Newsmaker: Jordan Wolfson
Jordan Wolfson made waves with his debut exhibition at David Zwirner in New York in spring 2014. Alongside a series of abject ink-jet prints that looked as if they were plastered in bumper stickers purchased from an early 2000s Spencer Gifts and his 2012 video Raspberry Poser, in which animated renderings of a condom and the HIV virus dance through the streets of New York City while Beyoncé and Mazzy Star play at an intoxicating volume, he showed the animatronic sculpture (Female figure), a scuffed-up woman impaled on a stripper pole who speaks in Wolfson's voice and makes eye contact with viewers. It was a successful spectacle—in addition to accumulating seemingly innumerable buzzy headlines, one of three editions of (Female figure) sold to Eli and Edythe Broad—but not without pushback, Wolfson's work irking some for its perhaps aimless invocation of culturally loaded imagery: AIDS, sex work, and so on. The artist, now based in Los Angeles, will open his follow-up show at Zwirner on May 5. Modern Painters senior editor Thea Ballard spoke with Wolfson about his next animatronic venture, freedom, and the perils of thinking too hard.
Thea Ballard: Tell me about the piece you’re working on for this exhibition.
Jordan Wolfson: I began it about two years ago. The artwork is a figurative sculpture based on Huckleberry Finn, Alfred E. Neuman, and Howdy Doody. It's a cartoony life-size figure that’s almost like a piece of sports equipment. It has six points around the body, and it's rudimentarily animated from three of these points. It's similar to other characters I've used in my films, but it's ultimately a new character. It also has eyes, which are video screens with special glass lenses on top. It's able to make eye contact with viewers, like (Female figure). The character goes between anger and pain. Animated content plays in the video screens that serve as its eyes, along with live video footage I've shot. Formally, it's extremely glossy, reflective.