In images of his retrospective at the Orange County Museum, Los Angeles artist Richard Jackson (b. 1939) looks like a pretty frisky, indefatigable painter, inspired by icons of art history from Jacques-Louis David and Edgar Degas to Conceptual artists like Sol LeWitt and Bruce Nauman. Puns and one-liners abound in a sprawling exhibition comprising ambitious work from the past forty years.
2013, oil and pencil on paper, 108 x 240 x 240 inches. Collection of
Alison Terbell Nikitopoulos and Dimitris E. Nikitopoulos. Installation
at Orange County Museum of Art. Photo: © Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA.
1970 at the Eugenia Butler Gallery in LA, Jackson created a 20 x 20 foot
enclosure out of stretched canvas that he painted by sliding other wet
canvases through it. The painting installation transformed illusionistic
space into architectural space, and turned viewing a painting into an
all-encompassing, time-based experience. The show at OCMA includes a
recreation of this seminal piece, which opened endless possibilities and
changed the way Jackson thought about painting.
In the LA Times, Christopher Knight tries to recount all the ways Jackson uses paint. “Thick, brightly colored paint oozes like mortar from between
thousands of canvases stacked like bricks into a kind of room-size
temple, and it’s smeared in rainbows that unfurl across white walls. It’s shot from a pellet gun at a big drawing and out of the rear ends of
carousel animals toward spinning canvases and sculptures on surrounding
walls. Paint is pumped through neon tubing that spells out the show’s title,
clogging illumination, and into a bathtub copied from one where a hero
of the French Revolution was ignominiously murdered. It has dripped from
glass models of human heads, oozed from squashed metal models of a
ballerina and spewed from a hose wielded by a sculpture of a reclining
nude glimpsed, voyeur-like, through the crack in a barely opened window.
It puddles on pedestals and the floor….This is the only museum exhibition I’ve seen that posts a sign at the
entry warning visitors not to touch the art for the specific reason that
the paint might not be dry.”
1997, Ford Pinto, metal, wood, canvas, acrylic paint, 20 x 36 x 20
feet. Photo: © Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA.
Rennie Collection, Vancouver, Photo: © Grant Mudford. Image courtesy the artist and OCMA.
Edgar Degas’s ballerina meets CSI.
At KCET, Carolina Miranda fills in some personal details. “Given the rather extreme nature of his painting — he’ll use a Ford
Pinto as a painting tool — Richard Jackson, is a decidedly low-key
guy, He is soft-spoken and clear-eyed, with a penchant
for wry jokes. It is the week before the opening of his show at OCMA,
only the second museum survey of his work ever held (the first was at
the Menil Collection, in Houston, in 1988). But Jackson appears
remarkably relaxed, cruising through the galleries in a set of
paint-splattered overalls. For an artist who doesn’t like to revisit
past works, but instead likes to destroy them, the retrospective feels
out of character. ‘Awful,’ he says with a grin. ‘It’s like going to the
“When you take part in an activity or are involved in a process, something can go wrong, and that’s when it gets interesting,” Jackson said after his 1988 retrospective at the Menil Collection in Houston. “It’s not interesting if everything is going well.”
Yes, I have to agree. The best stories are about things gone wrong.
“Richard Jackson: Ain’t Painting a Pain,” curated by Dennis Szakacs. Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA. Through May5, 2013. Traveling to Museum Villa Stûck in Münich,
July 25–October 13, 2013; and S.M.A.K. Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent, Belgium,
February 28–June 29 2014. A 350-page, full-color catalogue with essays by Dennis Szakacs, John C.
Welchman, Michael Darling, Jeffrey Weiss, and Hans Ulrich Obristis available.
For readers in LA on March 21:
Third Thursday: Hard Work, Richard Jackson, and the Artistic Process
6–8 pm: Free with paid admission
Public tour of Richard Jackson’s Deer Beer (1998) followed by panel discussion at 7 pm with
artist Richard Jackson, curator Paul Schimmel, catalog essayist John Welchman, and UCLA art historian George Baker. Discussion to encompass how post-studio practices have changed the way artists make work, the idea of self-reliance, and the way artists maintain control over their practice.
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