Larger Type
Smaller Type


Jean Shin: Common Threads

May 1, 2009 – July 26, 2009

A conversation between Artist Jean Shin and Curator Joanna Marsh at the American Art Museum on the occasion of the exhibition Jean Shin: Common Threads.

Watch artist Jean Shin install her artworks at the Museum on Flickr

Read exhibition-related posts on the Museum's blog Eye Level

Attend our exhibition-related programs

Read selected news stories about the exhibition

Image for Jean Shin: Common Threads

Jean Shin, Chance City, 2001/2009, $32,404 worth of discarded "Scratch & Win" losing lottery tickets (no adhesive), Installation at Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2009. Photo by Ken Rahaim

Jean Shin is nationally recognized for her monumental installations that transform castoff materials into elegant expressions of identity and community. This exhibition features eight works created since 2000, including the new site-specific installation Everyday Monuments commissioned by the Museum in 2008.

Shin employs a meticulous process of dismantling and alteration to create evocative sculptural installations that are composed of everything from worn shoes and lost socks to broken umbrellas and discarded lottery tickets. The resulting assemblages consist of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of seemingly identical objects gathered from friends, relatives, and perfect strangers.

Shin's most recent project, Everyday Monuments, debuts in the exhibition. The sprawling installation consists of nearly 2000 trophies donated by Washington, D.C.-area residents and projected images of the altered trophies. Inspired by the well-known historic monuments and heroic statuary displayed throughout Washington’s public spaces, Everyday Monuments venerates the accomplishments of ordinary Americans—stay-at-home moms, waitresses, janitors, postal carriers—whose everyday labors go unrecognized. Shin transformed each figurine to represent these tasks. The trophies are arranged according to a scale plan of the National Mall, symbolically filling the expanse of Washington's signature public space.

The exhibition also includes the largest installation to date of Chance City, a towering cityscape of scratch-and-win lottery tickets, whose inevitable collapse serves as a metaphor for the illusory promise of fast money; Chemical Balance III, a towering arrangement of empty prescription pill bottles that speaks to a dependency on prescription medications; and Unraveling, a dense, brightly colored web of woolen threads that visualizes the network of relationships within the Asian American arts community. The exhibition is organized by Joanna Marsh, The James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art.

Download a copy of the exhibition brochure (PDF, 2.2MB).

Common Threads Flickr Group
Go behind-the-scenes on Flickr to see images of the artist and her assistants, along with Museum staff, installing the exhibition. Join the group and load images of your worn-out sweaters, ridiculous business ties, grade school trophies and award ceremonies, broken umbrellas, and discarded lottery tickets, or your own creations made from everyday materials. Don't forget to include the stories behind them too.

The Museum's blog Eye Level
Read exhibition-related blog posts including, A Trophy for the Installation, Shin Exhibition Backstory: Trophy Lives, and Picture This: Taking Down a House of Cards.

Free Public Programs
Artist Jean Shin, Friday, May 1, at 7 p.m.
Tied, Balanced, Altered and Unraveled: Family Tour, Saturdays, May 16, June 20, and July 18 at 1 p.m.
Start with the Arts Family Festival, Friday, June 5, and Saturday, June 6, 11:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Gallery Talk with Carol Wilson, assistant chair for in-gallery education programs, Thursday, June 25, at 6 p.m.
Conservation Discussion with Jean Shin, Joanna Marsh and Hugh Shockey, Tuesday, July 7, at 6 p.m.

Selected News Stories and Reviews
The New York Times, April 12, Because Everyone Deserves a Trophy by Hilarie Sheets
National Public Radio, Morning Edition, May 1, Jean Shin, Turning Trash into Artistic Treasure by Susan Stamberg
Washington Times, May 3, Arts & Culture, Transforming the Everyday by Deborah K. Dietsch
The Washington Post, May 8, Common Threads: A Celebration of Castoffs by Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Examiner, May 18, Common Threads of consumerism at American Art Museum by Chris Klimek
Smithsonian magazine, July 2009, Q & A with Jean Shin by Megan Gambino

The Smithsonian American Art Museum wishes to thank the Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation, Inc., Janice Kim and Anthony Otten, Nion McEvoy, and Nick and Holly Ruffin for their generous support of the exhibition.