Our Story

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Artist Statement

As an interdisciplinary artist, I create performances, video work, and objects that challenge viewers to think critically about our highly polarized society. I explore the tangle of representations, visual tropes, and myths—referencing historical events and invoking cultural symbolism.  

My video work features stylized representations of performers working themselves through exhaustion to unveil genuine emotion. My 'action videos' depict physical prowess with the body. The participants, in turn, communicate narratives through the physical tasks they perform.

I portray the body both frenetically and through drudgery in order to convey relevant cultural experiences. To get to the essence of this conversation, I place no restrictions on the tools that I employ, working with materials as disparate as Mercury light and glitter, I explore ways in which reclaimed materials convey rugged histories relating them to an African-American experience.

Biography

Interdisciplinary artist Jefferson Pinder gained national attention with the exhibition Frequency at The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2006. In this exhibition was Car Wash Meditations, a short video of a car rolling through a carwash to the music of Nas’s “Made You Look,” while explosive colors of soap manifest as action painting on the screen. The combination of sound and image is set against a profile of a black man, Pinder, seated in the car. Such is the complexity of Pinder, who intuitively applies his knowledge of music, imagery, and performance to address complex issues of race, ethnicity, and class. Unfortunately events, recent and historical provide Pinder with no end of material that he powerfully and poetically composes in compelling performances. Troy Patterson of Slate Magazine, writing for Southern Living, praised Pinder’s work saying its impact “lies in its ability to provoke meaningful dialogue.” The Washington Post compared his early work to that of Jacob Lawrence saying, “Like all Pinder’s best videos, it is a simple conceit, simply realized. But it speaks simply of the same complexities that Jacob Lawrence did.”

Pinder says of his work, “Inspired by the symbiosis of music and the moving image, I portray the black body both frenetically and through drudgery in order to convey relevant cultural experiences.To get to the essence of this conversation, I place no restrictions on the tools that I employ as an artist, working with materials as disparate as neon lighting and found items in my sculptural stylizations. I find ways in which reclaimed materials convey rugged histories, relating them to a Black American experience.”

Jefferson Pinder (b. 1970, Washington, D.C.) has produced highly praised performance-based and multidisciplinary work for over a decade. His work has been featured in numerous group shows including exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, The High Museum in Atlanta, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and Tate Modern in London, UK. He received a BA in Theatre and MFA in Mixed Media from the University of Maryland, and studied at the Asolo Theatre Conservatory in Sarasota, FL. He was an Assistant Professor of theory, performance and foundations at the University of Maryland from 2003-2011. Since relocating to Chicago from Washington DC in 2011, Pinder is an Associate Professor in the Contemporary Practices department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jefferson Pinder’s work provokes commentary about race and struggle. Focusing primarily with neon, found objects, and video, Pinder investigates identity through the most dynamic circumstances and materials. From uncanny video portraits associated with popular music to durational work that puts the black body in motion, his work examines physical conditioning that reveals an emotional response.  His work has been featured in numerous group and solo shows including exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, Showroom Mama in Rotterdam, Netherlands, The Phillips Collection, and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.  Pinder’s work was featured in the 2016 Shanghai Biennale, and at the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. In 2016, he was awarded a United States Artist’s Joyce Fellowship Award in the field of performance and was a 2017 John S. Guggenheim Fellow. Currently Pinder is a Professor of Sculpture and the Dean of Faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.