Richard Jackson: A painter who has been asking “What if…?” since the 1970s

In images of his retrospective at the Orange County Museum, Los Angeles artist Richard Jackson (b. 1939) looks like a pretty frisky, indefatigable painter, inspired by icons of art history from Jacques-Louis David and Edgar Degas to Conceptual artists like Sol LeWitt and Bruce Nauman. Puns and one-liners abound in a sprawling exhibition comprising ambitious work from the past forty years.

Richard Jackson, Reconstruction of Untitled (Maze for Eugenia Butler Gallery, Los Angeles),
2013, oil and pencil on paper, 108 x 240 x 240 inches. Collection of
Alison Terbell Nikitopoulos and Dimitris E. Nikitopoulos. Installation
at Orange County Museum of Art. Photo: � Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA.

1970 at the Eugenia Butler Gallery in LA, Jackson created a 20 x 20 foot
enclosure out of stretched canvas that he painted by sliding other wet
canvases through it. The painting installation transformed illusionistic
space into architectural space, and turned viewing a painting into an
all-encompassing, time-based experience. The show at OCMA includes a
recreation of this seminal piece, which opened endless possibilities and
changed the way Jackson thought about painting.

In the LA Times, Christopher Knight tries to recount all the ways Jackson uses paint. “Thick, brightly colored paint oozes like mortar from between
thousands of canvases stacked like bricks into a kind of room-size
temple, and it’s smeared in rainbows that unfurl across white walls. It’s shot from a pellet gun at a big drawing and out of the rear ends of
carousel animals toward spinning canvases and sculptures on surrounding
walls. Paint is pumped through neon tubing that spells out the show’s title,
clogging illumination, and into a bathtub copied from one where a hero
of the French Revolution was ignominiously murdered. It has dripped from
glass models of human heads, oozed from squashed metal models of a
ballerina and spewed from a hose wielded by a sculpture of a reclining
nude glimpsed, voyeur-like, through the crack in a barely opened window.
It puddles on pedestals and the floor….This is the only museum exhibition I’ve seen that posts a sign at the
entry warning visitors not to touch the art for the specific reason that
the paint might not be dry.”

Richard Jackson, Painting with Two Balls,
1997, Ford Pinto, metal, wood, canvas, acrylic paint, 20 x 36 x 20
feet. Photo: � Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA. 
In Painting with Two Balls, Jackson outdoes Jasper Johns�1960 critique of abstract expressionism by rigging a Ford Pinto to power two large spinning balls that spew paint. Watch Jackson crank the Pinto in this video.

Richard Jackson, 5050 Stacked Paintings, 1980�2013, Wood, plywood, corrugated board, crayon, pencil, cardboard, glue, approx. 10 x 30 x 15 feet. Installation at Orange County Museum of Art. Photo: � Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA.
Conceived in 1980, 5050 Stacked Paintings comprises thousands of stretched canvases painted and stacked facedown to create a big sculpture that references the Minimalist forms of Donald Judd. Both glue and image, the paint is reduced to one idea repeated over and over again–a critique of the stylistic conventions and branding embraced by many artists at the expense of experimentation.

Richard Jackson, 1000 Clocks, 1987-1992 (detail), steel, aluminum, electric parts, fluorescent lights, oil paint, plastic, 141 � x 432 � x 360 � inches. Hauser &  Wirth Collection, Switzerland. Photo: � Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA. 
Unlike all the other installations, this piece, made when Jackson turned fifty, has no paint. Just walls of ticking clocks, all set for the same time.

Richard Jackson, La Grande Jatte (after Georges Seurat), 1992-, oil and graphite on canvas, 11 x 16.5 feet. Rennie Collection, Vancouver, Photo: SITE Photography, Vancouver. Image courtesy Rennie Collection, Vancouver. 
Considered incomplete, this painting is made with a pellet gun. Jackson dips the pellets into paint and fires them at the canvas–creating an even more labor-intensive process than Seurat had devised.

Richard Jackson, La Grande Jatte (after Georges Seurat), 1992- (detail), oil and graphite on canvas, 11 x 16.5 feet. Rennie Collection, Vancouver, Photo: SITE Photography, Vancouver. Image courtesy Rennie Collection, Vancouver

Richard Jackson, The Blue Room, 2011, fiberglass, steel, wood, formica, urethane paint, acrylic, paint, canvas, wig, motor, rubber and control panel, 175 x 175 x 108 inches. Rubell Family Collection, Miami, Photo: � Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA. Note: any reproduction must include “Rubell Family Collection, Miami” below the image. 
Remeber Picasso�s 1901 painting,  The Blue Room (The Tub)? Jackson does. In this 3-dimensional environment, he replaces Picasso�s girlfriend Blanche from the original painting with a sculpture of the Eve Babitz taken from that famous photograph of her playing chess with Marcel Duchamp.
Richard Jackson, Bad Dog, 2013, Fiber reinforced composite skin and steel, approx. 336 x 384 inches. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo: � Grant Mudford. Image courtesy the artist and OCMA.
Lolz. Dog peeing paint on the museum riffs on the pissing dogs Banksy (or a Banksyish artist)  painted around LA in 2011.

Richard Jackson, Ballerina, 2009, Bronze, wood, acrylic paint, fabric, Edition 2 of 3, 60 x 30 x 40 in

Rennie Collection, Vancouver, Photo: � Grant Mudford. Image courtesy the artist and OCMA.

Edgar Degas’s ballerina meets CSI.

Richard Jackson, Untitled (Project for Orange County), 2013, Canvas, wood, acrylic paint. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: � Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA. 
Jackson paints the front of the canvases and then uses them as “brushes” to create the mural.

Richard Jackson, Ain�t Painting a Pain, 2012, neon and acrylic paint, Approx. 72 x 120 inches. Courtesy of the artist. 
Riffing on Bruce Nauman’s neon pieces, Jackson pumped paint into the neon tubing, clogging the lights.

Richard Jackson, The Laundry Room (Death of Marat), 2009, acrylic paint, metal, wood, linoleum, aqua resin, plastic, fabric, computer, washing machine, 3.9 x 18.7 x 18.7 feet. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: � Grant Mudford; Image courtesy the artist and OCMA
Uncharacteristically political, The Laudry Room is a 3-dimensional recreation of David�s 1793 painting. Jackson attempts to link the French Reign of Terror to the American war on terror. 

At KCET, Carolina Miranda fills in some personal details. “Given the rather extreme nature of his painting — he’ll use a Ford
Pinto as a painting tool — Richard Jackson, is a decidedly low-key
guy, He is soft-spoken and clear-eyed, with a penchant
for wry jokes. It is the week before the opening of his show at OCMA,
only the second museum survey of his work ever held (the first was at
the Menil Collection, in Houston, in 1988). But Jackson appears
remarkably relaxed, cruising through the galleries in a set of
paint-splattered overalls. For an artist who doesn’t like to revisit
past works, but instead likes to destroy them, the retrospective feels
out of character. ‘Awful,’ he says with a grin. ‘It’s like going to the

“When you take part in an activity or are involved in a process, something can go wrong, and that’s when it gets interesting,” Jackson said after his 1988 retrospective at the Menil Collection in Houston. “It’s not interesting if everything is going well.”

Yes, I have to agree. The best stories are about things gone wrong.

“Richard Jackson: Ain�t Painting a Pain,” curated by Dennis Szakacs. Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA. Through May5, 2013. Traveling to Museum Villa St�ck in M�nich,
July 25�October 13, 2013; and S.M.A.K. Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent, Belgium,
February 28�June 29 2014. A 350-page, full-color catalogue with essays by Dennis Szakacs, John C.
Welchman, Michael Darling, Jeffrey Weiss, and Hans Ulrich Obristis available.

For readers in LA on March 21:
Third Thursday: Hard Work, Richard Jackson, and the Artistic Process
6�8 pm: Free with paid admission
Public tour of Richard Jackson’s Deer Beer (1998) followed by panel discussion at 7 pm with
artist Richard Jackson, curator Paul Schimmel, catalog essayist John Welchman, and UCLA art historian George Baker. Discussion to encompass how post-studio practices have changed the way artists make work, the idea of self-reliance, and the way artists maintain control over their practice.


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  1. Jackson has very interesting work, in particular the installation 1000 Clocks. The sheer grandeur of some of his sculptures leave me in awe. This has been a very well laid synopsis of Jackson's work; great job Mrs.Butler.

  2. Richard has come along way since living with Bruce Nauman at Wally Hopps house in Pasadena

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