Richard Jackson – New Paintings

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A selection of works from Richard Jackson’s show at Hauser & Wirth in London from earlier this summer. Here is a section of the release from the gallery:

Los Angeles based Jackson has been a pre-eminent figure in American contemporary art since the 1970s, counting Edward Kienholz and Bruce Nauman among his contemporaries. Influenced by both Abstract Expressionism and action painting, Jackson explores a performative painting process which seeks to extend the potential of painting by upending its technical conventions. For Jackson, paint is not a tool used to create a representational image, but is used as a ubiquitous liquid which is spurted, splattered and sprayed over the surface of his installations.

Jackson responds to the high-mindedness of painterly practice by repositioning painting as an everyday experience. He draws on domestic environments and basic human activities, such as defecation and sexual behaviour, to create the foundation of his installations. His approach to artistic practice is democratic as he combines it with references from lowbrow American culture, including motifs from hunting and baseball.

In a characteristic display of crudeness, ‘Pain-t’ (2012) depicts a line-up of boys with their pants pulled down, coated in paint which has been fired from their orifices. During the seminal action, paint was ingested through the figures’ mouths and followed the entire digestive tract before forcefully spurting from their behinds. In a similarly degrading image, ‘Copy Room’ (2014) entails a sex doll positioned on top of a photocopier, legs spread and recalling a scene from debauched office parties as the machine churns out endless replicas of her bodily imprint.

‘Shower Room’ (2013) is a contained environment with a black and white, tiled interior, which is reminiscent of a horror movie or a locker room, in a re-location of quintessential scenes from American culture. In a playful nod to the conventions of painting, the empty room recalls a blank canvas. The resulting kaleidoscopic showering of paint disrupts the clean, stark environment in an exuberant array of colour and disorder.

Jackson’s work often employs the image of the clown. In this exhibition, a grotesque kinetic sculpture with breasts for eyes and a paintball gun installed in its mechanised penis spins as it ejaculates libidinal paint into the surrounding space. A parallel pre-occupation for Jackson is the myth of the artistic genius, which he approaches with wit and humour. In ‘Bobble Head’ (2013), Jackson plays on the idea of the artist as a contemporary figure in pop culture. He sends himself up by creating multi-coloured editions of a self-portrait clad in his signature baseball cap, with an oversized head, based on the bobble-head figure of a baseball player.

Jackson’s work is process-oriented and the structural aspect of his installations involves a high level of craftsmanship and engineering. However, the final application of paint is generated through an automated process which Jackson calls ‘activation’. He equips his ‘painting machines’ with a network of pipes and hoses which, when deployed, cause violent eruptions of paint that immerse the work and surrounding area. The finished installations remain in the aftermath of this extreme and unpredictable performative action.

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