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Wendy Bowman | Photo: Courtesy Images | February 28, 2013
It’s been 12 years in the making, and OCMA’s most ambitious exhibition is now showing.
It was while in Zurich, touring the Hauser & Wirth galleries and art storage facility back in 2006, that Orange County Museum of Art Director Dennis Szakacs discovered the work of Richard Jackson (an artist from his own backyard) and was so moved by the creations that he set out to organize a retrospective. It took several years to put it all together—collaborating with Jackson, tracking down loans of works (most of which are in European collections), and compiling and producing the first major scholarly publication chronicling the artist’s work. But the effort paid off, and the first retrospective devoted to one of the most radical artists of the past 40 years has materialized. It’s the most ambitious installation the museum has ever attempted, and it’s on view through May 5. Titled Ain’t Painting a Pain, it showcases 65 works, many of which have never been shown in the U.S. The display features 11 large-scale room installations conceived between 1970 and 2011, including wall paintings, painted environments, monumental stacked canvases and anthropomorphic painting machines. These are accompanied by more than 150 related preparatory drawings, works on paper, models and a large-scale outdoor piece.
It’s a rare opportunity to see works by a seminal American artist better known in Europe than the U.S. There are wildly irreverent machines, including one that shoots paint out of large spinning balls onto an old Ford Pinto (“Painting With Two Balls”). There’s “1000 Clocks,” a nod to the artist’s 50th birthday. And “5050 Stacked Paintings,” a project conceived in 1980, is made up of 5,050 canvases, stacked to create an enormous sculpture. And, to mark the occasion of his first retrospective, Jackson has crafted “Bad Dog,” a 28-foot-tall puppy that will mark his territory with a one-time spray of white paint on the side of the museum building. “There are generations of artists and art lovers who’ve never seen a Richard Jackson wall painting or painted environment because he was doing most of those in the ’70s and ’80s,” Szakacs says. “Richard helped set the tone for much of the most important art to emerge out of Los Angeles in the ’80s and ’90s, where scale, ambition and… a rebellious attitude really kind of defined the theme and came to typify L.A. art.”
Many museums shy away from showing Jackson’s work because of its large, complicated, messy and radical nature. The installations take a wealth of material, labor and effort to produce, and usually are so site-specific they are destroyed at the conclusion of the show. “We’re far more interested in the unconventional than the conventional, and the extraordinary rather than the ordinary, and in the radical rather than the mainstream,” Szakacs says. “Richard embodies all of that. I hope people will smile... scratch their heads. And I hope they’ll giggle with delight because I think Richard’s work really has that kind of impact on people.” 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach, 949.759.1122, ocma.net