Dale Jackson at White Columns presents a significant selection from the Cincinnati-based artist’s extensive body of work for his first New York exhibition. Brimming with a disarming sincerity and candor, Jackson’s imaginative missives are a breath of fresh air. Throughout the main gallery is an immersive installation of Jackson’s marker drawings, in excess of one hundred works, on brightly colored sheets of poster board. Inherent in this presentation is the proposition to ignore the most intuitively significant aspects of the show; it isn’t intended as a large-scale series of neon rectangles. It’s quite likely color is incidental to Jackson and even more likely that the sequence within the grid is entirely incidental. Instead, the starting point for this exhibition is the content as described by White Columns:
Typically completed in a single sitting, Jackson’s sequential drawings present a fragmentary, staccato-like form of storytelling where aspects of his daily life intersect with remembered scenes from movies and television shows or song lyrics. Despite being created as sequential works (e.g. each successive sheet in a multi-part work is identified as ‘Page 1’, ‘Page 2’, etc.) the individual drawings invariably close with the words ‘The End’, suggesting that each ‘text’ might be considered as an autonomous statement.
Endearing yet disorienting, Jackson’s writing can be difficult to penetrate. Investing time in the space and parsing the poetic, fragmented passages is rewarded with particular moments that summon vivid flashes of imagery. In Jackson's emblematic collaging of pop culture and invented phrases, there’s the sense of a deep relationship to hip hop (although his writing is not overtly similar to rapping) and consequently the incorporation of similar language devices in unfamiliar ways. Jackson’s “2009 LINCOLN TOWN CAR LIMOUSINE SIX DOOR HARDTOP” parallels Rick Ross’ echoing of “Aston Martin Music”, but abstract of an overt appeal to status. Jackson’s is a more nuanced evocation of culture - an elusive quality specific to his identity, but undoubtedly coherent. Similar in effect, Jackson repeatedly references various types of shoes that he wears, “THAT WAS MY HOUSE SLIPPERS I HAD ON LAST THURSDAY” and “MY FEET WAS MADE FOR NIKE TENNIS SHOES.” This comparison provides a good perspective from which to interpret the effortless narrative that unfolds from a stream of fragmented, yet often connected ideas. As “Make you remember how to smile good” rises out of the flow in Chance the Rapper’s “Blessings (Reprise)”, Jackson’s visual moments are a crescendo, emerging on page 2 of 10:
2009 LINCOLN TOWN CAR LIMOUSINE SIX DOOR
HARD TOP THE YEAR OF 1986 DARK SKIN GUYS -
DRIVING DOWN MITCHELL AVENUE WITH NO -
SHIRT ON A GUY AT THE CORNER -
GOT THE 47 WINTON TERRACE SOAKING
WET ON THE BACK OF HIS NECK -
WEARING SANDLES ON HIS FEET-
BIG HEAD NELSON FROM -
METRO WONDER WHERE HE AT -
The unmistakable visual aspects of Jackon’s hand-written text and physicality of his process become successful linguistic constructs. Mechanisms typical to typography design are instinctively employed, such as variations in the size of his distinct capital letters, leading, and kerning, as well as visual cues employed by poets, such as dashes and line breaks. In Jackson’s deftly intuitive drawings, these devices are reinvented and combined with those of his own invention to become a robust and fearless engagement with written language.
Jackson’s choice of paper size accommodates an arm's length scale, the writing surface resting reasonably within reach as the artist sits or stands in front of it. The scale of the text provides generous room for large, bold handwriting articulated at the elbow and wrist rather than at the fingers. Consequently, variations in size and density are consistently expressive as smaller text is fit in, larger letters and broader spaces between lines seek (or rise to) a conclusion as they progress toward the writer's body and the close edge of the paper.
Jackson has been actively making art for over ten years, which initially began as customizing his sneakers and baseball caps, and then progressed to covering his apartment with his daily writings on the vibrant poster board purchased from Kroger. Over the past few years, he has completed hundreds of text-based drawings. Jackson has maintained a regular practice at the progressive art studio Visionaries + Voices in Cincinnati since he began attending in 2003.
Visionaries + Voices’ Skip Cullen elaborates on Jackson’s process in the studio:
He comes in once a week for a few hours before work; he has been working full-time at Kroger for years. The short time that he is in the studio (1-3 hours), he creates 10-20 drawings at once and without reference material. Everything comes from his memory, which as you can see from the work, often focuses on common themes of motown, the beatles, classic cars, movies, and daytime television shows. His work is aesthetically very powerful at a cursory glance, incorporating the messaging techniques of a handmade sign with vibrant color. Once you get past the immediacy of the message, there is a slowing down that occurs in looking at the sentence structures bend and make unique spacings and alterations. The references mixed together create a honest and humorous look at how we filter information around us in the world.
Dale Jackson is a Cincinnati-based artist who has shown previously at Visionaries + Voices, Thunder-Sky, and the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati. Upcoming exhibitions include a reading at Chase Public in Cincinnati and Rob Tufnel Gallery in London, where his work will be exhibited alongside Dieter Roth’s Daily Mirror Book. Dale Jackson at White Columns is on view through October 22.