Canadian artist Brian Jungen is currently exhibiting repurposed Nike Air Jordans at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Displayed amongst a larger show titled Friendship Centre, the used sneakers have been transformed into masks and sculptures.
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Canadian artist with mixed European & Indigenous heritage @brianjungen is known for using unexpected found objects, in particular Air Jordan sneakers, to create sculptural pieces that pay tribute to his Native American ancestry & that highlight themes around identity, cultural appropriation, inequality & consumerism. The Art Gallery of Ontario @agotoronto is currently hosting an exhibition of his archival pieces entitled Brian Jungen Friendship Centre, open now until August 25, 2019. What do you think? Is anyone in Toronto this summer & can go see it?⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #jungenago #BrianJungen #sneakerart #nike #jordan #sneakers #contemporaryart #contemporaryartist #footdistrict ⠀ ⠀
Jungen’s sneaker creations are a comment on society’s high consumption of fashion, cultural inequality and a concern for the environment. His practice is in part inspired by watching his relatives recycle different objects into whatever they could to be resourceful, and also by his indigenous heritage.
The red, white and black colors of Nike Air Jordans are the same traditional colours of the Haida, an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest coast, with whom Jungen shares ancestry. Stitching the shoes into the styles of traditional Native American craftwork, Jungen appropriates the sportswear with his ancestor’s traditions, while still making sure that the Nike tick can still be seen – reminding us where the artwork came from.
Jungen’s work with the Air Jordans comments on both the high prices paid for footwear, as well as the exploitation of Native American traditions in souvenir shops for commercial gain. And whether or not it was his intention, it is also a reminder of how often artists turn to fashion for inspiration for their work.
Brian Jungen: Friendship Centre is on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario until 25 August 2019
Text by Lizzy Vartanian
Images via @footdistrict, @aaronwynia, @prolificamateur, @tjnesbitt