Whoever said there are no accidents in art obviously never heard of Richard Jackson. On a clear Sunday afternoon in a field southeast of Pasadena's Rose Bowl, the 72-year-old artist literally launched his newest work of art: a flight-based performance piece that examines the nature, trajectory, scale and end result of the creative process, as well as its aftermath. But for most onlookers at the free outdoor spectacle (part of PST's Performance and Public Art Festival), all they saw was a large, remote-controlled airplane filled with paint crashing into a giant canvas, aka Accidents in Abstract Painting.
The broken plane fragments, distressed canvas and bright stains are now part of Jackson's raw material, because it's all about to be included in an upcoming exhibition at the Armory, also titled Accidents in Abstract Painting. The fallout complements Jackson's installation The War Room, featuring huge, boob-eyed fiberglass ducks, not unlike one that sold at auction in 2007 for $62,500. The whole thing appears to be a commentary on the absurdity of war, but knowing Richard Jackson, it all goes much deeper than that.
A California native, Jackson has a background in engineering and sculpture, and though his work often appears whimsical on the surface, it's actually conceptual at the core. Take the name, Accidents in Abstract Painting. Is it an oxymoron, redundant or both? While abstract art often looks accidental, the process behind it isn't, and sometimes, it's the so-called “flight path” an artist takes that's just as abstract as the art itself (and often, just as accidental).
Even though the performance component of Accidents in Abstract Painting obviously took a lot of planning, the art that came as a result was accidental: nobody knew how things would look once the plane crashed into the canvas, or even if the plane would be able to take off at all. But in the end, the debris isn't really what matters: it's the entire process that's important, from painting the airplane to rearranging the rubble into a new work of art.
Richard Jackson's Accidents in Abstract Painting performance drew a crowd of a few hundred fidgety kids, dogs, and eager adults — some of them there to support the arts, but most of them there to see a plane crash.
Apparently a replica of an A-10 “warthog,” the plane waited to be launched into the air.
A team moved the mini-jet out into the wet field of the Rose Bowl's H lot, and shortly after 4:00 p.m., an air horn sounded. For a minute, it looked like the plane was about to take off — then it didn't. The crowd groaned. “I have a feeling this is going to be a big dud,” remarked one spectator. “Soon it's going to be dark and they won't be able to do anything.”
The team set off to make another attempt to get the plane airborne, and to the cheers of a delighted crowd (and the second sound of an air horn), the aircraft finally took off.
It buzzed around above, emitting a sound not unlike a swarm of mosquitoes, then crashed into the giant canvas.
The crowd rushed to investigate the wreckage, which will be reassembled into Accidents in Abstract Painting, the Armory, opening February 11 and on view through June 10 at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena.