Herb Jackson began his series Veronica's Veils in 1980 as a way to create a new space in which he could explore the enigmatical nature of the moment when a painting attains a life of its own. Thirty-three years and 223 paintings later, the exhibition Veils: new paintings from the artists ongoing exploration, continues the Artist's quest to create his own language of space. Jackson's paintings are pigment mixed with pumice, built up thin layer upon thin layer which he scrapes off and smoothes as the medium is being applied. Shapes, marks and topography come and go as the Artist engages the paint; gouging, scraping and excavating each consecutive stratum with whatever tool is dictated be it knife, fingernail or even dental tool. For Jackson, the work is a process not dissimilar to experiencing a long life, slowly evolving and revealing itself, much in the same way that our environment changes over time.
Noted art historian, critic and writer—the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art History at the University of Texas-Austin and author of Doubt (Routledge, 2008)—Richard Schiff says of the Artist's work: "Look for a parallel in nature and you will think not only of sky, air and water but also of ice and even crystalline rock. Jackson's brilliant hues tend to pull the space of his veils in and out, as if the entire painting were pulsing or breathing." While Jackson's work references the beauty found in nature, there is no sentimentality; a nod to myth and mystery is balanced with a very physical presence, creating contemplative work with the undying rumble of the tectonic plates.
"To require that an image be a bearer of content, (that) it must be recognizable is to suggest that there is no form to the unknowable,” Jackson says. “My personal journey (through art) confirms that it is not necessary to rob life of its mystery in order to understand it.” To understand the psychological dynamic of Herb Jackson's obsession with paint, we need look no further than the canvases in his current body of work. Says the artist of these paintings, "the canvas (begins) to exert more influence over the direction I must take, and at that point, it is often unclear where I stop and the painting begins". Yet Jackson’s works engage and excite; there is a dynamic force to his compositions and a haunting musicality to his themes that rewards repeated viewings; the work is not static.
In their constant theme and format, Veronica's Veils series can be compared to Robert Motherwell's Elegies to the Spanish Republic (over 100 paintings, completed between 1948 and 1967 as a "lamentation or funeral song" after the Spanish Civil War). One may recall the gestural, calligraphic nature of work by abstract expressionist Franz Klein (1910 – 1962) and the meditative emptiness and materiality of the surfaces created by Catalan painter, sculptor, and art theorist Antoni Tàpies (1923 – 2012), yet the experience of viewing a work by Herb Jackson is singular. The frequently jagged forms and broken surfaces somehow juxtapose quiet shape and flow to speak of relationship rather than destruction or death.
Herb Jackson has had over 150 one-person exhibitions, among them the first exhibition of Modern Art in the former Soviet Union. His work is in the permanent collections of over 125 museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the British Museum, London and the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.
Through October 19, 2013
513 West 26th Street, Ground Floor, NYC 10001