Preston Jackson at the Chicago Cultural Center - Two views
Julienne's Garden: Preston Jackson's sculpture reminds me of some exotic weapons of South east Asia: a simple, direct form -- like a knife blade -- sets the foundation -- and on top of it
extravagent ornamentation is laid. (I've seen such things at the Field Museum -- and will photograph them for this blog eventually).
The things really look evil -- as if the tip of the blade was the least of your worries --- and as if they exist in world that's so twisted and convoluted -- a knife might find its way into your heart with no apparent cause or agency.
Preston's bronze sculptures look just as evil -- bloated forms covered with excruciating detail -- presenting ante-bellum nightmares of slavery/hatred/perversity/murder/degradation -- continuing a 20th Century Chicago taste for the macabre begun, most famously, by Ivan Albright -- and connecting to what may be a narrative movement in contemporary African-American art exemplified by the American-history-as-degradation silhouettes cut by Kara Walker.
These things have the smell of death -- and seem to belong in a special, dark temple dedicated to hatred, self-loathing, and isolation.
But taken out of that temple and separated from their lurid narratives -- some individual pieces might lead new lives as enjoyable visual adventures in figure sculpture - at least that's how I feel about the dynamic tableau of two figures plowing a field.
But this week I visited the show again --- ignored the narratives that were posted beside each statue -- and realized that I may have taken these figures too seriously -- i.e., they don't belong in a temple of death -- they're more like whimsical charactatures -- closer to the world of televison sit-coms or in-your-face hip-hop/rock-n-roll. Unlike the cartoonish figures that are sold in shopping malls -- they are anti-nostalgic (who could be nostalgic for slavery ?) and very energetic, like Remington's ridin' cowboys. They're evil like Gangsta rappers are evil -- i.e it's just the exaggerated attitude of prolonged adolesence.
All together in one room -- it's a bit overwhelming --- but alone on a shelf -- next to something more staid and classical -- I think that's where they belong -- and they are world's apart (and above) the contemporary world of gargoyle/monster dolls.