BAHM: 2.16.17 Jason Patterson
Jason Patterson is an Illinois based artist who creates portraits using soft pastel, charcoal and extensive historical research of visual media. He approaches his work from the perspective of an historian, tracing the impact of visual imagery on the, “African American condition, experience(s) & narative.” Several pieces have textual elements and pages of books hanging from the frames or tacked to the canvas itself. Patterson notes his layering of historical accuracy as a conceptual aspect of his work, resulting in a transfer of recorded subject matter from photograph to drawing. His work challenges the inherent truthfulness of photographs, using them beyond mere source reference, and to the point of actually recreating the photograph as an object. This becomes most poignant in a series of three drawings depicting the video recording of Rodney King being beaten by LAPD officers in 1991, accompanied with testimonials taken from the first Rodney King trial in which he was described in peak physical condition. The blurriness of the video recording speaks to the amount of trust invested in visual imagery, not to mention witness testimonial. In another series, Partus Sequitor Ventrum, Patterson addresses the history of black women in the Americas.
In his recreation of the deteriorating surfaces of old daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, Patterson emphasizes the photographic image as an object. Many of the portraits depict enslaved black women, stated in descriptive titles like, Drawing after an ambrotype of an enslaved African American woman called Louisa, holding H. E. Hayward. Taken by unknown photographer or studio. ca. 1858 Missouri History Museum - Photography & Prints Collection. The ‘objectness’ of the image itself, of the depiction of a woman who was considered, at the time, a piece of property, speaks to the ability of portraiture, “as an art form [to play] out technologies of power.” (Slavery and the Possibilities of Portraiture by Marcia Pointon) Slave portraiture has been a popular subject of scholarly research, it’s inherent contradictions, and it’s readdress in contemporary art as a “traces of memory” and a form of “visual encoding.” Patterson’s work brings up an intriguing question; do the images emphasize the ‘objectness’ of the subject, or elevate them from their intended status as ethnographic record? Their resurfacing as pastel drawing imbues them with new recognition, salvaged from forgotten historical record where they can now serve as a reminder of the integral role black women have played in weaving the fabric of society.
Interview with Strange Fire Collective
Interview and Studio Visit with Smile Politely