Jimmie Durham (b. 1940) is an American artist, performer, poet and activist who works with natural and artificial materials in his artistic practice. He is particularly concerned with the qualities embedded in objects that have been used as tools over time: wood, stone, bones, iron and glass. Through his studies of these objects, Durham unveils the Western world’s prejudices and assumptions and presents alternative, non-Western ways of viewing the world.
Durham's monumental sculpture Pagliaccio non son (2011) (I am no Clown) in Kunsthal Aarhus’s Sculpture Park is a vast mahogany log from Congo originally imported to Germany to end up as veneer in exclusive yachts – but thanks to the artist’s intervention it has been given new life as a sculpture. By exhibiting it in all its simplicity and impressive heft, Durham shows us the majestic beauty of this tree, thereby also pointing out how thoughtlessly we often treat our natural resources. With the title of the work, Pagliaccio non son, Durham gives the tree its own voice and identity. The tree resists its prescribed fate and insists that it is more than just a clown. In addition, Pagliaccio non son demonstrates Durham’s black, critical humour and offers insight into the political and cultural discourses that shape our society and worldview.
Durham received the Venice Biennale Golden Lion in 2019 for his lifelong contribution to art. He has exhibitied at The Whitney Biennial (New York), documenta IX (Kassel), The Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), Muhka (Antwerp) and the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Brussels).
Jimmie Durham lives and works in Berlin, Germany and Naples, Italy.