Magazine article Artforum International

Matthew Day Jackson

Magazine article Artforum International

Matthew Day Jackson

Article excerpt

Matthew Day Jackson aims high: life, death, presence, absence, the A-bomb. Like Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons, he's a go-for-the-glory kind of artist, less interested in gray subtleties than in absolutes, extremes, and what literary critics used to call "the great tradition," the canon-building heights of art's capacities. Where his contemporaries, in dealing with history, might lean toward Foucauldian deconstruction or the view from below, Jackson tends to opt for big events: Hiroshima, the moon landing, the death of Philippe Pot (a pretty big event, apparently, in Renaissance France). In dealing with current experience, he goes in for drag racing, which, in Chariot II--I Like America and America Likes Me, 2008-10, he dares to set level with religion by outfitting a Corvette with a stained glass window. The car gets electrical power from solar panels, which might seem to nudge its gratuitous expenditures of energy toward political correctness. With Jackson, though, the idea seems less likely to be any practical or moral constraint than the unlimited potential of harnessing the power of the sun.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It's all rather boy, rather golly-Mr.-Science, except that it's so deeply shadowed by death. A photograph of a corpse in a burlap bag is titled Me, Dead at 36, 2010, and that car in Chariot II is rebuilt from one that crashed. Meanwhile the show's tour de force, installed alone in the gallery's downtown space, is a tomb, or a modern version of one, based on a work in the Louvre. In that remarkable stone sculpture, from the fifteenth century, eight black-robed men bear the body of Philippe Pot, a Burgundian nobleman of the time. Jackson replaces the mourners with space-suited astronauts--their helmets modern versions of the deep hoods veiling the faces of their models--and recasts the bier they carry as a high-tech coffin of stainless steel and mirrored glass holding a skeletal corpse made up of anomalous scraps: casts from the artist's own body, a tree root, one of the molded-plywood splints that Charles and Ray Eames designed during "World War II. What is at first most arresting in the mourning figures is their fabrication out of plastic and compressed wood carved by a computer-controlled lathe, so that the surface here undulates like skin, there is terraced like a hillside in China, there again evokes butcher block or marquetry--a bravura display of finishes and effects. …

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