Magazine article Artforum International

Matthew Day Jackson: Nicole Klagsbrun/Peter Blum

Magazine article Artforum International

Matthew Day Jackson: Nicole Klagsbrun/Peter Blum

Article excerpt

Any exhibition that name-checks Jorge Luis Borges while explicitly quoting a list of artists including Goya, Bierstadt, Brancusi, Buckminster Fuller, Bruce Nauman, and Charles Ray would seem all but fated to read as a hopelessly derivative muddle. Yet Matthew Day Jackson's recent project rarely felt like simple epigonism. (And make no mistake: While it was split into two independently titled shows, each in its own Chelsea gallery, this was unmistakably one project.) In fact, it rarely felt like simple anything--rummaging through the histories of culture and society, looking for fungible commodities on which to build his unorthodox meditations on belief and mortality, Jackson engineered a physically sprawling and intellectually complex twofer that more often than not lived up to its considerable ambitions.

The project was divided so that primarily two-dimensional work appeared at Klagsbrun and three-dimensional work at Blum, but there were countless conceptual and formal echoes between the spaces. The Klagsbrun portion of the show--a dozen elegant, wall-based constructions of framed original and found images--was called "Drawings from Tlon," after Borges's classic tale "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius." In the story, an inexplicable surplus entry in an old encyclopedia leads the narrator (Borges) to discover a world created through the collective imagination of a "secret society" of interdisciplinary thinkers, a journey from the page to the object--from thought to thing--that found clear parallels in Jackson's project.

Concerned primarily with exploring cracks in systems of belief--sociopolitical, scientific, religious, aesthetic--and the way in which artistic gestures can function alternately as bridge or wedge in these fissures, Jackson deployed a canny eye for meaning-laden appropriational juxtapositions. Utopia and its discontents were vivid, if not always nuanced, in Jackson's 2-D structures: A sequence of poster images of the Tower of Babel, that familiar symbol of collectivism gone awry, has been built into Jackson's Brancusian Endless Column (all works 2008); the Art Workers Coalition's famous My Lai protest poster connects via a Flavinesque fluorescent tube to an inverted image of a floating (sinking?) astronaut in And Babies? And Babies. The body as analogue and symptom of a larger dystopian environment was a similarly recurring thread. …

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