Sam Durant is an interdisciplinary artist whose works engage a variety of social, political, and cultural issues. Growing up near Boston, MA in the 1970’s he experienced the radical pedagogy of A.S. Neill, Maria Montessori, John Holt, anti-war demonstrations and the de-segregation of the public school system. Exposure to an educational culture emphasizing democratic ideals, racial equality and social justice created the framework for Durant’s artistic perspective. Often taking up forgotten events from the past, his works make connections with present and ongoing social and cultural issues.
Durant’s ongoing interest in monuments and memorials began with Proposal for Monument at Altamont Raceway (1999), continued notably with Proposal for White and Indian Dead Monument Transpositions(2005) that recontextualizes memorials to victims of the conquest of North America, and more recently with Proposal for Public Fountain (2015), a marble work depicting an anarchist statue being blasted by a police water canon.
Earlier works have excavated subjects as diverse as modernism’s repressive energy, the death drive beneath 1960’s-70’s pop music and artist Robert Smithson’s theories of entropy. More recent work has encompassed Italian anarchism, cartographic histories of capitalism, gestures of everyday refusal and an ongoing series of projects based on the Non-Aligned Movement.
He has recently done major public art projects, Labyrinth (2015) in Philadelphia which addressed mass incarceration and The Meeting House (2016) in Concord, MA that took up the subject of race in colonial and contemporary New England. His public work Scaffold (2012) premiered at Documenta 13 in Kassel Germany, traveled to Edinburg and to Stroom Den Hag, NL where it was part of a year long cultural program dedicated to International justice. The work took up the subject of capital punishment in US history. It became the subject of a protest by the Dakota community when it was installed at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in 2017. In a groundbreaking agreement between the Dakota, the Walker Art Center, the State of Minnesota and the artist, it was dismantled and the copyrights transferred to the Dakota.
In 2007 Durant compiled and edited the monograph, Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas (Rizzoli Intl.) and curated the exhibition of the same name at MOCA, Los Angeles and the New Museum, New York. Durant’s interviews and writing have been featured in publications like Mousse, Artforum and Flash Art, he has contributed catalog essays to Marcos Ramirez ERRE (Instituto Nacional de Belles Artes, Mexico D.F. 2011) and Siah Armajani: Follow the Line (Walker Art Center, MN. 2018).
From 2005 to 2010 he was a member of the collective Transforma Projects, a grassroots cultural re-building initiative in New Orleans. In 2012/13 Durant was an artist in residence at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles where he collaborated with the education department to produce a discursive social media project called What #is a museum? . Durant’s work has been included in numerous international exhibitions including Documenta 13, the Yokohama Triennial, the Venice, Sydney, Busan, Liverpool, Panama, and Whitney Biennials. His work can be found in many public collections including Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, France, UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, Project Row Houses, Houston, TX, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium, Tate Modern, London, England.