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Carol Jackson

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007–Saturday, October 06, 2007
Location:
Gallery 400
400 South Peoria Street, Chicago, IL 60607

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Gallery 400 presents an exhibition of new and recent works by Chicago-based artist Carol Jackson. Jackson ’s signs, sculptures, gouaches, and drawings use common, everyday “signatureless” styles to let loose the grandiose morality within the picturesque languages and visuals of advertising. Her work is a bitterly humorous send-up of the demands and promises commercial representations make on behalf of goods, be they detergent, food, or real estate. Long focusing her energies on a series of meticulously hand-tooled leather reworkings of both store advertising and real estate development signage, Jackson replaces the found text with disdainful, mistrustful and self-deprecating thoughts, which the language of sales strives to repress. What remains is the epic longing and promissory nature of the address.

In making her sculpture from a material – hand-tooled leather – within an artisanal tradition, Jackson pours untold amounts of labor into her objects in order to create a surface that viscerally affects the viewer. By adding an obsessive, seemingly incongruous detailing into the overall copied designs, Jackson’s signs do not support the perceived structure of the originals à la Pop Art style celebrations of quotidian commercialism, nor are they slick appropriations of commercial language. Crafting the signs in leather reveals, in a painfully physical manner, the messages as commodified dreams stamped on the hides of animals.

The visceral leather works have been complemented in recent years by drawings and gouaches done in a style that mixes mid-century Social Realism and children ’s book illustrations. These works on paper, while aesthetically calling to mind proverbs, fables or cautionary tales, offer ambiguous scenes of militia men training in luxury mansions and animals morphing into topographical formations. The constant litany of uncomfortable psychic spaces in these works challenges the easy detachment, which the “us and them” moral certitude tries to provide. Instead, this better-living-through-design world apocalyptically documents the raging ethical undertow within commercial space that we ignore at our own risk. Jackson ’s practice collectively poses tough and damning questions of our complicity in commercial signage and brings to the surface the epic narrative of desire, fantasy, belonging, and otherness that the signs evoke within the viewer.

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EXHIBITION SUPPORT

Carol Jackson was supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

PRINT COLLATERAL

Postcard: Carol Jackson – Opening Reception

EXHIBITION ESSAY

Anthony Elms

Carol Jackson’s signs, sculptures, gouaches, and drawings use common, everyday styles to let loose the grandiose morality within the picturesque languages and visuals of advertising. The work and approach are nothing if not strikingly individualistic. Her work is a bitterly humorous send-up of the demands and promises commercial representations make for goods, be they detergent, food, or real estate. Long focusing on a series of meticulously hand-tooled leather reworkings of both store advertising and real estate development signage, Jackson replaces the found text with disdainful, mistrustful and self-deprecating thoughts that sales language represses.

In making her sculpture from a material—hand-tooled leather—with a craft or artisan tradition, Jackson dedicates untold amounts of labor into her objects to create a surface that viscerally affects the viewer.

Within the designs, flags and horses frolic through stripes, skulls litter a landscape like rocks, and Mack trucks are decorative details. By adding this obsessive, seemingly incongruous detailing into the overall copied designs, Jackson’s signs do not support the perceived structure of the originals à la Pop Art style celebrations of quotidian commercialism, nor are they slick appropriations of commercial language. Beginning with Alas (2002) and continuing into the newer signage, the texts are quotations from, or variations on, statements from epic literary tales, such as the Iliad. In all the latest works, these grandiose texts replace phrases such as “If you lived here, you’d be home by now” or “Balance: a satisfying state of proportion. Home: the soul center of your world” found on signs for new condominium development throughout the urban United States. The phrases and desires may change from the originals to Jackson’s versions; what remains is the heroic longing and promissory nature of the address. Crafting the signs in leather makes painfully physical the messages as commodified dreams stamped on the hides of animals.

The new sculptures, Zero Gazebo. Escape the Day and Ongoing, included here, are alternate narrative markers of, celebrations for, or medals given in honor of the hollow United States empire. These recent additions to her often unforgiving approach to materials and subject matter call forth the iconic methods and expressions we use to hope for a better ending. Within the folds and fringe hide bitter facts. Floats, awards, and memorial ribbons are about advertising a good solution. If, however, one sees the deployment of these materials as decorative dressing to hide the failure of our systems to meaningfully address problems (war, community, disease, compassion) directly, and if one believes that many segments of the country congratulate themselves profusely when the country is most troubled, then these sculptures are fitting monuments of our lingering in the mire.

The visceral craft of the leather works has been complemented in recent years by drawings and gouaches made in a style between mid-century Social Realism and children’s book illustration. These works on paper, while aesthetically calling to mind proverbs, fables, or cautionary tales, offer ambiguous scenes of morphing topographical formations and militia men training in luxury. For example, Cat offers the little kitty that could become an ant colony, a fairly enigmatic example of anthropomorphism; unless there is a more exacting term for ascribing animal characteristics to topographic forms and vice versa. Even more beguiling, the animal heads of Cat and Shark are not from live animals but from puppets or mascot costumes. We can feel in our gut that Jackson’s drawings are churning the moralist attitudes present in all children’s stories and cautionary tales. But it remains unclear what modes of behavior are under question and what is to be spurned, as Jackson does not offer, nor even imply, a narrative. Instead we are caught in a post-structuralist natural world born out of the human constructions of causality and culpability and transformation, absent any apparent performer.

The constant litany of uncomfortable psychic spaces in all of Jackson’s works challenge the easy detachment that “us and them” moral certitude tries to provide. Instead, this better-living-through-design world apocalyptically documents the raging ethical undertow within commercial space that we ignore at our own risk. Jackson’s practice collectively poses tough and damning questions of our complicity with commercial trappings and the epic narrative of desire, fantasy, belonging, and otherness they evoke.

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Anthony Elms, Carol Jackson, August, 2007.

This essay was distributed in the gallery during the run of the exhibition.

ARTIST BIOGRAPHY

Carol Jackson Head ShotCarol Jackson (born 1962) creates signs, sculptures, gouaches, and drawings using common, everyday styles to let loose the grandiose morality within the picturesque languages and visuals of advertising. Her work is a bitterly humorous send-up of the demands and promises commercial representations make for goods, be they detergent, food, or real estate. Jackson ’s practice collectively poses tough and damning questions of our complicity with commercial signs and the epic narrative of desire, fantasy, belonging, and otherness the signs evoke. Her exhibitions include solo exhibitions at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois and Changing Role-Move Over Gallery, Naples, Italy, as well as group exhibitions at the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago and the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago. Jackson received an Artadia Individual Artist Grant in 2002 and a Roger Brown Residency from School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006.

EXHIBITION CHECKLIST

Carol Jackson

Alas, 2002
Embossed leather, enamel, and encaustic, 29 x 41 in.

Arizona, 2006
Ink, gouache, and glitter on paper, 45 x 27 in.

California Mead Hall, 2007
Gouache on paper

Cat, 2002
Graphite on paper

Ceaseless, 2002
Embossed leather and enamel

Connecticut, 2007
Gouache on paper, 40 x 50 in.

Escape the Day, 2007
Embossed leather and fabric

First, 2007
Rawhide, boiled leather, upholstery nails, and wood, 98 x 64 in.

Florida, 2006
Gouache on paper, 37 x 50 in.

Graceful Words, 2004
Embossed cow and eel leather and enamel, 66 x 84 in.

In The Garden, 2006
Embossed leather, enamel, encaustic, and glitter, 52 x 29 in.

Many Wander, 2006
Embossed leather, enamel, encaustic, and glitter

Memorials, 2006
Embossed leather, enamel, encaustic, and glitter

Model, 2005
Embossed leather and encaustic

New Mexico, 2007
Gouache on paper, 20 x 42 in.

Ongoing, 2007
Leather

Shark, 2002
Graphite on paper

Slaughter, 2006
Embossed leather, enamel, encaustic, and glitter

Swarm, 2006
Embossed leather, enamel, encaustic, and glitter, 32 x 77 in.

Yosemite, 2007
Gouache on paper, 39 x 54 in.

Zero Gazebo, 2007
Embossed leather, enamel, and glitter

PRESS RELEASE

Carol Jackson

Gallery 400
Chicago, IL
August 28–October 6, 2007

Opening Reception: Wednesday, August 29, 2007, 5–8 pm

Gallery 400 will present an exhibition of new and recent works by Chicago-based artist Carol Jackson. Carol Jackson’s signs, sculptures, gouaches, and drawings use
common, everyday “signatureless” styles to let loose the grandiose morality within the picturesque languages and visuals of advertising. Her work is a bitterly humorous send-up of the demands and promises commercial representations make for goods, be they detergent, food, or real estate. Long focusing on a series of meticulously hand-tooled leather reworkings of both store advertising and real estate development signage, Jackson replaces the found text with disdainful, mistrustful, and self-depreciating thoughts that sales language represses. What remains is the epic longing and promissory nature of the address.

The visceral craft of the leather works has been complemented in recent years by drawings and gouaches made in a style between mid-century Social Realism and
children’s book illustration. These works on paper, while aesthetically calling to mind proverbs, fables, or cautionary tales, offer ambiguous scenes of animals morphing into topographical formations and militia men training in luxury mansions. Jackson’s practice collectively poses tough and damning questions of our complicity with commercial signs and the epic narrative of desire, fantasy, belonging, and otherness the signs evoke within us.

Her recent exhibitions include group exhibitions at the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, and the Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, and solo exhibitions at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, and Changing Role-Move Over Gallery, Naples, Italy. Jackson received an Artadia Individual Artist Grant in 2002 and a Roger Brown Residency from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2006.

Gallery 400 is part of the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Architecture and the Arts. Admission is FREE.

MEDIA COVERAGE

Artner, Alan G. “Jackson Has a Few Words for Modernism.” Chicago Tribune, Sept. 6, 2007.

Elms, Anthony, and Duncan MacKenzie. “Episode 114: Carol Jackson, Anthony Elms, and Jubilee City.” badatsports.com, Nov. 4, 2007.

Foumberg, Jason. “Carol Jackson.” frieze.com, Aug. 28, 2007.