Jean Shin: Common Threads

An installation of scratch & win lottery tickets stacked on top of one another forming structures.

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.

This 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

Visiting Information

April 30, 2009 July 25, 2009
Open Daily, 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m
Free Admission



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.


Jean Shin
born Seoul, South Korea 1971