Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Jason Lujan

By Dylan A.T. Miner, PhD

I’m interested in the transformation and hybridization of cultures in contemporary society and global communities.[1] —Jason Lujan

Jason Lujan is an interdisciplinary Chiricahua Apache artist who, since 2001, has lived in New York City. Lujan has been included in multiple solo and group exhibitions, including the Kentler International Drawing Space, Longwood Gallery, and St. Lawrence University, while his performance work has been presented at the Heard Museum and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  He holds degrees from the University of Colorado (M.F.A.) and the University of Texas, Arlington (B.F.A.).

Working in contemporary transcultural visualities, Lujan places Indigenous epistemologies in dialogue with both Western and Eastern visualities. This becomes apparent in works such as Untitled (Bicultural), a 2006 book project created at the New York Center for Book Arts. Born and raised in Marfa, Texas, the home of Donald Judd’s minimalist sculptural work, as well as his brainchild—the Chinati Foundation, Lujan admits that his upbringing in Texas placed him on the margins of contemporary art. Although the presence of high minimalism bifurcated the rural Texas community along racial lines, Lujan nonetheless integrates (post)minimalist thinking into his working practice by re-engaging both political, aesthetic, and culturally-specific dimensions.  Operating in an artworld that is commonly over-determined by one particular sphere, Lujan’s capacity to signify across multiple fields is exciting. For instance, Chinook (c-print, 2009) reduces a military helicopter, colonially named after a Native people in Oregon and Washington, to an aesthetically intriguing, yet compositionally minimal, arrangement. The potentiality of multiple readings and significations of this image, much like Lujan’s work in general, lend to the work’s success.

Lujan is “interested in the transformation and hybridization of cultural data in contemporary society and global communities.”[2] Like many of his contemporaries, both Native and non-Native, Lujan incorporates objects from popular culture into his fine art practice. Since approximately 2004, Lujan’s work has interrogated a complex and peculiar interaction between the visual languages of Asia and Indian Country. Pulling on sources as diverse as anime, powwow, Chinese performance, landscapes, and military toys, Lujan’s practice operates in the interstitial space of global cosmopolitanism, yet evokes dialectic tension between competing visualities. The dialogue that these objects create, transposing our preexisting notions of each respective cultural practice (Asian and American Indian), functions dialectically to challenge the viewer to think critically, both about the work and the cultural assumptions that may have entered into its reception.  Although commonly working two-dimensionally, recent performative works, such as Fancy Dance Good Luck Lion (2007-08), centrally place the embodied experiences of transcultural performance at the point of investigation.

Although Lujan has deviated from overtly political work to engage in global aesthetic conversations, his most evocative work continues to play with military themes in humorous and playful ways. Lujan systemically references the Apache helicopter in both a two and three-dimensional fashion, turning the specter of U.S. military repression into an aesthetically intriguing and cultural suggestive object. His most stimulating works, those that remain politically charged, can be seen in installations such as his 2004 Selections from the American Indian Activist Handbook, a re-contextualization of U.S. military training manuals, in which colonial state apparatuses are contested and inverted.  His 2008 installation, Blood is the New Black, plays with the notions of dualities and duplicities as related to both American Indian and Arab communities. By working transdisciplinarily and transculturally, Lujan allows his audiences to engage contemporary Indigenous art in aesthetically challenging ways.

[1] Jason Lujan, “Artist’s Statement.”

[2] Lujan artist statement in The Importance of In/Visibility (New York City: Abrazo Interno Gallery, 2009), 25. Exhibition catalog.

Visit the Jason Lujan website