Sunday, February 05, 2006

Preston Jackson at the Chicago Cultural Center - Two views

Last week I wrote:

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.


Blogger Gawain said...

it does look south east asian, doesn't it? something about the evil line and the spikes

February 06, 2006  
Blogger anne said...

You may want to trade eyes and see how the round shapes of the statues may be used to invoke promises of life to be born. The work is more about life than death, more about reconciliation than evil. Jackson chose "the Garden" to plant his creations so even so they have been uprooted form their mother land, their may reconstruct life. Next time you take a walk,look at the trees, the leaves, the fruits of the earth, may be you will see some resemblance. The evil there is the one you can't see.

November 02, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Thankyou for your comment, Anne.

I certainly see these pieces as vegetative -- but aren't they more like mushrooms and less like trees or bushes ?

BTW - I'd be curious to know -- what other styles of sculpture you think these pieces most resemble ?

November 03, 2007  

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