Richard Jackson (b. 1939, USA) is a contemporary artist influenced by abstract expressionism and action painting. Jackson studied Engineering at Sacramento State College from 1959 to 1961 where he was first introduced to art as he drew process layouts by hand. He did not finish his intended university studies and instead pursued his fascination with art. By the early 60s, he was helping run an art gallery at California State University in Sacramento. Through the California art community he met figures such as Ed Kienholz and Bruce Nauman, the latter becoming Jackson’s roommate and close life-long friend. Despite being surrounded by canonized modernist figures, Jackson worked for the majority of his career in construction, carpentry and taught sculpture at UCLA in Los Angeles before his work received any recognition.

“The thing that appealed to me the most was there were all these people involved in art and nobody was really making a living out of it at the time. It made me curious what kept them going without any financial rewards.”*

Richard Jackson, Old Painting 70 Old Space 07, 2007

Inspired by abstract expressionist and pop artists such as Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns, Jackson’s work further pushes the boundaries of painting conventions. His works are often tightly bound to the space they occupy. In 2010, Jackson was the subject of a solo exhibition at the rennie museum where several of his site-specific ‘wall paintings’ were constructed.The process in creating these works, such as Old Painting 70 Old Space 07 (2007), required Jackson to add thick masses of paint onto canvases that were directly pressed onto the museum walls. The canvases were then dragged in semi-circular rotations revealing a colourful trace of paint. As a painter, Jackson works with a variety of mediums that extend outside the limitations of a canvas to portray the painterly practice and the different manners in which painting can develop.

Richard Jackson, Five Glass Heads, 2010

His process-oriented and, arguably, performative practice requires his own body to extend outside of the traditional act of painting. His installations, often physically grueling to create, are considerable feats of labour and engineering. Jackson prefers to be involved in every aspect of the art making, stating that he is more interested in the potential of a singular individual than that of a group. The work becomes a whimsical documentation of how Jackson enjoys to spends his time in the world.

I don’t like artwork, but I like art work.”*

His signature artistic gesture is expressed by the materiality of the medium itself. Jackson’s works, such as the series Five Glass Heads (2010), are ‘activated’ when the direct hand of the artist is revealed through the uncontrolled, splattered application of the paint. Subsequently, the majority of Jackson’s oeuvre is imbued with an ephemerality that challenges the viewers assumptions of the permanency of art collecting. There is a rejection of the commerciality of art in Jackson’s work. Many of Jackson’s ‘wall paintings’ or ‘painting sculptures’ remain in their site-specific spaces and collectors must commit themselves to Jackson’s work as it cannot be easily transferred to a new location. In this manner, Jackson challenges the commodification of art as decoration.

Jackson is currently the subject of the retrospective Big Ideas: Richard Jackson’s Alleged Paintings on view at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California. He currently lives and works in Sierra Madre, California.

*Quote from the publication Richard Jackson: Deer Beer (1998). Page 16. Published by Hauser & Wirth Gallery, Octagon, Oktagon.

*Quote from the publication Richard Jackson: Accidents in Abstract Painting, The Armory (2012). Page 16. Published by Armory Press, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena.