JAMES CASEBERE was born in 1953, in Lansing, Michigan. He grew up outside Detroit, attended Michigan State University, and graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design with a BFA in 1976 where he studied with the sculptor Siah Armajani. In the fall of 1977, he attended the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York, and then moved to Los Angeles where he studied with John Baldessari and Doug Huebler. He was John Baldessari’s teaching assistant. Classmates included Mike Kelly, and Tony Oursler. He received an M.F.A from Cal Arts in 1979.
Casebere's pioneering work has established him at the forefront of artists working with constructed photography. His first exhibitions in New York were at Artists Space, Franklin Furnace and then Sonnebend Gallery. His work was associated with the “Pictures Generation” of “post-modern” artists who emerged in the 1980’s, which included Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Laurie Simmons, Richard Prince, Matt Mullican, James Welling, Barbara Kruger, and others. For the last thirty years Casebere has consistently devised increasingly complex models and photographed them in his studio. Based solidly on an understanding of architecture as well as art historical and cinematic sources, Casebere's abandoned spaces are hauntingly evocative. His table-sized constructions are made of simple materials, pared down to essential forms. Starting with Sonsbeek ’86, in Arnhem, Holland and ending around 1991 Casebere also made large scale sculpture installations.
Early bodies of work focused on images of the suburban home. He followed this with both photographs and sculptural installations dealing with the myth of the American West. In the early 1990s, Casebere turned his attention to the development of different cultural institutions during the enlightenment, and their representation as architectural types. With his photographs of prisons in particular, he critically addressed contemporary attitudes and approaches to incarceration, as well as metaphorically pointing to relationships of social control, and social structure in the broader society.
Since the late 1990’s he has made images whose sources span the globe starting with the bunker under the Reichstag (Flooded Hallway), and the sewers in Berlin (Two Tunnels). He created an expansive and beautiful body of work referencing the Atlantic slave trade. This includes a slave factory in West Africa, (Four Flooded Arches), plantations in the West Indies (Nevision Underground), Thomas Jefferson’s plantation home in Virginia (Monticello), and other 18th Century American colonial architecture.
The modern architects Victor Horta (Spiral Staircase, and Turning Hallway) and Richard Neutra (Garage, and Dorm Room) inspired him to create another small, austere group of works that seem to cast a critical eye on the homogenizing effects of globalization.
After 9/11 Casebere turned his attention toward Spain and the Eastern Mediterranean. Several works examine 10th century Andalusia and the flowering of culture and co-operation between Islamic, Jewish and Christian cultures before the Inquisition. (La Alberca, Abadia, Spanish Bath, Mahgreb.) Other images depict Tripoli, Lebanon, Nineveh and Samara in Iraq, and Luxor, Egypt. Several photographs of elaborate soaring models of mosques were inspired by the 16th century Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
Casebere was included in the 1985 Whitney Bienniel. In 2002-3 Casebere had a solo exhibition at SECCA Gallery in Winston Salem, NC which traveled to the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, OH., the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal, Quebec and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis. In 2000 –2001 he was in an exhibition called The Architectural Unconscious: James Casebere and Glen Seator, initiated by the Addison Gallery at Phillips Academy in Andover Mass. which traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, in Philadelphia, PA. In 1999 Asylum, another solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England, traveled to Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, in Norwich, England. In 1996 he was in Campo, at the Venice Bienale, Italy, curated by Francesco Bonami, which travelled to the Sangretto Foundation in Torino, Italy and the Konstmuseum, in Malmö, Sweden.
Casebere is the recipient of numerous fellowships including three from the National Endowment for the Arts, three from the New York Foundation for the Arts and one from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His work has been collected by museums worldwide, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles County Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among many others.
Since the late 1990’s Casebere has lived in Fort Greene Brooklyn, with his wife Lorna Simpson and their daughter Zora.