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Jack Pierson at Regen Projects

Added by GF Wahlquist on March 16 2010, at 5:31 pm
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  • I've always had some trouble with Jack Pierson's work. It isn't that I don't like it; perhaps it's that I like it too much, in a painful sort of way. There's a beauty about it that could seem naive if it didn't also seem so sad, so aware of the passing of time and the way that ultimately brings ruin to things. In a weird way, it's not so much about beauty as it is about decay, about capturing things at that moment right before they start to fall apart.




    So I made a trek out to Regen Projects (yes, the journey from downtown LA to West Hollywood feels like a trek to me) to see an exhibition of Pierson's recent work entitled "Some Other Spring." Typical of Pierson's ouvre, there are works in photography, drawing, and mixed-media installation (those word sculpture-relief things that in my opinion, are the least interesting of his varied output). The show spells out even more so Pierson's concern with decay. Images of ancient sculpture and monuments (the pyramids, to be exact) juxtaposed with pictures of fire, of sunsets and sunrises, the turning of tides, etc. The images in themselves are probably not as thematically obvious as they are in installation. There are, of course, a few portraits, this time of what I assume is Pierson's significant other, looking young and beautiful, of course. In this show, the photographs are grouped with Pierson's found word collages, all of which seem to have something to do with the passing of time - "Some other spring", "a thousand years", "the moon", etc.









    I found the show surprisingly affecting, although I always seem to feel that way about Pierson's work - I go in expecting little, and leave feeling strangely moved. Maybe this says more about my own psychological make-up than about the work itself, that there's something about it which I'd like to dismiss because it seems too painful, "obvious" only because it represents something staring me in the face that I'd rather not look at, thank you very much, which leads me to another thought - if work whose surface is traditionally "beautiful" (forgive me, but I can't look at Pierson's "self portrait" series without feeling that it represents a sort of male beauty that's inaccessible to most of us) can also seem unbearable to look at, it must be doing something right.









    Which brings me, perhaps, to what I think Pierson's recent work might really be about: ageing. Pierson's work is often discussed as a species of queer art, and to me, ageing should be a natural topic for queer discourse, although it seems we're all much too afraid of it to ever get around to discussing it. The "gay community" (whatever that is) is completely obsessed with youth, as far as I can tell. Gay men at 30 are treated like straight men are at 50; beauty skews young. There's an immaturity and an inability in the gay community at large to address the process of ageing queerly that I find disturbing. Maybe it's because AIDS wiped out a particular generation of gay men; maybe it's because gay youth are commonly disavowed by their elders and authority figures; regardless, I find the situation rather sad. (Side note: did anybody else see Tom Ford's adaptation of "A Single Man"? Why does the male lead look twenty years younger than I pictured him when I read the book?)




    If Pierson's work, then, is queer (and as such speaks to a queer community about queer issues), it is so in its attention to the way that beauty is ruined in time, that pleasure is transitory, and that glamour is a sham. It's a necessary corrective to a key point of oversight.




    (Postscript: Check out images from this show at http://regenprojects.com . Unfortunately, I couldn't pull any of the images I was talking about directly from the gallery's website, so you'll just have to explore for yourself!)


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