Oliver Lee Jackson: Composed Works from 1984 to 2016
March 11 – June 4, 2017
Oliver Lee Jackson regards an empty canvas, an untouched slab of marble, or a blank sheet of paper as an energy field with which he freely collaborates. The works in Oliver Lee Jackson: Composed, Works from 1984 to 2016 reveal the signature figural elements that Jackson has consistently insinuated into the work: figures that rise, float or fall; entwined lovers or reclining dreamers; figures that appear to dance or play; and figures that come together in circles or clusters. While these gestural forms have been a persistent means by which Jackson activates the canvas, the marble or the paper, their function has nothing to do with a narrative. Jackson’s intent is not to tell us a story.
Along with the figural elements, he may include a cascade of flowers, a flurry of birds, hats or shoes. As you look at these works, you will find that the imagery does not stand still: what might at first be seen as space or illumination surrounding a form will suddenly reveal another figure. For Jackson, the positioning and gestures of the figures are meant to lead the viewer’s eye, and define an ambiguous space that pulses in a constant state of flux, as figural imagery and field merge into and arise out of each other. Whether at monumental or intimate scale, Jackson’s works draw us in, and provoke in us an experience that is meant to be personal — which may be one of recognition, comfort, ambivalence or even unease. Jackson aims to make works that invite us to become lost in an experience of looking.
Jackson’s career spans more than five decades and the paintings, sculptures, drawings, constructions and artist’s books included in Composed represent more than 30 years of output, from the mid-1980s to recently completed works and highlight Jackson’s mastery as a composer, a colorist, and a craftsman. Jackson has had solo exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Crocker Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and others; and group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Museo do Arte Moderno, Rio de Janeiro; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and many others. He was Professor of Art at California State University, Sacramento from 1971 to 2002, and has served as an Artist-in-Residence or visiting artist at numerous institutions in the United States and Europe. Jackson lives and works in Oakland, California.