The archive: Jack Pierson’s billboard paintings

In the early days of digital imagery, the most challenging aspect of the new medium for artists was output. Back in the late 1990s, most labs were equipped with small printers (11 x 17 inches), but oversize prints that could compete with the scale of paintings were costly and the inks were not archival, fading within months, which flattened prospects for selling or collecting. Companies like Nash Editions began retrofitting Epson printers to use archival inks, but size was still an issue. Jack Pierson began working with companies that used the same acrylic spray technologies to print billboard images on vinyl in creating a series of large-scale images based on his photographs. Sprayed on canvas and stretched like paintings, the images, which look like a particularly obsessive form of pointillism, are on view at Maccarone through March 14.

[Image at top: Jack Pierson, Stardust #1, 2001, acrylic lacquer on canvas, 73 x 95 inches.
Courtesy of the artist, Maccarone, New York and Cheim & Read, New York.]

Jack Pierson, Wednesday 25th of April, 2001, acrylic lacquer on canvas, 93 1/4 x 71 7/8 inches.

Made between 1997-2002, Pierson’s mechanically-produced canvases, verging on abstraction, nimbly push the boundary between photography and painting. According to the press release,

Pierson once stated that “photography is nostalgia,” and all of the works on view tap into this interest in memory and loss. Whether close-ups of skin, snippets of wildlife, or reflective aquatic surfaces, the paintings memorialize a certain melancholic moodiness. Pierson is a master of using ordinary scenes to stir up loneliness and desire.

The paintings, many of which have never been shown before, also evoke an agitated nostalgia for an unhappy era in which photography, installation, and video overwhelmed painting. Hard to believe, but there was a time, not so long ago, when precious few wanted to look at oil or acrylic on canvas.

Jack Pierson: Paintings,” Maccarone, West Village, New York, NY. Through March 14, 2015.


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