Born in 1970 in Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canadian artist Brian Jungen has gained national and international recognition over the last ten years. A member of the Doig River Band of the Dunne-za First Nations, Jungen creates artwork that depicts traditional First Nation symbology using ordinary objects such as plastic lawn chairs, golf bags, and Nike Air Jordans.
Jungen graduated from Vancouver’s Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1992. His work has exhibited extensively in Canada and internationally including the Tate Modern, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, which is currently staging a major retrospective of Jungen’s work.
Of his work, the artist says: “I wanted to address commercialism and the fetishization of trainers and aboriginal art. I also wanted to address the division of labour, the production of goods and the relationship between the First and Third Worlds. There is a developing world within the First World on First Nations reserves.”
Jungen’s “Prototypes” series transforms Nike Air Jordan sneakers into masks using the colours and styles of the Aboriginal Northwest Coast and three large-scale totem sculptures made from golf bags. His other works include , a life-sized igloo made with trash bins, three full-size whale skeletons made from pieces of white plastic lawn furniture, and an aboriginal-style blanket stitched out of professional sports jerseys.
Jungen recently received the 2010 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the Art Gallery of Ontario for his outstanding contribution to visual arts in Canada. The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation and the AGO will celebrate the $25,000 prize at a public reception on May 6, and the AGO will mount an exhibition of Jungen’s work in the coming year.
Iskowitz Prize officials say his work is infused “with sociopolitical commentary, historic symbology, and an ingenious sense of play.”
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