A life-size animatronic sculpture, (Female figure) combines film, installation, and performance in the form of a curvaceous, scantily clad woman covered in dirt marks and wearing a witch mask. Dancing before a mirror, (Female figure) intensifies the focus on the gaze which is found throughout Wolfson’s work. While her general demeanor recalls Holli Would, the comic strip femme fatale played by Kim Basinger in the 1992 film Cool World, her body language is complemented by facial recognition software that enables direct eye contact with the viewer, as well as a monologue narrated by the artist. Wolfson pulls intuitively from the world of advertising, the internet, and technology to produce ambitious and enigmatic narratives; his works often feature animated characters he has invented in order to provoke and explore a certain kind of viewing experience.
"I’d been thinking a lot about the viewer, and also thinking about sculpture, formally," Wolfson told the Los Angeles Times after it was announced that The Broad had acquired (Female figure); "I was mostly just interested in the physicality of what I’d seen in the animatronic field, and I was also interested in making a sculpture that had the potential to be chronological or structural in the same way a video is. My hope is that the work dips in and out of spectacle." He added, "I’m honored that my work will be on display in the city it was created in."
Cover Image: Jordan Wolfson, (Female figure), 2014
May 3–August 26, 2018
The inaugural London presentation of Jordan Wolfson’s Colored sculpture (2016) took place in the Tanks at Tate Modern. The work was first shown at David Zwirner in New York in 2016 before traveling later that year to LUMA Arles and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and is co-produced by Sadie Coles HQ, London.
Featuring a boyish animatronic figure reminiscent of literary and pop cultural characters such as Huckleberry Finn, Howdy Doody, and Alfred E. Neuman, the mascot of Mad magazine, the work is suspended with heavy chains from a large mechanized gantry, which is programmed to choreograph its movements. The sheer physicality of this installation, which includes the work being hoisted and thrown forcefully to the ground, viscerally blurs the distinction between figuration and abstraction, while furthering the formal and narrative possibilities of sculpture.
"I realized very early on that it wasn’t just the figure that was the sculpture: it was a total sculpture, where the chain was just as much a character as the boy," Wolfson explained in an interview with Beatrix Ruf for Kaleidoscope in 2016; "It wasn’t just the boy being controlled by the chains; it was also about the chains having a relationship to the sculptural figure. Both elements were equally sculptural; what was important was looking at the entire artwork compositionally. . . . Every decision I made in making this artwork, I didn’t ask myself intellectually, I asked myself intuitively and physically, what did I feel more for? Did I feel more for it being shiny or matte? Did I feel for more speed in a violent scene or for less? Did I feel more for it having red hair or orange hair? Should it have color, or should it be monochrome? What felt more? What do I feel more? . . . That was really my compass."
Image: Installation view, Jordan Wolfson, David Zwirner, New York, 2016
March 17–June 11, 2017
Jordan Wolfson's virtual reality work Real violence (2017) was presented for the first time in the 2017 Whitney Biennial curated by Mia Locks and Christopher Lew.
Wolfson pulls intuitively from contemporary technology, advertising, and digital culture to produce ambitious and enigmatic narratives that often feature animated characters. Real violence reflects the artist's interest in states of interaction between the viewer and the work, in particular as they are activated by the gaze.
This was the 78th edition of the biennial and the first to be held at the Whitney Museum building on Gansevoort Street in lower Manhattan.
MANIC / LOVE / TRUTH / LOVE
JORDAN WOLFSON: MANIC / LOVE / TRUTH / LOVE presented major works spanning several years of the artist's practice in a two-part exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam—Wolfson's first solo exhibition in The Netherlands.
The first part, MANIC/LOVE, featured Wolfson’s most recent large scale animatronic installation Colored sculpture (2016), whose red hair, freckles, and boyish look draw associations with such literary and pop cultural characters as Huckleberry Finn and Howdy Doody. Highly polished in appearance and featuring facial recognition technology in its eyes, the work is suspended with heavy chains from a large mechanized gantry, which is programmed to choreograph its movements. MANIC/LOVE also included a selection of wall-mounted digital paintings and video works including Raspberry Poser (2012).
The second part of the exhibition, TRUTH/LOVE, featured Wolfson's animatronic sculpture Female figure (2014), which was first presented at David Zwirner in New York in 2014 in the artist's debut exhibition with the gallery. The sculpture combines film, installation, and performance in the figure of a woman dancing and wearing a witch mask. At David Zwirner and at the Stedelijk Museum, a limited number of visitors was admitted to see Female figure at one time. Like Colored sculpture, Female figure reflects the artist’s interest in states of interaction between the viewer and his work, in particular as they are activated by the gaze.
The second season of Dialogues: The David Zwirner Podcast launched on September 25, 2019, with a conversation between artist Jordan Wolfson and playwright Jeremy O. Harris, whose critically acclaimed Slave Play is in previews now, and which opens on Broadway on October 6. Their wide-ranging conversation explores porn, political correctness, race, the value of discomfort in art, and more.
Episodes will be released every two weeks, and feature pairings such as artist Chris Ofili and classicist Emily Wilson; art critic Michael Glover and fashion designer Thom Browne; artist R. Crumb and cartoonist Art Spiegelman; and poet Eileen Myles and Flavin Judd, artistic director of the Judd Foundation, among many others. The series is hosted by Lucas Zwirner, head of content for David Zwirner.
Image: Jordan Wolfson and Jeremy O. Harris at Hangar Studios, New York, June 2019