Portland Art Museum in Oregon and SITE Santa Fe in New Mexico, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, announced on July 27, 2023, that Jeffrey Gibson will represent the United States at La Biennale di Venezia, the 60th International Art Exhibition. Celebrated for an artistic practice that combines American, Indigenous, and Queer histories with influences from music and pop culture, Gibson creates a dynamic visual language that reflects the inherent diversity and hybridity of American culture. Using abundant color, complex pattern, and text, he invites deep reflection on identity, inspires empathy, and advocates for a widening of access to democracy and freedom for all.
On view April 20 through November 24, 2024, the Biennale provides international audiences with the first major opportunity to experience Gibson’s work outside of the U.S.
The 2024 U.S. Pavilion is co-commissioned by Kathleen Ash-Milby, Curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum and a member of the Navajo Nation, Louis Grachos, Phillips Executive Director of SITE Santa Fe, and Abigail Winograd, independent curator, and is co-curated by Ash-Milby and Winograd.
A member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent, Gibson will be the first Indigenous artist to represent the U.S. in the 129-year history of the Biennale. Other Native American artists have shown at the Venice Biennale, but none has been the officially selected artists representing the United States in a solo presentation previously. This exhibition is also the first to be co-commissioned and co-curated by a Native American curator.
“Throughout his career, Jeffrey has challenged us to look at the world differently through his innovative and vibrant work,” Ash-Milby said. “His inclusive and collaborative approach is a powerful commentary on the influence and persistence of Native American cultures within the United States and globally, making him the ideal representative for the United States at this moment.”
For the U.S. Pavilion, Gibson will activate the interior and exterior of the U.S. Pavilion with a series of new and recent works that invite reflection on individual and collective identities including sculpture, paintings, multimedia works and a site-specific installation activating the pavilion’s courtyard.
“I have long believed in the ability of Jeffrey’s work to be a force for positive change and to create the possibility of a radically inclusive future,” Winograd said. “It is my hope that as a global audience experiences his work through the Biennale, they will also find it to be a source of joy and healing, something sorely needed in a world driven by conflict and crisis. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with Jeffrey and this team to share his work more broadly.”
In conjunction with the presentation at the U.S. Pavilion and in partnerships with the Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM) and Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY), Portland and SITE will also develop year-long educational programming. They will focus on connecting Indigenous, Native American and international undergraduate humanities students and graduate art students, including bringing students from the Institute of American Indian Arts to Venice for a summer arts program and organizing a fall 2024 convening for students, scholars, and the public.
“Jeffrey’s work embodies the aspirations of the Portland Art Museum’s program to reveal the beauty and complexities of the world, and creates a deeper understanding of our shared humanity,” Brian Ferriso, Director of the Portland Art Museum said. “We are incredibly honored to help bring his vision to an international audience through this presentation at the Venice Biennale.”
The 2024 U.S. Pavilion: Jeffrey Gibson is made possible by The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972, Colorado Springs, CO) is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent who currently lives and works near Hudson, NY. Gibson’s approach to art-making is defined by its hybrid and cosmopolitan nature, largely informed by his international upbringing in the U.S., Korea, and Germany. During his itinerant childhood as the son of a retired civil employee of the U.S. Army, he found solace and friendship in the world of music, at various times exploring the sounds and social traditions of the punk and rave music of his generation, and in the powwow traditions of his intertribal Native heritage.
Resisting static, preconceived notions of what people believe Native American art looks like, he combines Native art traditions with the visual languages of modernism to explore the confluence of personal identity, culture, history, and international social narratives.
His work is included in many permanent collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, National Gallery of Canada, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. His recently published book, An Indigenous Present (August 2023), showcases diverse approaches to Indigenous concepts, forms and mediums by North American Indigenous contemporary artists, musicians, filmmakers, choreographers, architects, writers, photographers, and designers.
Gibson has been recognized with numerous awards, including a 2019 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and he is currently an artist-in-residence at Bard College.
Gibson received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995 and his Master of Arts in painting from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1998.
ABOUT THE CO-COMMISSIONERS/CO-CURATORS
Kathleen Ash-Milby was appointed the Curator of Native American Art at the Portland Art Museum in 2019. Previously, as an Associate Curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York, she organized numerous solo and thematic group exhibitions of Native art in diverse media including Dakota Modern: The Art of Oscar Howe; Transformer: Native Art in Light and Sound; and Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist.
From 2001 to 2005, she was curator and co-director of the American Indian Community House Gallery in New York City.
Recent publications include essays in Art in America, Art Journal, and Joseph Yoakum: What I Saw (2021) and The Routledge Companion to Indigenous Art Histories in the United States and Canada (2023).
Ash-Milby is a recipient of two Secretary of the Smithsonian’s Excellence in Research awards and was a fellow in the Center for Curatorial Leadership Program in New York.
A member of the Navajo Nation, she earned her Master of Arts from the University of New Mexico in Native American art history.
Louis Grachos became the Phillips Executive Director of SITE Santa Fe in 2021, having previously served as SITE’s Director from 1996 to 2003. During that time, Grachos oversaw the 1997 ground-breaking presentation of Robert Colescott as the first Black artist to represent the United States in a single-artist exhibition at the 47th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, curated by Miriam Roberts.
Prior to his reappointment, he served for two years as the CEO and JoAnn McGrath Executive Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum. From 2013 to 2019, he was the Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director and CEO of The Contemporary Austin, where he expanded the museum’s curatorial and public programs, presenting the work of emerging and established artists such as Ai Weiwei, Janine Antoni, Carol Bove, Tom Friedman, Wangechi Mutu, Do Ho Suh, and SUPERFLEX, among many others.
From 2003 to 2012, Grachos served as the Executive Director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, now renamed the Buffalo AKG Art Museum; in that capacity, he stewarded one of the most prestigious museum collections of 20th century and contemporary art in the United States.
Abigail Winograd is an independent curator and writer. Until April 2023 she was Curator-at-large and MacArthur Fellows Program Fortieth Anniversary Exhibition Curator at the Gray Center for the Arts and Inquiry, a role she originated at the Smart Museum of Art. She also recently collaborated with Gibson on their co-edited monograph Jeffrey Gibson: Beyond the Horizon (2022) which examined his complex relationship to the depiction of Indigenous people, the history of Native American portraiture, and the institutions that frequently house such depictions.
She received a Master’s and Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin and has additional degrees from Northwestern University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.