Visual Arts

Thu Feb 28, 2019 – Sun May 12, 2019

Partner Organization

Seattle Art Museum


Seattle Art Museum
1300 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101

The first major museum exhibition of contemporary artist Jeffrey Gibson, Like a Hammer presents a significant selection of the prolific artist’s evocative and meticulous works created since 2011. Blending traditional elements of Native American art with contemporary art and popular culture references, the 65 works on view include geometric paintings on rawhide and canvas, a significant number of works from Gibson’s beaded punching-bag series, large and mid-sized sculpture, wall hangings, video, and multi-media installations.

A contemporary artist of both Choctaw and Cherokee descent, Gibson’s art draws on his Native heritage and reflects his own multi-faceted, multi-cultural identity. “It’s important for me to find the places where I’m not looking to adhere to cultural definitions around what it means to be Indigenous. Instead I’m looking to provoke an awareness of how meaning shifts from one context to another,” Gibson states. In his work, traditional Native items and materials, such as glass beads, drums, trade blankets, and metal jingles used to decorate powwow regalia coexist with elements of modernist abstraction, minimalism, and pattern and decoration. Utilizing bold patterns, bright colors, and painstaking detail, Gibson creates a unique and pervasive visual vocabulary.

Words play an important role in Gibson's work. Lines from poems, his own writing, and song lyrics take on new meaning within the diverse inspirations in Like a Hammer. The text referenced above is Gibson's original writing and is a statement at once specific and inclusive, much like the artwork that it is embroidered into.

Gibson draws from his work as a research assistant in the 1990s upholding the Native American Graves Protections and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), a law that enforces the return of human remains, grave offerings, and sacred objects. This sparked his life-long exploration of the colonial and post-colonial mindset and an interest in the value and cultural significance of objects and rituals. Since then he has been weaving contemporary alternative subcultures and historical tribal traditions into a vast array of artistic mediums.

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