Brian Jungen was born in Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada in 1970. He draws from his family’s ranching and hunting background, as well as his Dane-zaa heritage, when disassembling and recombining consumer goods into whimsical sculptures. Jungen transforms plastic chairs into whale skeletons, garbage bins into a giant turtle carapace, sewing tables into a basketball court, golf bags into towering totem poles, and collectible Nike Air Jordan shoes into objects resembling both the ceremonial masks of British Columbian coastal tribes and abstract modernist sculptures.
At once direct and disarming, Jungen’s sculptures are entirely familiar in their material and assembly and yet still trick the eye through complex and deft illusions. He has created many works involving animals, from habitats and playgrounds for household pets, to paintings and drums utilizing stretched and tanned hides—demonstrating an interdependence between people and other species as well as between aesthetic form and function. While exquisite for their craftsmanship and graphic use of pattern and color, Jungen’s works also contain subtle critiques of labor practices, global capitalism, and cultural stereotypes.
In the following preview from the Vancouver episode of Season 8 of Art in the Twenty-First Century, Jungen—at work in his North Okanagan, British Columbia studio—creates a new series of sculptures using disassembled pairs of Nike Air Jordan sneakers. “When I first made them, I was slowly taking them apart piece by piece,” says the artist, revisiting his use of the materials after nearly 10 years. “Now I just am much more fluid with it.”