Richard Jackson, a book, and my brother (a favorite post brought forward on July 31) (and again on Feb 21, 2013)

(August 27, Parkfield) The edge of Richard Jackson “Deer Beer,” 1998 Galerie Hauser & Wirth, Octagon Press

(August 27, Parkfield) It occured to me that I might photograph the perimeter of the book

(August 27, Parkfield) and thereby capture its contents.

As is often the case, my plan became a struggle to learn my tool – for this project I had an i-Phone 4 camera

which, I learn, wants to focus on what it recognizes – in this case the text, rather than the book’s edge. (I use what tools and materials I have at hand. Together these inform the work and shape my ideas.)

(August 27, Parkfield) At the inn by the pool, as with the preceding and following photographs,

or maybe it was on Sunday, August 28th? Now I wonder… The temperature was 105 that day, and I drank a lot of beer.

Pressed, our text is, between my chest and my belly: my brother’s book, my hand, and my body, in David’s shirt – there is more to be done with books, my friends, than simply to read words on pages.

The catalog is inscribed by the artist with drawings of a deer head and a beer bottle. I cannot read the name. “Dear x” it says, “Thanks for all your support.” A cupid heart surrounds the head and the beer.

Finally a crisp picture of the lovely pages. This was my original intent in picking up the camera and approaching this object – to capture the nature of this area of a book. I like better what has happened. So much for original intent.

I wonder whether Richard Jackson’s use of a pale yellow Ford Pinto in his 1996 action-sculpture-painting-installation Painting with Two Balls has any reference to Jason Rhoades 1994 piece, Swedish Erotica and Fiero Parts?

I understand that the older artist was a mentor to Rhoades, and that Rhoades, as a much lionized young artist, championed Jackson’s work. So there is an acknowledged connection between the artists. The catalog’s writing on Two Balls doesn’t mention Rhoades’ Fiero, in the discussion among Jackson, Alberta Mayo and Hanz-Ulrich Obrist Two Balls is presented as a response to Jasper Johns’ painting of the same name. (For what it’s worth may I point out that Jackson’s balls are much the bigger of the pair?)

Richard Jackson, Painting with Two Balls, 1997 Ford Pinto, Metall, Holz, Leinwand, Acrylfarbe, 609,6 x 109,3 x 609,6 cm „Holderbank”, Kunstausstellung Holderbank, Schweiz (page 131)

Richard Jackson, Painting with Two Balls, 1997 Ford Pinto, Metall, Holz, Leinwand, Acrylfarbe, 609,6 x 109,3 x 609,6 cm „Holderbank”, Kunstausstellung Holderbank, Schweiz (page 131)

Before I go too much further, I want to offer you a few helpful Richard Jackson links. You may have found these on your own, and already know them, if so this is much to your credit. If you haven’t ever watched any of these videos then I recommend that you do so now, especially if you are, or want to be, an artist. Much is the casual good advice that Jackson offers in his reflections.

[Richard Jackson on Painting with Two Balls (1987-1988) [ed.note – this Jackson refers to as the “romantic” version] from the exhibition RICHARD JACKSON INSTALLATIONS 1970-1988 at The Menil Collection, Houston]

Another video that I find (but for which I cannot offer you the above pretty embed, so you’ll need to follow this link) is “Richard Jackson, Painting with Two Balls (1996)” in the artist’s studio, at the 4th Biennal in Lyon, and at the Kunstausstelung in Holderbank.

(The Manitoba Museum of Finds Art hosts this and many more art videos on a Myspace page. Total fab fun.)

(And who are the MMFA? Among the treasures are a video titled “Richard and Ron skinning a buck,” a Nuttaphol Ma video, an Ed Ruscha video and more.  MMFA I think I love you.)

But back to that second video. In a cinematic way this short film takes one through what must have been curator Harald Szeeman’s process of discovery: seeing the piece first in the artist’s studio and being charmed and amazed, then through its installation at the Biennal in Lyon where Richard Jackson poured gallons of paint on his balls, climbed in the open hatchback of his sideways-mounted Pinto, and ran the engine – spraying paint “all over the painting, the balls and every fucking thing” to quote the artist. In the final section (good god stay around for this!!!) the nice people at the Manitoba Museum add the music of Vangelis from Chariots of Fire. How audacious and crazy is that?! You will squeal and love this manipulation of your emotions. You will cheer our hero, Richard Jackson. Finally you will laugh at the entire adventure and at your part in it. Yay. Plus, the Swiss present this object and performance in a highly clinical fashion. Jackson must have had a part in this – men in crispy white coveralls looking like NASA clean room workers, shiny ladders, great stuff.


Richard Jackson, Painting with Two Balls, 1997 Ford Pinto, Metall, Holz, Leinwand, Acrylfarbe, 609,6 x 109,3 x 609,6 cm „Holderbank”, Kunstausstellung Holderbank, Schweiz (back cover)

Richard Jackson, Painting with Two Balls, 1997 Ford Pinto, Metall, Holz, Leinwand, Acrylfarbe, 609,6 x 109,3 x 609,6 cm „Holderbank”, Kunstausstellung Holderbank, Schweiz (back cover)

My older brother Mike loaned this book to me some six or seven years ago. Or rather, Mike brought the book with him to my house when he visited and, in that way that family members have, he left it for me to look at. Time went by, and I never returned it. (“Hey Mike – I’ll be done with the book soon, I promise.”)

Deer Beer has become a sort of totem to me for my older brother. Seeing Richard Jackson’s book around my house connects me to Mike even though we’re – well we’re not estranged really, our relationship is more like an archipelago. My brothers and sister and I are close and are very aware of each other, but there is a bit of ocean around each of us. This bit grows and shrinks with the slow tide of our lives.

You see, my brother is friendly with Richard Jackson. They go hunting together, they drink beer, they camp. As I understand it, Mike built Jackson’s studio, as well as the studios of other important and famous artists. (My brother is a carpenter by calling, formerly as a trade and now as a hobby.) Richard Jackson’s 1998 catalog is the point where our worlds, Mike’s and mine, cross and meet. Because of this meeting of worlds I’m recently finding myself faced with young artists who furrow their brows at me and ask, “Are you Mike Tuck’s brother? I worked with that guy in Richard Jackson’s studio. He’s cool!” Given my presumption of remove this is unsettling, yet also very thrilling – I am proud of my big brother, with his skilled hands and easy way with people, and I am proud that I look good in his eyes for my accomplishments in the art world.

Each of the several times Mike has talked with me about Richard Jackson, he has mentioned seeing 1000 Clocks at MOCA in 1992. Mike’s face lights up and he gets a far away, story-telling look in his eyes, “I walked in, Geoff, and on every wall and on the ceiling were clocks, (now Mike is gesturing, as though pointing out these clocks to me) each one ticking, each keeping exact and exactly the same time. Click, click, click…” As he finishes with the “clicks,” my brother trains his eyes on mine, driving home the magnificence he saw and the mind-altering amazement that he felt at that time in 1992, and still feels today. My brother has a wizard’s probing grey-green eyes and rather heavy brows. While powerful, his gaze is also gentle, and when he holds me in it I cannot and I do not want to look away.

Quoting briefly from Richard Jackson in Deer Beer, pages 19 and 21. (By the way, I find that the catalog Richard Jackson “Deer Beer” is available from Hauser & Wirth, follow link to publications page.)

For me it is important to make it all by myself because I don’t have a lot of good ideas and I think most artists don’t. Executing the idea is another way for me to think of the next project. The labor is another element in the work, the amount and the scale can also be overwhelming. “1000 Clocks,” which was one of the later big ideas… people weren’t aware at all that I made every single clock. It is part of my reaction to the 1980s when art became so corporate and so collective rather than an individual activity. I am not as much interested in what a group of people can do in as much as an individual can do on their own. It is easy to have ideals when you are twenty years old but the job is to maintain them in the face of temptation.

And later, in response to a question from Alberta Mayo about Jackson’s transition from thinking about time in his work to using clocks in the work,

Yes, however, the other event is thinking about turning fifty and thinking about time from that perspective. So there’s “1000 Clocks,” a piece involving time made over a period of time documenting the process. The piece took five years (1987 – 1992) to make and, as the others, was all done by myself. It’s a piece about spending time, making time and thinking about time.

We spent the afternoon by the salt water pool in the remarkable town of Parkfield. The V6 Ranch, from whom we rent a bunkhouse for our visits, is isolated and beautiful for it and each detail is attended to with the care that an artist might bring – everything fits, even the salt water pool and jacuzzi, without detracting from the honesty of the experience. While we were at the pool, and in between my photographing sessions with the book, a young friend named Sean, who is native to the small town, regaled us with tales of hunting pigs in an unusual and alarmingly romantic sounding fashion. He sort of acted it out for us, his skin and bathing suit wet from a recent back-flip into the pool, a beer held in one hand and his imagined home-made fighting tool (a spear) in the other – laughing and chugging, pulling back and pressing forward, until he and his… friends (dogs – an “ass” dog and a “head” dog) ultimately prevail over the mythical-seeming wild and angry 400 lb beast.

I share with you curator and catalog essayist Harald Szeeman’s observations on Richard Jackson as a hunter and as an artist.

¹ Edward Kienholz „Für Richard Jackson” in: Katalog Galerie Maeght, Zürich, Juni bis Juli 1981

Big Ideas – 1000 Pictures, 1980 is pictured, or rather I have re-pictured the image in Deer Beer, below. God bless Rosamund Felsen. This exhibition was thirty-one years ago.

To me these images present our hero as a young stormtrooper for a pure art, having just assembled and ascended the mountain of his early triumph and now gazing upon us from above, like, well, Apollo on Olympus or maybe Prometheus on his mountain.

In the evening, when we returned to Blue Oak Camp, I switched from quaffing beers to sipping Parkfield-modified Manhattans for cocktail hour: pour any rye or bourbon, add sweet vermouth, rocks, two cherries and a squeeze and twist of lemon, stir and enjoy with cooling air and the sound of bees, cows and birds in the surrounding hills.

At the big outdoor table I had my insight about yellow cars and I figured our how I could begin writing about Richard Jackson and compiling the many photos and videos I had just made. Life is good when I can remind myself to find a first question and then to bring in whatever connection to the art that I have, even a very personal and seemingly extraneous one.


Part of any trip to Parkfield is the path that we take. Our route changes every time as there are many highways between Los Angeles and this central valley in the middle of our state. For this late August trip we drove over the Grapevine then turned left at Hwy 166, spending our first night in Maricopa and visiting nearby McKittrick at dawn. What remains of my family have many mystical tales of my paternal grandfather wildcatting for oil in this region, and each time I visit I commune with his spirit and with my fathers spirit. They are both long gone and they did, as we all eventually must, leave many questions behind. As David drives and as we walk I wonder and I think and I remember and the landscape feels very much like home to me, it is lovely and barren and marked with pumps and wells; it is exploited and forgotten and men may note of it only what they can make use of but the land remains, and when attention is paid it amazes with its beauty and generosity.

We continued north on Hwy 33 to Coalinga, and then back down and west on the 198, a narrow, windy and precipitous ascent then decline into the beautiful Peach Tree Valley and finally, through San Miguel and on to Parkfield. Over the past twenty-four hours we had driven nearly 400 miles to arrive 190 miles from home. Along the way we cast off everything but our five senses and the moments we were to spend there together, and on this trip, the moments we were to spend with Richard Jackson and with my brother.

Richard Jackson, The Little Girls Room, is opening at David Kordansky Gallery this coming Saturday, September 10. I note on the Kordansky Gallery site that Dave has expanded to a second gallery and that his roster shows him to have hoovered up several otherwise under-supported art superstars. Good work Dave!

If, as recent art world press claims, the torch is passing at legendary Pace Gallery, perhaps some of Mr. Pace’s magic is traveling across the country to Los Angeles and to this and to several other galleries who are creatively repositioning long admired artists and igniting their careers.  Susanne Vielmetter comes to mind as fitting in this category, and Overduin and Kite in the past have had several exhibitions with artists who haven’t been properly presented over the years.

I hasten to remind you that if you contact Kunstgriff Bookshop, the publication representatives for Galerie Hauser & Wirth at this page, you may – and indeed you should – purchase Richard Jackson Deer Beer.

By visiting the H & W website, I find that Mara McCarthy is curating for their Zürich space an exhibition titled The Historical Box. Opening Friday, November 18. Congratulations to Mara McCarthy!!! I imagine the title refers to McCarthy’s space The Box in Chinatown. (Speaking of galleries that have presented great historical and contemporary work!!! Yay to our modest museum in Chinatown, The Box.)

It should be an exciting season all over the place! Oh, life is good.

Geoff Tuck

(post script on July 31, 2012: of course Jackson had his show at Kordansky, it was a grand and beautiful success and life goes on… what remains important for me in this piece is the personal story of my relationships with my brother and family, and what i find valuable to share here are feelings I struggle to express that are largely universal. pulling this forward is a way of touching base, of maintaining a through-line from the past to my future. we all have these things, pasts and a future. cheers for august.)

(another post script on February 22, 2013: late last night i pulled this up again to read, in view of Richard Jackson’s retrospective at OCMA, This is one of my favorite posts. Maybe I’ll pull it to the front every year….)


  1. Hello-

    I read your blog daily, always intringued and pleased. I have noticed your trips up through the back roads of the central valley. This post mentioning Maricopa put it all together. I am a native of Taft, CA. I must say that I have never seen that area look so romantic. I grew up always wanting to leave and felt I must be in hell. I haven’t been back in over 10 yrs. Your photos were a delight and allowed me to see it anew. Thanks for that. Keep it up, love your blog.

  2. It has just occurred to me, while watching again Alberta Mayo’s video with the Vangelis music, that Richard Jackson has not made “a” Painting with Two Balls, rather he has made a “Painting” with two balls. Using two balls. Verb, not noun. Now I need to consider each of his works in this active sense. I feel this sort of buzz (of activity rather than display) at Kordansky while walking around The Little Girl’s Room. Any thoughts?

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