Sample Paper on Analysis of Jimmie Durham’s Art


Jimmie Durham is one of the most renowned contemporary artists who have majored in such fields as poetry, abstract art, and installation art. He has identified himself with the Native Americans and this has been reflected widely in his works which have their major themes associated with the Native Americans, most notably the Cherokee. In this respect, it is important to note that his works have huge undertones of the Native Americans tribes. Some of his most notable works include Tlunh Datsi, 1984 and Cortez, 1991 – 92. His works have been predominant in various art forums and showcases. This paper will analyze Tlunh Datsi and Cortez.

Tlunh Datsi, 1984

The Tlunh Datsi is a work of art produced by renowned artist Jimmie Durham in 1984. It is a free standing form of art that is composed of pine, fur from deer and sheep, metal, feathers from a turkey, turquoise, shells, and a puma skull. One of the most notable artistic elements of this piece of art is its value which is defined by the degree of dark and light in its design. In this respect, the art has been given a lot of light in tone which is critical in ensuring that the viewer gets all the important details of the piece of art. It is also important to note that the piece of art has included a lot of shapes that is a combination of lines to form various shapes. In this respect, most of the shapes that are found in this piece of art are organic which is manifested by the fact that they are irregular shapes that are usually found in nature such as floors. This has been reinforced through the use of color that has been used to define different shapes, their forms, space, and lines.

The primary message of this work of art has been discerned to mix tradition and modernity where it reflects on the traditional life of American Indian and the modernity of the contemporary policing in many countries. This can be ascertained by the fact that title refers to puma in Cherokee language and there is the inclusion of the word police in the art.

The art has also incorporated a number of principles which include proportion since the art of work has been harmoniously combined. The other important principle is the movement which is used in directing the viewer’s eye movement. The combination of various elements of art has been critical in ensuring that the viewer’s eye moves from one aspect of the art to another aspect has ensured that there is a clear movement of the art. In this way, the art has offered a clear view of the patterns, the abstract figures, and the contrasting colors and textures. This has been critical in ensuring that the viewer gets the implications of mixing traditional values of the Native Americans and the modern society which has been critical in changing the lives of many people.

Historically, this kind of art has fallen under the postmodernism era since it contradicts some elements of modernisms or other elements that emerged after postmodernism. In this respect, the piece of art has been noted to fall under the installation art genre. There are many different aspects of arts that have been installed together to result in this final piece art. It is also important to note that this kind of art has also included the usage of various art principles which is critical in ascertaining the artistic characteristics of postmodern art. There is also the recycling of other elements of historical arts such as assembly and abstract which were introduced in romanticism era and modernism.

Durham is renowned for his installation art which is highly characterized in this art form. One of the most defining elements is that is a three dimensional work that is specific to its placement. It is also important to note that the art has been designed in order to serve the purpose of transforming the perception of the space. It is also designed to be placed in an interior space.


Cortez, 1991 – 92

            Cortez is an installation work by Jimmie Durham. The composition materials include handles, pulleys, sheet metal, rebar, acrylic paint, glass, leather, metal car parts, PVC, resin, and fiberglass. In relation to the element of value, it is important to note that the choice materials are all dark in color which gives it a tone of darkness. There is very little contrast in the form of art which indicates that the artist desired to have minimal contrasting messages to the viewer. There is also minimal usage of shapes which can be attributed to the fact that the artist did not engage in additional painting or inclusion of patterns rather than they naturally occur or how they were constructed when they served their purpose of construction.

The primary message of this art is the rise of technology that has played a critical role in shaping the lives of many people in the society. In this respect, Durham sends the message that man has been greatly influenced by technology which has been critical in ensuring that they have advanced technologically.

One of the most notable artistic element is the use of form. All the elements that have been used in this installation art have form which is defined by the fact that they are three dimensional with the inclusion of boxes, cylinders, and balls. All these elements have depth, length, and width. This has been critical in emphasizing the message associated with the art which is the fact that technology has been incorporated into almost all elements of the society.

The artistic principles that have been noted is the inclusion of balance where the different composition elements that have been used have been noted to placed harmoniously among each other. This has enabled the dissection of the art work into two almost equal parts from bottom to down. It is also important to note that there is the inclusion of the principle of emphasis through the placement of the piece of art. Emphasis has been created through the placement of the dull piece of art against a white background. These principles have been noted for giving a clear description of how technology has altered the lives of many people, some in a positive manner while other have been impacted negatively.

Historically, this piece of art is a perfect representation of installation art. This can be attributed to a number of factors. One of the factors is that the art has been designed in a permanent manner which is critical in ensuring that the piece of art can be placed in a space for a very long time. It is also imperative to note that there has been the inclusion of a wide range of natural and everyday objects which is also one of the defining characteristics of the installation art genre. The natural and everyday materials have also been noted for being chosen because of their evocative qualities. The art is also site specific which indicates that it is designed with the space that it occupies being given much consideration. This can be attested by the fact the choice materials and their colors have been chosen to contrast deeply with the color of the wall that serves as the background. Installation art gained its prominence during the 1970s and is most notable because of the artists intention being paramount although it has borrowed a lot of elements from the 1960s’ conceptual art.