THE SUBLIMINAL IS NOW
NOVEMBER 3 - DECEMBER 23, 2016
OPENING RECEPTION NOVEMBER 3, 6 – 8 PM
Tilton Gallery is delighted to present our first solo exhibition of work by Tomashi Jackson. A reception for the artist will be held Thursday, November 3, 6 to 8 pm. The exhibition will be on view until December 23, 2016.
The Subliminal is Now investigates color as a vehicle for painting, complex narrative, and emotion around a nexus of materiality, figuration, and light. This body of work interrogates the subliminal impact of color perception on the value of human life in public space. Color operates as projection, reflection and obstruction, as both subliminal and sublime. Catalyzed by an interest in the history of school desegregation in the United States, against a contemporary backdrop of explicitly illustrated dehumanization of Black people and specifically Black children, Jackson’s research is the narrative framework from which her own language of abstraction emerges.
Jackson’s process began in 2014 with an investigation of court transcripts of the five cases of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the landmark Supreme Court case argued and won by the legal team led by then attorney Thurgood Marshall in 1954, and the color problem exercises of Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color, published in 1963. She discovered similar terms used to describe established and challenged rules of color interaction, both chromatic and societal: boundaries, mixing, purity, contrast, value, and optical illusions. Both Marshall and Albers concluded that the perception of color is relative and that what a viewer perceives a color to be is determined by the color nearest to it. From here, the artist sought to use these findings as metaphors for her material investigations in paint, knitting and video, embedding issues of public concern into her production.
Jackson’s video collages are extensions of her paintings and layer color and texture with still and animated imagery, offering subliminal glimpses of historic and contemporary events in which the value of human life has been aggressively questioned. In this way striking moments of violence, human rights advocacy, and the optical phenomenon of color interaction become enmeshed. Knitted color studies wrap bodies and obstruct identities of living figures as they merge into color fields and landscape scenes, creating tableaux vivants referencing past and present. When draped or stretched over wood supports, the knitted color studies function as sculptures.
The works on paper utilize compositions captured from the video collages that are presented as photographs and monoprints. In them the recognizable figure reemerges as central in the narrative painting space. For Jackson, the body is always present even when it is not overtly illustrated. In these works the implications of bodies and the law come together. Many of the paintings are made of large pieces of painted and collaged gauze, thin and translucent, most often used for repairing injured flesh. They hang from rods that position the works away from the wall. When flooded with natural or artificial light, the paintings evoke stained glass, immersing the body of the viewer with their scale. Printmaking details occur throughout these works, weaving photo documentation of Brown related cases with current day digital imagery from comparable scenes of modern American life.
The Subliminal is Now references the visual experience of the sublime that is addressed by Barnett Newman in his essay, “The Sublime is Now,” published in The Tiger’s Eye Magazine in 1948. Newman posited that the sublime is sought through the production of painting itself, free from an idealized European figure for the expression of majestic beauty. Jackson shares with Newman the belief that abstraction is a vehicle for intellectual content, that art is inherently political, and potentially transformative. When visualizing the disorienting present day experiences of racist policies, brutality, and domestic terror that so closely mirror those of the postwar era of the United States, Jackson looks to science fiction author Octavia E. Butler’s description of her own work as a “Grim Fantasy,” in which reality is indeed stranger than fiction.
Tomashi Jackson, b. 1980 in Houston, TX, is an artist working across disciplines exploring the relativity of color through the language of painting. She received her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University School of Art in 2016. She earned her Master of Science in Art, Culture and Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture and Planning in 2012, and her BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 2010. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions and currently teaches drawing at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston. Jackson lives and works in New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts.