Oliver Lee Jackson: Machines for the Spirit | Ray Johnson | Yuji Ueda
2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034
Saturday, March 16 at 5:00 PM 7:00 PM
Ends May 4, 2024
BLUM is pleased to announce the representation of Oakland-based artist Oliver Lee Jackson on the occasion of Machines for the Spirit, Jackson’s premier solo exhibition with the gallery and his first in Los Angeles since 1982. Jackson will be co-represented with Andrew Kreps Gallery. Jackson’s paintings combine the emotive gestures of abstraction with the artist’s signature figural forms. Jackson achieves his characteristic abstract marks through a series of highly calculated and repeatable circumstances that have come to comprise his process. He lays the canvas or panel flat so as to approach the surface equally from all sides; this condition also permits Jackson to achieve specific, desired effects with the paint. Leaving moments of reprieve in his compositions, he consistently exposes his initial markings on the canvas as essential elements of the work, allowing the viewer a glimpse into every aspect of the structure of his finished painting. As the exhibition title Machines for the Spirit implies, Jackson’s oil-based paintings act as mechanisms that are meant to prompt an experience in their viewer. The artist states that, like a machine, every part of a composition must work together to function in unison. As Jackson loads each composition with dynamic interplays between figure and field, the artist’s work provokes a process of leisurely and assiduous looking as the eye takes in a sense of space, illumination, figural forms, and the abstract marks signaling the artist’s hand. Working at a scale that encourages onlookers to imagine entering the work, Jackson prefers this intimate visual reciprocity between individual and composition to some of art’s more esoteric quandaries, saying of the latter, “They are trying to make a process that is dynamic stand still.” The earliest of the twenty paintings in Machines for the Spirit was made in 1983, although the majority of the exhibition represents Jackson’s new works. Consistent themes are found throughout the artist’s expansive oeuvre, including the recurrent figure of the saxophone player which can be seen in Painting (7.14.23), 2023 (2023). This imagery is representational of Jackson’s close associations with musicians throughout his life, as well as a deep love for jazz that the artist developed while growing up during what is now considered a cultural renaissance for the American Midwest. The likeness of shoes also recurs in Jackson’s paintings—notably appearing in Painting (12.4.23), 2023 (2023)—as a way of indicating to the viewer that they are stepping into another world, thus harking back to the exhibition’s title and the transportive impact of the artist’s work. Jackson grew up in St. Louis, MO and began to exhibit his work in the mid-1960s, developing close associations with the Black Artists Group (BAG), and has since generated a prolific practice, notably with a recent solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 2019. Jackson’s painting style lends itself to a certain multiplicity, reflecting on the ideologies of many movements and experiences over the course of six decades, as well as projecting its own distinctive singularity. Maintaining an emphasis on process and composition, Jackson aligns himself with the past while paving the way for painting’s future. A public program with Jackson in conversation with Harry Cooper—Curator of Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC—will be presented on Saturday, March 16 at 2pm. This event is free and open to the public. - BLUM is pleased to present Los Angeles’s first solo exhibition of work by Ray Johnson—seminal Pop Art figure, early conceptualist, and pioneer of mail art. Johnson's preferred medium was collage, that quintessentially twentieth-century art form that reflects the increased (as the century wore on) collision of disparate visual and verbal information that bombards modern man. Johnson integrated texts and images drawn from a multiplicity of sources, from mass media to telephone conversations. Ranging from 1954 to 1994, the collages and sculptures comprising this presentation tell the story of Johnson’s career, from his early encounters with New York’s avant-garde to the end of his life. Leaving his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, in 1945 to study at Black Mountain College in North Carolina—widely known for its influence on future generations of artists as well as distinguished faculty such as Josef and Anni Albers—Johnson thereafter moved to New York City in 1949 where he quickly became an active participant in the downtown art scene. Over the next forty-some years, he would become a pillar for this important period in American art, involving himself with Andy Warhol’s Factory, spearheading mail art with the conception of the artist network called the New York Correspondence School, and much more. An art history savant with an uncanny ability to recall and connect an encyclopedic wealth of information, Johnson made work that conveys the vast nature of the human experience as viewed through the pinhole of the artist’s own dynamic life. The works on paper on view here are emblazoned with the artist’s celebrated “moticos”—the term, an anagram for osmotic, that Johnson coined for the deconstructed, black glyphs that function as signifiers in the artist’s widely referential visual language. Initially brought forth from the clutter of pop culture’s runoff—such as promotional images of James Dean, Elvis Presley, or department store models—Johnson would cannibalize his early works by cutting them up and reworking them, often referencing his art-world contemporaries in the work's final title. In this exhibition, the artist has paid homage to members of his cohort, such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Mark Rothko, and more. The exhibition’s two sculptures, Untitled (Paddle with Bunnyheads and Mickey (1986–c.1994) and Untitled (Block with Bunny and Screw) (not dated), will make their first-ever public debut here. Bearing the artist’s signature drawing of a bunny head—the image that the artist used as a universal portrait or catchall to depict and unite otherwise disparate individuals—these objects can be understood as anointed by Johnson’s symbol and, thus, brought into the fold of the artist’s trove of meaningful things or ideas. An early practitioner of performance art akin to the style of Fluxus or Allan Kaprow’s happenings, Johnson would use objects such as cardboard boxes, wooden spools, or hotdogs to create temporal performance events that he called “nothings.” In what many later considered his final performance work, on January 13, 1995, Johnson was witnessed diving off a bridge in Sag Harbor, Long Island, and backstroking out to sea. His body was later found, and it was determined that he had drowned. After his death, an extensive archive of Johnson’s work was found, meticulously organized in his home. Due to the unconventional and secretive nature of the artist’s practice during his lifetime, larger-scale exhibitions exploring and situating Johnson’s practice were near impossible. Posthumously, with exhibitions such as this one, Johnson can be understood as one of the major artistic innovators of the second half of the twentieth century. - BLUM is pleased to present Shigaraki-based artist Yuji Ueda’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and his debut exhibition in Los Angeles. Ueda’s round and off-kilter ceramic vessels are made through a casting process that utilizes a plaster mold. This method, which produces recurrent warped-orb shapes, innovates on the slightly askew configurations of traditional Shigaraki wares, celebrated for their beautiful imperfections. Since the late 1300s, Shigaraki pottery has been popular among tea masters and cultural tastemakers during tea ceremonies. These globular vessels comprise three different kinds of clay, causing them to molt and crack, ultimately hyperbolizing the visual language of poetic flaws found in the history of Shigaraki ceramics.
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