Greasepaint, cigarette smoke, and mirrors set the stage for longing
“Down? Tired? Depressed? (you may be elegible),” 2003, charcoal wall drawing.
The new show by Jack Pierson evokes a feeling of melancholy tinged with black humor. This begins with a small charcoal drawing high over the desk of a little rain cloud, “The Little White Cloud that Cried, 2003.”
In the exhibition’s front room exhibition are two works that read as one. The tableau, “A Vignette Contrived of Various Objects Depicting the Artist in His Fortieth Year, 2003,” consists of assorted objects that function as a sort of stage set while the word piece “To Youth, 2003” is a work in Pierson’s signature style––words spelled out in assorted letters in various sizes and fonts from defunct signage. This work functions as a kind of dedication, an allusion to lost youth in a room that allows the viewer to ponder what it all means.
As the viewer enters the main gallery, he climbs two stairs onto what turns out to be an empty stage, “How It Feels, 2003.” The tune “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” combined with the sound of fading applause is played on a loop. The inevitable Judy Garland association leaves a certain aura of tragedy hanging in the air.
In this second tableau, the viewer now becomes the performer.
On the wall, stage right, are five large images of roses, “A Rose, 2003 I-V.” Alternately sculpted from mixed media and drawn in charcoal, the roses are shown falling, as if thrown post-performance.
Off the stage to the left is the sculpture “Ode to Limelight, 2003.” This piece is essentially an outsized dressing room table. On the table are theatrical greasepaint, powders, a spent cigarette pack, and an ashtray from Joe Allen. The viewer either sees himself in the mirror or the looking glass is empty, leaving a melancholy feeling that is truly all smoke and mirrors.
There is a single standout piece in the small gallery, a charcoal wall drawing, “Down? Tired? Depressed? (you may be eligible), 2003,” which could function as an arch advertisement for anti-depressants. Here the questionable draftsmanship matches the text perfectly. The other text pieces are wry and cynical, adding narrative while the small inferior paintings seem to function basically as commerce.
The show’s overall effect is more than the sum of its parts. It reminded me of the melodramas “Sunset Boulevard” and “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” The feeling evoked is that of longing––for times past and missed opportunities, as well as the dimming of the stage lights as the applause fades away