Tate Modern Level 2 Gallery
20 May – 9 July 2006
Canadian artist, Brian Jungen (born 1970), will create a new work specifically for the Level 2 Gallery at Tate Modern, to be unveiled on 20 May. Having gained an international reputation as one of Canada’s foremost contemporary artists, this will be Brian Jungen’s first exhibition in the UK.
Jungen’s piece will be a massive red flag constructed out of an assortment of mass produced materials. Bags, hats, clothes, small plastic kitchen tools and umbrellas will be brought together to form the huge quilt-like work. Inspired in part by Jungen’s interest in the Greenpeace movement and, in particular, the banners made by the members of this group which began in Jungen’s hometown Vancouver, the colour and form of Jungen’s flag is also a reference to the poem by Jim Connell, The Red Flag. Connell was an Irish political activist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, best known as the writer of this 1889 anthem.
Working with consumer goods, Jungen’s sculptural forms examine the subjects of anthropology, art history and consumerism, often linking his Canadian Indian heritage to questions of cultural identity and the global economy. His work is characterised by an inventive use of materials combined with meticulous craftsmanship. Through the transformation of everyday objects into symbolic sculptures and installations, Jungen creates thought-provoking aesthetic pieces which challenge their original function. For example, in his recent work Prototype for New Understanding Series (1998-2005), the artist cut apart Nike Air Jordan trainers and reassembled them to create twenty-three imitations of Northwest Coast Canadian Indian masks. By combining recognisable branded footwear and sacred First Nation’s artwork, the artist addresses the disintegratation of cultural identification into forms of brand recognition.
In Jungen’s renowned works, Shapeshifter (2000), Cetology (2002) and Vienna (2003), the artist created large, whale-skeleton sculptures from plastic garden chairs. By adopting chairs as his material, Jungen’s whale sculptures appear both as objects of natural history and also the product of consumer culture.
Jungen is part of a younger generation of artists who have emerged over the last few years amid an active scene in Vancouver, Canada. He was born in Fort St John, British Columbia to a Canadian Indian mother and a Swiss-Canadian father. This dual heritage, and the tensions and links between aboriginal traditions, pop culture and consumerism, often provide the themes and subject matter for his work. Jungen moved to Vancouver and graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1992. In 2002, he was awarded the inaugural Sobey Art Award, the foremost prize in Canada for emerging artists under the age of forty in recognition of outstanding achievement. He has had recent solo exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery and at Casey Kaplan Gallery in New York.
This exhibition is the fifth in the Level 2 Gallery Series, and is curated by Jessica Morgan, Curator, Contemporary Art, Tate Modern, assisted by Amy Dickson, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. Conceived by Jessica Morgan, the Level 2 Gallery Series presents new or recent work by international artists in a specially created exhibition space at Tate Modern. The sixth exhibition in this series will be by Roman Ondak from 29 July until 17 September.