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Inside Jeffrey Gibson’s US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Where Color Brings History to Life

By Andy Battaglia

Jeffrey Gibson’s United States Pavilion opened at the Venice Biennale with a superabundance of color and signs of tradition that bring history into a vital present purview. The first Native American artist to represent the US with a solo show at the Biennale made 11 paintings, nine sculptures, eight flags, two murals, and one video installation for the Pavilion, which bears the title the space in which to place me.

Gibson—a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and of Cherokee descent—draws on his heritage but also remixes it in radical fashion in works that include pointed decorative elements (intricate beadwork, vintage pins, found objects like belt buckles and bags) and text drawn from what an exhibition pamphlet describes as sources ranging from Dakota proverbs and the songs of Nina Simone to excerpts from legislative documents. The effect of it all is celebratory and defiant, disquieting and full of righteous rage.

Photo by Andy Battaglia