Friday, November 13, 2009

Abstracts: Jack Pierson

[“The Shrine of Luxury & Pride” (2009), metal & neon. “Abstract #10” (2008), metal & paint. “Abstract #11” (2008), white neon & metal. “Abstract #15” (2008), plastic & metal.]

Multimedia artist Jack Pierson shows his powerful and immediate abstract sculpture at Cheim & Read through November 14, 2009. While Pierson’s last exhibition at the gallery was in 2006, the work in “Abstracts” was exhibited at Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga (Spain) from June 19 to September 27, 2009. Working across such media as photography, video, installation, drawing, collage, assemblage, and sculpture, Pierson is well-known for re-appropriating commercial signage and large-scale vintage lettering—creating evocative word sculptures and installations in their wake.

In this particular show at Cheim & Read, Pierson draws together recent abstract sculptural work using these trademark signage materials. By repositioning letters and other signage details—such as broken pieces, numbers, and symbols—Pierson radically alters this narrative. Pierson strives for—and achieves—universality by removing the hierarchy of language and its immediate associations. Without having to rely on words to communicate, a more visceral action is provoked. Twinges of nostalgia , melancholia, memory, and loss are referenced and reinforced by Pierson’s use of roadside ephemera. While imbued with poignancy and disillusionment, they also convey a distinctly American essence and space.

Pierson’s work is ultimately autobiographical, though balanced with a sly irony and humor that allows viewers to identify with his imagery. While an emotional sensibility remains in his sculptural abstractions, inherent themes are less explicit. The works in “Abstracts” are intentionally nonobjective and non-literal. A given word might still exist in a reconfigured fashion, but its signification is diffused. Yes, these abstract works are related to the artist’s more “readable” word sculptures, but Pierson attempts—with the work presented in this show—to move beyond singular interpretation. He does this by questioning the construction of meaning through a visceral (and sometimes brutal) deconstruction.

Beauty abounds in Pierson’s abstractions. Some works are calligraphic while others exude bright colors. The viewer will find works referencing Minimalism, while noting the Pop pedigree of others. Pierson’s repositioning, recontextualizing, and recycling reset viewer expectations and generate works resembling totems and constellations. While the retinue of raw letters and symbols are recognizable, the compositions found in “Abstracts” require suspension of assumption to cast a different reading.

Among Pierson’s books are Real Gone (1994), Traveling Show (1995), Sing a Song of Sixpence (1997), All of a Sudden (1999), Every Single One of Them (2004), and Self Portrait (2003). His works have been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), the Museum of Contemporary Art (North Miami), Le CAPC musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, Edition Schellmann (New York), the Neuberger Museum (SUNY Purchase), the Menil Collection (Houston), the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), the Barbican Art Gallery (London), Hamburger Kunsthalle, Frankfurter Kunstverein, and many other venues.

Abstracts: Jack Pierson

Through November 14, 2009

@ Cheim & Read
547 West 25th Street, New York City 10001

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