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Jeffrey Gibson

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Jeffrey Gibson
Gibson speaking at the Hirshhorn Museum in 2024
Born (1972-03-31) March 31, 1972 (age 52)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
NationalityMississippi Choctaw, United States
EducationSchool of the Art Institute of Chicago,
Royal College of Art
Known forPainting, sculpture
SpouseRune Olsen

Jeffrey A. Gibson (born 1972)[1] is an American Mississippi Choctaw/Cherokee painter and sculptor.[2] He has lived and worked in Brooklyn, New York; Hudson, New York; and Germantown, New York.[3][4]

In 2024, Gibson represented the United States at the Venice Biennale, where he is the first Indigenous artist to have a solo exhibition in the American pavilion.[5][6][7]

Early life and education


Jeffrey A. Gibson was born on March 31, 1972, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.[1][4] His parents came from a background of poverty and both attended boarding schools where the Native American children were often abused. His father worked for the Department of Defense as a civil engineer.[7] As a child, he lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, West Germany, and South Korea,[4][8] moving frequently because his father worked for the United States Department of Defense.[4]

Gibson earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1995 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.[4] In 1998 he received his Master of Fine Arts from the Royal College of Art in London, where he focused on painting.[9][4] His graduate education was sponsored by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Gibson remarked on this opportunity provided for him: "My community has supported me ... My chief felt that me going there, being a strong artist, made him stronger."[10]

Gibson has identified as queer and gay.[11][4] He is married to Norwegian artist Rune Olsen, and together they have a daughter and son.[4]



"Utopia was important for me to envision and relates to my being Native American and having grown up solely in a Western consumer culture. My desire to act out the role of an explorer depicting an inviting landscape, via painting and specimen retrieval, was a reaction to Native tribes' being consistently described as part of a nostalgic and romantic vision of pre-colonized Indian life. The aesthetic of these paintings and sculptures came from turn-of-the-century Iroquois whimsies, contemporary and historic powwow regalia, cultural adornment of non-Western cultures, techno rave and club culture, and earlier utopian models."

– Jeffrey Gibson[12]

Gibson is an artist in residence at Bard College, where he also teaches in studio art courses.[3] In 2010 he was a visiting artist at the California College of the Arts.[3]

In order to keep regular studio hours, Gibson prefers to work between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm. His computer, cell phone, and a movie are generally at his reach if a break is needed while working. Music usually plays in the background, sometimes random, sometimes a specific record with genres ranging from African funk, jazz, punk, pop music, rap, R&B, disco, as well as East Indian drumming.[13]

Gibson's art deals with issues of identity and labels.[14] His work has featured the use of mixed media including Native American beadwork, trading post blankets, metal studs, fringe, and jingles.[4] Airbrushing is another common tool used in his paintings, sculptures, and prints, incorporating oil paint and spray paint to create neon colored abstracts such as Singular (2008) and Submerge (2007). These works also find inspiration in graffiti, reflective of Gibson's urban life in New York City.[15] Gibson is represented by Roberts Projects in Los Angeles, Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in New York, and Stephen Friedman Gallery in London.

In 2024, Gibson represented the United States in the Venice Biennale with a solo survey exhibition in the United States Pavilion, titled The Space in Which to Place Me. The title of the show is from a line in a poem by Layli Long Soldier. The work referenced politics in relation to Indigenous and a range of American histories. Artworks included paintings, sculpture, flags, video and beadwork rendered in psychedelic colors. The New York Times describeshis work as having "political valences" and also"many layers of form and meaning."[7]

He is the first Indigenous artist to represent the United States with a full pavilion show at the Biennale.[7]



Gibson draws influence in materials, processes, media, and iconographies.[14] He has found inspiration in events that revolve around dancing, specifically from Leigh Bowery and his dramatic nightclub persona.[16] Pow-wows, nightclubs, and raves provide contrasts as rural and urban venues, serving as spaces for dancing, movement, and dramatic fashion/regalia. Keeping with regalia, 19th-century Iroquois beadwork also provides inspiration, as colorful beads often find their way into Gibson's artworks. Gibson also provides his own spin on graffiti, which is seen frequently in his works.[17][10][18]

He also credits his nomadic lifestyle as a major influence, bringing together what he describes as:

... varying aesthetics of each place. Some have had specific cultural aesthetics, language barriers, cultural barriers, etcetera. These differences funnel through me, a queer Native male born toward the end of the 20th century and entering the 21st century. I consider this hybrid in the construction of my work and attempt to show that complexity.[13]


Watchtower, A Little Bit Louder, and WITHOUT YOU I'M NOTHING (2018), Smithsonian American Art Museum

Rawhide painting series


Gibson's practice has involved painting in oil and acrylic on rawhide-clad wood panels. He is recycling found objects such as antique shaving mirrors and ironing boards and covers them in untanned deer, goat, or elk skin. Gibson combines domestic, Native American, and Hard-edge modernist references. His punching bag made from found Everlast punching bags, U.S. Army wool blankets, glass beads, tin jingles, and the artist's repurposed paintings exemplify the dialogue between mainstream pop culture and Native American powwow aesthetics.

His work Document, 2015 (2015) is made with acrylic and graphite on deer rawhide, hung with steel spikes.[19] Under Cover (2015) was a made with rawhide stretched over wood panel.[19]

"Atmospheric landscapes"


Before that Gibson's most notable works, his at times 3-D wall abstracts, have been described as "atmospheric landscapes". Working in oil paint he also brings together objects that have become a signature to his works: pigmented silicon, urethane foam, and beads.[20]

Alive (2017)


Alive showed as part of the Desert x exhibition in the Coachella Valley from February 25 to April 30, 2017

Totems series


Creating his own totem sculptures, in 2009 Gibson produced the Totems series for an exhibition at Sala Diaz in San Antonio, Texas. This series of sculptures involved Gibson arriving five days before the opening to put together a collection of found objects to create what have been described, by the artist, as "fantasy sex partners, objects of desire".

The Totems feature objects such as mannequins acquired from Craigslist, a wig, plastic flowers, toys, cowboy boots, flower pots, his signature spray paint and other objects. In the end Gibson created two human-like figures and a totem pole from the flower pots. Writer Ben Judson described Totems as way Gibson "uses the stereotyping of his own people as a way of exploring the use of metaphor in identity formation, cultural critique and consumerism without forfeiting lyricism or indulging in self-righteousness (apart, that is, from his press release)."[12][21]



Gibson's abstract works have been compared to artists such as Martin Johnson Heade, Cy Twombly, Chris Ofili, and Indigenous Australian art. While some celebrate him as a Native artist, others celebrate his ability to move freely in and out of Native and non-Native contemporary art worlds.[10][15]

Notable collections


Notable exhibitions


Gibson has also exhibited at numerous events such as the New Art Dealers Alliance Fair, ARCOmadrid, as well as many private galleries and public institutions.[26]

Notable awards and grants


Personal life


In May 2023, Gibson filed a lawsuit against the Kavi Gupta gallery in United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleging that the gallery has withheld over $600,000 from the artist.[6][29]


  1. ^ a b U.S. Public Records Index Vol. 2 (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.), 2010.
  2. ^ Lewis, Jim (March 18, 2019). "Life From Unexpected Perspectives". Departures. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Dafoe, Taylor (March 26, 2020). "10 Years Ago, Artist Jeffrey Gibson Almost Quit the Art World in Frustration. Here's How He Found the Strength to Keep Striving". Artnet News. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Jeffrey Gibson: American. Native American. Gay. An artist's life outside labels". Los Angeles Times. October 7, 2017. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  5. ^ Pontone, Maya (July 29, 2023). "Artist Jeffrey Gibson to Represent US at Venice Biennale". hyperallergic.com. Retrieved July 29, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Alex Greenberger (August 7, 2023). "Artist Jeffrey Gibson Sues Chicago's Kavi Gupta Gallery, Alleging He Is Owed More Than $600,000". ART News.
  7. ^ a b c d Steinhauer, Jillian (April 13, 2024). "Representing the U.S. and Critiquing It in a Psychedelic Rainbow". The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2024.
  8. ^ Urist, Jacoba (May 21, 2019). "Artist Jeffrey Gibson's Artwork Activates Overlooked Histories and Marginalized Identities". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  9. ^ Small, Zachary (July 27, 2023). "Jeffrey Gibson, Indigenous U.S. Artist, Is Selected for Venice Biennale". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2023.
  10. ^ a b c Cynthia Nadelman (2007). "Tribal Hybrids" (PDF). ARTnews. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  11. ^ "Artist Jeffrey Gibson Merges His Queer and Native American Identities". www.out.com. October 30, 2018. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  12. ^ a b Sarah Fisch (2009). "Indian Giver: Jeffrey Gibson's Absurdist Meta-Tribalism at Sala Diaz". Curblog. San Antonio Current. Archived from the original on May 6, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Goodman, Ross (March 27, 2010). "Jeffrey Gibson – Mississippi Band Choctaw / Cherokee". Contemporary North American Indigenous Artists. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  14. ^ a b Gross, Daniel A. (March 6, 2018). "Jeffrey Gibson Designs Vibrant Garments to Confound Cultural Assumptions". Hyperallergic. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  15. ^ a b Jimmie Durham. Jeffrey Gibson: Our Miles Davis. Art Quantum, pp. 57–69. Eiteljorg Museum, 2009. ISBN 978-0-295-98996-9
  16. ^ Sims, Lowery Stokes (October 11, 2020). "Jeffrey Gibson: Culture, Materials, Identity and Trade". Hyperallergic. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  17. ^ "Burner Bomb". Artists. Element Editions. 2009. Archived from the original on March 15, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  18. ^ Grace Glueck (2007). "Lands You Can't See in a Guidebook" (PDF). The New York Times. Art Review. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  19. ^ a b Green, Christopher (November 23, 2015). "Disco Beads and Abstract Rawhides: Jeffrey Gibson's Untraditional "Nativeness"". Hyperallergic. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  20. ^ Cate McQuaid (2005). "Jeffrey Gibson and Rune Olsen: The Urge that Binds" (PDF). Boston Globe. ARTS. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  21. ^ Ben Judson. "Jeffrey Gibson Sala Diaz". Issue. Art Lies. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  22. ^ a b Jeffrey Gibson (2010). "CV". Jeffrey Gibson. Samson. Archived from the original on March 1, 2011. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  23. ^ Blue, Max (October 8, 2022). "Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco opens with 'This Burning World'". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved December 3, 2022.
  24. ^ "Stretching the Canvas: Eight Decades of Native Painting". National Museum of the American Indian. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  25. ^ Bennett, Nick (December 11, 2018). "JEFFREY GIBSON with Nick Bennett". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  26. ^ Jeffrey Gibson (2008). "Resume". Jeffrey Gibson. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  27. ^ "Jeffrey Gibson - MacArthur Foundation". www.macfound.org. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  28. ^ SAR (2008). "Jeffrey Gibson". Artists. School for Advanced Research. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
  29. ^ Carlie Porterfield (August 7, 2023). "Chicago dealer Kavi Gupta denies withholding payments of more than $600,000 from artist Jeffrey Gibson". The Art Newspaper.