Ward Jackson: Black & White Diamonds 1960s

Ward Jackson, Homage to JFK, 1963, Acrylic on canvas, 34 x 34 inches diagonal, MINUS SPACE

Ward Jackson, Homage to JFK, 1963
Acrylic on canvas, 34 x 34 inches diagonal

September 12 – October 25, 2014

MINUS SPACE is delighted to present the exhibition Ward Jackson: Black & White Diamonds 1960s. This is the late New York painter’s first exhibition with the gallery and the first to focus exclusively on his black and white paintings and drawings from the 1960s.

In the early 1960s, inspired by the work of painters Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers, Ward Jackson moved away from the gestural style that marked his paintings during the previous decade and began to develop his signature, hard-edged geometric compositions arranged on diamond-formatted canvases. Limiting himself primarily to vertical and horizontal lines and shapes, Jackson began a life-long investigation into the notions of austerity, duality, symmetry, balance, pattern, and perception, all with a breathtaking range of transcendental effects.

About his work at the time, Jackson writes, “The diamond shape (or square on end) has the meditative power of a mandala and expands in a way that an ordinary square does not, since the measurement of the diameter across the center is wider than any of the outer or peripheral edges.” He continues, “Most of the diamond paintings have a vertical emphasis or rising energy expressing an outer as well as inner architecture, transmitting transcendental feeling through pure plastic elements. I have attempted to embody in my work an inner order that could express my most concentrated ideas.”

Jackson’s black and white diamond paintings were first exhibited at the Kaymar Gallery, NYC in 1964 in the pivotal exhibition Eleven Artists. The exhibition was organized by Dan Flavin and brought together for the first time artists identified with the emerging Minimalism movement, what critic Brian O’Doherty of The New York Times termed “the avant-garde deadpans“. The exhibition featured Jackson’s work alongside artists Jo Baer, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, Larry Poons, Robert Ryman, Frank Stella, and others.

A color catalog will accompany the exhibition and will include essays by critic Eleanor Heartney and artists Julian Jackson and Rene Lynch.

Ward Jackson (b. 1928 Petersburg, VA; d. 2004 New York, NY) studied painting at the Richmond Polytechnic Institute of the College of William and Mary, now Virginia Commonwealth University, earning his Master’s Degree in 1952. As a student, he began to correspond with Guggenheim curator Hilla Rebay, which would eventually lead to his long tenure with the museum. Following graduation Jackson spent a summer studying with Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, MA, before finally settling in New York City in the autumn of 1952. Jackson’s work as a student had attracted the attention of Park Avenue Cubist and critic George L. K. Morris who invited him to participate in an American Abstract Artists (AAA) exhibition in 1949 at the Riverside Museum, NYC. Morris, a founding member of the prestigious AAA, took Jackson under his wing and the two developed a close collegial relationship, which lasted until Morris’ untimely death in 1975. In 1976, Jackson was inducted into AAA and for many years served as the group’s secretary.

During his lifetime, Jackson exhibited widely throughout the United States, as well as in Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Spain and Japan. Highlights include solo exhibitions in the 1960s and 1970s at the Graham Gallery, French and Company Gallery, and the short lived, but seminal, John Daniels Gallery, which was founded by Dan Graham and David Herbert (all NYC). As the winner of two Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowships, Jackson had two solo exhibitions at the museum during the 1970s. In the 1980s and 1990s, Jackson developed an active career in Europe with numerous solo exhibitions in Germany, including at the Kunsthalle Bremen, Museum Morsbroich (Leverkusen), and Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum (Duisburg).

Posthumously his work was included in the 2004 Guggenheim Museum exhibition Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present. In 2007, he was the subject of a comprehensive memorial retrospective Ward Jackson: A Life in Painting at Metaphor Contemporary Art in Brooklyn, NY, which included a catalog featuring an essay by Stephen Westfall and a panel discussion with Westfall, Jed Perl, Phong Bui and Matthew Deleget. In 2013, Jackson was prominently featured in the article The Hard-Edge Sign by Stephen Westfall published in Art in America magazine. The article traced the history and development of geometric hard-edged painting in the United States and included a large-scale reproduction of one of Jackson’s River Series paintings.

Jackson’s paintings and drawings can be found in numerous public collections, including The National Museum of American Art Smithsonian (Washington, DC); Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Brooklyn Museum (all NYC); San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art (San Francisco, CA); Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (Waltham, MA); Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond, VA); British Museum (London, UK); and Kunsthalle Bremen, Museum Morsbruch, Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum (all Germany).

Also of note, in 1969, Jackson joined forces with publisher Roger Peskin and Guggenheim staff photographer Paul Katz to found the experimental folio publication ART NOW New York. The venture paired loose prints of art works recently exhibited in the galleries with brief original statements solicited from the artists. Over a four-year period, ART NOW New York published the work of well over one hundred of the period’s most significant figures, from Jasper Johns to Brice Marden, Louise Bourgeois to Robert Smithson. ART NOW gradually developed into the ubiquitous and well-known ART NOW Gallery Guide, for which Jackson served as advisory editor until 1998.

DUMBO Arts Festival 2014 Indoor Highlights, October 28, 2014
Ward Jackson: Black & White Diamonds, James Kalm Report, October 18, 2014
Seen in New York, September 2014, by Paul Corio, Abstract Critical, October 3, 2014