Oliver Lee Jackson, No. 5, 2018, oil-based paints on panel
Oliver Lee Jackson, No. 3 (5.7.17), 2017, oil-based paints, mixed media on canvas
Oliver Lee Jackson, No. 2 (3.6.15), 2015, applied linen, felt, chalk and alkyd on canvas
Oliver Lee Jackson, Painting (1.9.09), 2009, oil-based pigments on linen
Oliver Lee Jackson, No. 4 (2.13.18), 2018, oil and mixed media on canvas
Oliver Lee Jackson, Painting (11.24.10), 2010, watercolors on canvas
Oliver Lee Jackson, Painting (11.30.10), 2010, water-based and metallic paint on canvas
Oliver Lee Jackson, Painting (1.26.11), 2011, water-based paint, acrylic paint and enamel paint on canvas
Oliver Lee Jackson, Painting (5.78-1), 1978, enamel paint on canvas
Oliver Lee Jackson, Painting (12.3.10), 2010, water-based paints on canvas
Oliver Lee Jackson, Painting No. 3, 2014, oil-based pigments on gessoed panel
Oliver Lee Jackson, Painting No. 5 (5.10.14), oil-based pigments on gessoed panel
Oliver Lee Jackson, Tapesty No. 1, 2011, linen, cotton canvas, mixed media.
Oliver Lee Jackson, Composite (9.28.12), 2012, intaglio, mixed media on paper
Malin Gallery East at Hangman is pleased to present a selection of work by Oliver Lee Jackson. Based in Oakland, the 85-year-old artist has pursued his singular artistic vision for over five decades. The National Gallery, Washington presented a critically-lauded solo exhibition of Jackson’s recent paintings in 2019, and the St. Louis Art Museum will present a year-long solo retrospective of his work in 2020.
Born in 1935, Oliver Lee Jackson initially emerged in the late 1960s in St. Louis, where he was closely affiliated with the Black Artists Group (BAG). Although the milieu around BAG was suffused with socio-political exigencies, Jackson strove to engage viewers on the most intimate, profound terms, asserting that, “The responsibility of the artist is to give back — not a reflection, but a sense of clarity about the spiritual state.” He aimed for directness that could beguile and provoke viewers in a manner unmediated by historicity, theory or circumstance:
Can you see?
Can you bear witness — not interpret — can you bear witness?
People always ask…”Who is this for?”
It’s for anybody that’s got eyes.
“Well, is it for your people?”
Anybody that’s got eyes…
Having now entered his sixth decade as an artist, Jackson maintains his endeavor with a preternatural degree of vitality and radical openness. His formative experiences with BAG remain critical touchtones, with the aesthetics of avant-garde music and dance persisting as animating forces. Beyond the elements of his work that may be seen as visual correlates of jazz, dance or African rhythms lie deeper undercurrents that flow through Jackson’s work: a celebration of the transformative potential of art and a continual striving towards transcendence.
In describing his approach to art, Jackson frequently invokes the terms power and fierceness. Jackson’s avowed intention is for his art to serve as a conduit to archetypal spaces outside of the physical realm of material, form and line. Rather than pre-ordained pathways or closed forms, Jackson sees his artworks as points of departure, intending to make work that can “get past the eyes” and facilitate a “vision beyond.” Jackson’s agenda is predicated neither on formalism nor narration. Rather, he invites viewers to step into their own dreams.
Although allusions to human form are elements that recur throughout Jackson’s body of work, he eschews characterization as a figurative painter. The bodily forms evident in his work, Jackson insists, are “paint people” who are defined by their materiality and whose “anatomy” exists only “in the paint.” Though his visual elements may seem superficially familiar, the power and fierceness of Jackson’s images derives from their ultimate ineffability:
Look, painting is not a verbal language - it bypasses understanding…it is pure modality — it is about states of being. And paintings have a certain force, and they cut into you in certain places within your spirituality.