic, and tape. One of his most recognized series involves punching bags that Gibson deftly transforms into aesthetic totems.

Another of Gibson’s long running series involves an examination of ceremonial garments. Several of these works were exhibited in a special installation at the entrance to the 2018 New York Armory Show, as well as in the entrance to the 2019 Whitney Biennial. The garments express a range of perspectives and influences, and seem to anticipate inhabitation, like symbols of history and culture that possess both personal and wider social meaning.

Gibson’s work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Eiteljorg Museum, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, among others.

ABOUT THE ASPEN ART MUSEUM 

Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums in 1979, the Aspen Art Museum is a globally engaged non-collecting contemporary art museum. Following the 2014 opening of the Museum’s facility designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Shigeru Ban, the Museum enjoys increased attendance, renewed civic interaction, and international media attention.

In July 2017, the Museum was one of ten institutions to receive the United States’ National Medal for Museum and Library Services for its educational outreach to rural communities in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley and its learning partnerships with civic and cultural partners within a 100-mile radius of the Museum’s Aspen location. 

Museum hours 

Tuesday–Sunday, 10 AM–6 PM 

Closed Mondays 

Aspen Art Museum ADMISSION IS FREE courtesy of Amy and John Phelan. 

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