Ward Jackson 1928-2004: A Survey of Five Decades, David Richard Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM

St. Martin (for Jasper Johns), 1983
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches in painted wood shadow box frame


January 6 – February 18, 2012

Ward Jackson was born and grew up in Petersburg, Virginia. He studied painting at the Richmond Polytechnic Institute of the College of William and Mary, now Virginia Commonwealth University, earning his Master’s Degree there in 1952. While still in school Jackson began the correspondence with Guggenheim curator Hilla Rebay that would eventually lead to his long tenure with that institution. In a series of letters he sent drawings to her for comment and received critique and encouragement. Following graduation Jackson spent a summer studying under Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, Mass., settling in New York in the autumn of that year. Jackson’s student work had already attracted the attention of painter and critic George L.K. Morris who invited him to contribute to an American Abstract Artist annual exhibition in 1949. Morris, a founding member of the AAA, took Jackson under his wing and the two developed a close collegial relationship which lasted until Morris’ death in 1975. Jackson later was invited to join the group and was for many years its recording secretary.

Ward Jackson had his first solo exhibition in NYC at the Fleischman Gallery in 1956. In the early 60’s, inspired by the work of senior painters like Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers, Jackson moved away from the gestural style that had marked his work of the ’50’s, developing his signature style of austere, hard edged geometric compositions on square and diamond shaped canvases. In 1964 he showed a group of black and white diamonds in an important exhibition at the Kay Mar Gallery that included such figures as Jo Baer, Dan Flavin, Don Judd, Sol Lewitt, Robert Ryman, and Frank Stella, and which marked a pivotal moment in the early development of minimalism. For the rest of his life Jackson expanded upon this personal and rigorous approach to abstraction, developing his ideas in the hundreds of 4 x 6 inch “drawing books” that he always carried with him.

Ward Jackson continued to exhibit widely in NYC and throughout the United States as well as in exhibitions in Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, and Japan. Some of the high lights of his career were solo exhibitions in the late 1960’s and 1970’s at the Graham Gallery, NYC, French and Company Gallery, NYC, and the short lived but seminal John Daniels Gallery, (founded by Dan Graham and David Herbert), NYC, and the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisberg. As winner of two Virginia Museum of Fine Arts fellowships; Ward Jackson had two solo exhibitions at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts during the 1970’s. In the 1980’s into the 90’s, Ward Jackson developed an active career in Europe with numerous solo exhibitions in Germany, in Berlin at Galerie Adlung & Kaiser, at the Kunsthalle Bremen, the Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, and the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg. He continued to have a foothold in the New York art world throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, with regular exhibitions at the John Woodward and Marilyn Pearl galleries in Soho.

Posthumously his work has been championed, by Lisa Dennison who included his painting in the 2004 Guggenheim Museum exhibition; Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present. In 2007 Ward Jackson had a comprehensive memorial retrospective at Metaphor Contemporary Art in Brooklyn NY, which included a catalog with an essay by Stephen Westfall and a panel discussion with Westfall, Jed Perl, Phong Bui, and Matthew Deleget. The show received several good reviews and was immortalized in a you-tube virtual tour with his artist nephew; Julian Jackson by the James Kalm Report. An informative interview about Ward Jackson’s work and life is available at the Minus Space blog: Ward Jackson – Heat at the Edges, A Conversation with Julian Jackson, by Matthew Deleget In 2008 Gary Snyder included Ward Jackson’s paintings in “New American Abstraction 1960 – 1975” at his gallery in NYC. Gary Synder and David Richard Contemporary in Santa Fe, included Ward Jackson in “1960s Revisited” in the 2010 exhibition and catalog in Santa Fe where Jackson’s work was singled out in a favorable review. David Richard Contemporary is now representing Ward Jackson’s work.

His paintings and drawings can be found in numerous public collections including; The National Museum of American Art Smithsonian, Washington, D.C., Museum of Modern Art, NY, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, N.Y., The Brooklyn Museum of Art, N.Y., San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art, CA, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University MA, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, Va., Edward Albee Collection, British Museum, London, and in Germany at the Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, the Museum Morsbruch, Leverkusen, the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg.

In addition to his long career as a painter, Jackson was the archivist and the director of the viewing program at the Guggenheim Museum for nearly 40 years. Two visible legacies from this long involvement is the remarkable group of photographs that Jackson curated from the archives on permanent display in the cafe of that Museum illustrating the history of the Museum and its’ associated artists, and an art work in the Guggenheim collection by Dan Flavin dedicated to Ward Jackson and commemorating their time working at that museum together. In 1969 Jackson joined forces with publisher Roger Peskin and staff photographer Paul Katz to found an experimental folio publication, ART NOW New York. This interesting venture paired loose 8 1/2 x 11 inch prints of art works recently exhibited in the galleries with brief statements solicited from the artists. Over a four year run ART NOW New York published the work of well over a hundred of the most significant figures of that period, from Jasper Johns and Brice Marden, to Louise Bourgeois and Robert Smithson. ART NOW gradually developed into the ubiquitous and well known ART NOW Gallery Guide for which he served as advisory editor until 1998.

Widely known for his encyclopedic knowledge of art and artists, Ward Jackson was an active, opinionated, and informed participant in the New York art world that he so loved. He passed away in February of 2004.

– Julian Jackson / Rene Lynch