In his artistic research, Jimmie Durham is interested in what happens “away from language”, in the relationship between forms and concepts. Working against Western rationalism, his practice is rooted in uncertainty and paradox. Durham creates in an array of mediums: drawings, installations, video —which he uses to document his performances—, and sculptural constructions often combined with written messages, photographs, and objects. Covering a broad range of topics in artworks as well as in essays and poetry, his production is often laced with the agility of wordplay, a dry, highly critical humor and, above all, insight. He consistently addresses the political and cultural forces that construct our contemporary discourses, the history of oppression, the futility of violence, and the powerlessness of the minorities in the world. Jimmie Durham works with both natural and artificial materials, but he is particularly drawn to the intrinsic qualities of those that have been used throughout history as tools: stone, wood, bone, iron and glass. Stone is a primary material for Durham due to its role in defining power dynamics of culture and society through architecture and ideas of monumentality; He uses it to underscore the polemics of nature vs. culture, religion, architecture, and Eurocentric ideas of history.
Jimmie Durham had his first solo show in 1965; ever since he has had many important solo exhibitions: Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World, Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada (2018), Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017-2018), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017), The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, United States (2017); Evidence, Mönchehaus Museum Goslar, Germany (2017); Jimmie Durham: God’s Children, God’s Poem, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich, Switzerland (2017); Jimmie Durham. Sound and Silliness, MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome (2016); Jimmie Durham: Various Items and Complaints, Serpentine Gallery, London (2015); Venice: Objects, Work and Tourism, Museo della Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2015); Jimmie Durham, Here at the Center, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.), Berlin (2015);Traces and Shiny Evidence, Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London (2014); A Machine Needs Instructions As a Garden Needs Discipline, MARCO Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Spain (2013); A Matter of Life and Death and Singing, M HKA- Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, Belgium (2012); Jimmie Durham, Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples, Italy (2012); Rocks Encouraged, Portikus, Frankfurt, Germany (2010); Pierres rejetées…, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2009); Jimmie Durham, Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples, Italy (2008); Jimmie Durham: Essence, de Pury & Luxembourg (Phillips), Zurich, Switzerland (2007); The Imaginary Number, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2006); From the West Pacific to the East Atlantic, Musée d’Art Contemporain [mac], Marseille, France (2003); Between the Furniture and the Building (Between a Rock and a Hard Place), Kunstverein München, Munich, Germany (1998); The Center of the World, Vleeshal Center for Contemporary Art, Middelburg, The Netherlands (1995); Original Re-Runs, BOZAR – Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (1993), among many others.