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Jeff Slim
monOrchid, Phoenix, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross


Jeff Slim, “Chant of Ever Circling Skeletal Family,” acrylic and aerosol on canvas. Courtesy of monOrchid

Continuing through May 29, 2016

Defying preconceptions about Native American painters, Jeff Slim explores his Diné (Navajo) heritage while creating highly contemporary scenes. Native symbology such as zigzags, serpentine lines and concentric circles are on colorful display everywhere in his paintings — even Diné words occasionally appear. Yet the emphasis is on young, urban figures navigating today’s world. That kind of narrative is not surprising given Slim’s background as a muralist.

Slim also eschews traditional painting for experimentation: He swirls on the paint in broad, curvilinear strokes — sometimes planting spirals in the center of faces. He plays with the drips, squiggles and creases of spray paint. Turquoise and other colors of the Southwest make a strong showing, even on faces. And he often chooses to leave his canvases unframed. In paintings with geometric designs as background, that gives the canvases the feel of Native American weaving.

A number of oblong-shaped canvases demonstrate Slim’s skills with portraiture, showing closely cropped faces of contemporary young Native women. And while some of the paintings make straightforward references to Diné creation myths, a pair of large-scale paintings of men in contemporary dress leaves viewers to discern the cross-cultural connections. Both men hide their faces behind floral sheaths, and both bare white and turquoise arms, decorated with striations. As with almost every other painting here, they are dazzling hybrids of indigenous and urban cultures.


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