Brian Jungen is a Canadian artist of mixed European and Native background. He often uses everyday objects such as sporting goods, shoes and luggage to create new versions of iconic cultural objects, such as Native American masks, totem poles and fossil skeletons. This piece, Shapeshifter (2000), is one of a series of monumental whale skeleton sculptures made of cheap acrylic lawn chairs.
Besides the simple “wow” factor of this work – its gigantic size (almost 22 feet long) and virtuoso handling of the nontraditional materials – the whale skeleton has pathos. Much of Jungen’s work comments on the corrosive effect of mass-produced goods on traditional societies. By taking something useful and functional (a plastic chair) and turning it into something “useless” – a museum piece – it can make the viewer wonder whether we feel the same way about many elements of traditional cultures.
More about Brian Jungen here.