BAHM: 2.1.17 Oliver Lee Jackson
Oliver Lee Jackson, age 81, is an Oakland-based artist, working in painting, sculpture and printmaking and an important figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1960s. He also worked with the Black Artists Group of St. Louis from 68-72 where he collaborated with experimental jazz musician Julius Hemphill and initiated Program Uhuru teaching art programs to low-income African American families at the Pruitt-Igoe housing project. He has taught in St. Louis and at Cal State Sacramento where he was instrumental to introducing Pan-African Studies to the curriculum.
Artists of color, working with abstraction in the later part of the 20th century, found themselves at odds with the sentiment that black art should represent and elevate black life and a black aesthetic, in a more figurative style (ie. a realistic depiction of people and things). More generally, Jackson’s work complicates our understanding of Abstract Expressionism, a movement dominated by white, male artists, as a truly universal expression of experience, detached from personal identity and immune to identity politics. Abstract Expressionism and Formalism more generally, are rooted in a, “departure from the limitations imposed by the body” (Queering Post-Black Art, Derek Conrad Murray) and I suggest that Jackson’s work elevates black cultural production without that value being placed on the black body but through the complexities of form and process.
Jackson’s work, Untitled (8.10.92), is a part of the permanent collection of San Diego Contemporary Art Museum and is featured in Dimensions of Black: A Collaboration with the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art, on view until April 30th. Jackson’s work will also be featured in an upcoming show at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, Oliver Jackson: Painting, Sculpture and Works on Paper 1984-2014 from March 11 - June 4th, 2017.
BAMPFA exhibition 1983
CAM St. Louis exhibition 2012