Friday, 5 August 2011


Duke Riley has been employing the lost art of scrimshaw for some time as one component in his complicated process of creating history. Riley’s work makes strange our accepted notions of history, land-use, patriotism, and the space for the individual in today’s world. The mosaics, drawings, scrimshaw and other work that he creates are done in a style that bears an uncanny resemblance to colonial or early american art. These objects are often presented as supporting characters in exhibitions that mirror and problematize the authoritative ‘truth’ of a natural history or American history museum display. The imagery in these works usually revolves around a central transgressive project or performance, usually calling attention to a contradictory moment in American history.

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