Going to Matthew Day Jackson’s studio was surely a different experience than the rest of the visits. His studio is very large and he was work all around—from huge sculpture to furniture. He is clearly working on many things at once. The artist was humorous, candid, and strategic about the way he talked about his work. He was very friendly, but appeared slightly distant, perhaps not as approachable as some of the other artists we have visited this semester. I found his process to be very influential, however and found myself in awe in how he was able to discuss the conceptual side of his work in such an extravagant manner.
Matthew was able to talk about the impact of the materials he uses, specifically Formica. Formica is a durable material often used to make wall surfaces, tabletops and other items. Matthew uses the material in unique ways. He told the story of how when he was working abroad, he met someone who introduced him to the material. Although I found it challenging to follow the story completely, I did appreciate the distance and trials he went through to ensure that he found the perfect material for his work. He seems to be rather invested in making a statement with his work, and finding materials that echo this notion seems to make a lot of sense to me.
He seems to pay attention to reexamining art history as well. This is true with many foundations and museums as well. For example, the opening of the new MOMA aims to open the dialogue among marginalized artists. Matthew Day Jackson seems to bring an ominous and politically charged rediscovery of topics in art history, now most presently, the floral works modeled after Dutch paintings. I admire how he is able to bring familiar works to a new forefront. The works seem very detailed and to me felt very eerie and uncomfortable, although still decorative and visually appealing.
In the afternoon we visited different galleries. I really liked Rashid Johnson’s work at Hauser & Wirth. Johnson works to investigate and reexamine body movements in space. He featured large scale mosaic works as well as a film in the back of the gallery. There was also a large sculpture that appeared to be a face or a mask, with a plant extending out from it. This work was featured towards the middle of the gallery.
Johnson has said that many of the themes he works to investigate are escapism, the individual, the existential and philosophical questions that we face on a daily basis. He also works to examine political injustice and racial tensions in our world.
While I was walking through the gallery I heard potential buyers discussing Johnson’s work. The potential buyer was thinking about where one of the pieces would look good in her house and how she did not want one piece because it was too small. While I understood the buyers’ genuine interest in the pieces, it made me think about the value of art and how a price is put on a work. The exchange felt somewhat superficial and strange to me. I found it hard to think about how much intimate details the artist presented about his life and the struggles he faces. I can imagine how laborious the process is and how hard he works to present the exhibition. The exchange with the buyers seemed strange in contrast to thinking about the artist’s process. The commercial and financial side of art seems to be something I continuously find difficult to wrap my head around.
(image courtesy of Matthew Day Jackson, https://www.artsy.net/)