October 12, 2020
Sam Durant (b. 1961, Seattle, WA) is an interdisciplinary artist whose works engage myriad social, political, and cultural issues. Growing up near Boston in the 1970s he experienced the radical pedagogy of A.S. Neill, Maria Montessori, and John Holt, along with anti-war demonstrations and the desegregation of the public-school system. Exposure to an educational culture emphasizing democratic ideals, racial equality, and social justice created the framework for Durant’s artistic perspective. Often taking up forgotten events from the past, his work makes connections with ongoing social and cultural issues.
Durant’s interest in monuments and memorials began with Proposal for Monument at Altamont Raceway, Tracy, CA (1999), referencing the violent end to the infamous free concert and arguably to an era; and continued notably with Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions (2005), re-contextualizing memorials to victims of the conquest of North America; and more recently with Proposal for Public Fountain (2015), a marble work depicting an anarchist statue being blasted by a police water cannon. Earlier works excavated subjects as diverse as the repressive practices of Modernism, the death drive of ’60s and ’70s pop music, and artist Robert Smithson’s theories of entropy. Contemporary examples of his oeuvre encompass subjects such as Italian anarchism, cartographic histories of capitalism, gestures of everyday refusal, and the meaning of museums for their visitors. Recent major public art projects include Labyrinth (2015) in Philadelphia, addressing mass incarceration; and The Meeting House (2016) in Concord, MA, focusing on the subject of race in colonial and contemporary New England.
In 2007 Durant compiled and edited the monograph Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas (Rizzoli Intl.) and curated the eponymous exhibition at MOCA, Los Angeles, CA and the New Museum, New York, NY. From 2005–10, he was a member of the collective Transforma Projects, a grassroots cultural rebuilding initiative in New Orleans. In 2012–13, Durant was an artist-in-residence at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles where he collaborated with the education department to produce a discursive social media project called What #isamuseum? This became a solo exhibition in 2016 at UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA.
Durant’s work has been included in numerous international exhibitions including the Busan, Liverpool, Panama, Sydney, Venice, and Whitney Biennials (2006, 2014, 2008, 2008, 2007, 2004, respectively); documenta 13, Kassel, Germany (2012); Yokohama Triennale, Yokohama, Japan (2017); Power to the People: Political Art Now, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany (2018); Forgetting–Why We Don’t Remember Everything, Historisches, Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (2019); and Visionary New England, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA (2020). His work can be found in public collections worldwide including the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, France; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA; Institut d’Art Contemporain de Villeurbanne, Villeurbanne, France; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC; Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa, Canada; Project Row Houses, Houston, TX; Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium; Tate Modern, London, UK; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, among others.
Sam Durant: The Meeting House / Build Therefore Your Own World
Sam Durant: Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions
Sam Durant: Entropy in Reverse