Eleanor Heartney, Jackie Lipton’s Paintings
Published by Danette Koke Fine Art, 1994
John Ash, Jackie Lipton’s New Work,
Published by Danette Koke Fine Art, 1995
Eleanor HEARTNEY, New Art Examiner 1984
“Jackie Lipton at the Condeso Lawler Gallery”
Ken Sofer, Art in America, New Paintings by Jackie Lipton at the Condeso/Lawler Gallery, NYC, 1985
“A Look Forward, A Look Back” catalogue, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 1986
“New Visions” catalogue, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art,
IT’S HARD to believe that the Whitney once had
a program for street kids from 1968 to 1975.
Officially it was named the Art Resources Center
and unofficially it was Cherry Street, named
after the street it was on. It’s torn down now.
One of those buildings bought from the city for a
buck but, like others designated for public use,
when the thing that spawned them went away another
deal took hold. I mention this when I look
at and think about the paintings of Jackie Lipton—
lavish interiors—because she was one of those kids
herself: a self-described child of “poets and
painters.” The plural’s significant here, intentionally
vague from a time when those genres were. Or
the society itself got privileged over the genre.
Jackie remained at Cherry Street for as long as the
program did. She was a “peer studio artist” working
with the other kids. Most of whom she now
believes are dead. She had her first show at the
Whitney Museum in 1974, when Laurie Anderson,
then a recent product of the Whitney Program,
was briefly directing the street kid program.
Jackie’s fifty-nine, and once I had seen her work
and thought and then wrote something I asked
what she had in mind. “Something that wakes you
up,” she said. “That shakes you. I mean something
might seem central to a painting but the greater
fact of my work is always simultaneity.” She’s right.
It’s also “anticipatory.” I’m thinking of artists
working in any medium when technology hadn’t
already crowded out the majority of ways of looking
at the world. Yet the artist herself is managing
to presage the world to come in a funky almost
science club way. Like the technology may or may
not yet exist but she’s got the idea. She’s stating
the need. While constructing it on another plane.
I’m thinking of Smithson’s site non-site work or
abstract painting as told by Jackie Lipton. The entire
history of it. Somehow it feels like Web work.
Without leaving the body behind.
On Wednesday I scooted to Brooklyn on the
F to see her show. It’s at Corinne Robbins on Atlantic
Ave. Thirty-one paintings, mostly of
medium dimensions—(16 X 20)—modest-sized I
thought, though about a quarter of the paintings
in the show are “body-sized”—(64 X 52)—and a
couple even larger than that, then a slew of prints,
mostly monochromatic—one a chain of moody
diamonds in pale blue, and one of those diamonds
is rouged up slightly, casting its red light
on the rest. And another bunch . . . a wide color
wash of ecstasy, a rave X.
But her paintings are the thing and they have
enormous depth without being faintly morose.
Jackie makes abstract paintings of all kinds—some
seem kind of ab ex, but with circles; there’s some
early modern, and even some Impressionism. Yet
the show, a collection of six years’ work, coheres.
It feels like a vivid sampler, tiny visitations, abutting
moves, from the entire history of abstract
painting, a bunch of clicks.
I think of this show as mainly yellow (though
it’s many-colored) but yellow is certainly the predominant
experience of the show. Advertising has
proved that yellow is the color people love the
most. Is it just the sun? A buoyant public energy
informs her paintings though it comes from the
inside out. One I’m looking at is from her Breath
to Breath series. I really hate her titles. They’re sort
of touchy-feely and the work isn’t. From the bottom
of the price list I learn most titles are “courtesy
of Patti Smith with her permission.” Oh well.
Nobody ever claimed Patti is a vanguard poet.
The painting I’m standing in front of is fingerpainting-
y. Tactile. Thick bars of painted light tug
down the frame like an obstruction you’re viewing
a film through: a weighty scrim. Others pull
across. The energy is bracing and vivid. The honest
and scrappy action on the surface of the canvas
implies an interior to the painting while not
giving us much information about it. Other than
that it feels pretty good in there. It feels like a studio
where even more painting’s taking place. You
feel like you’re being given a piece of the map, just
a crop. Jackie’s privy to the entire vision though
she’s painting just this.
Ghost Dance, which I found downstairs (take a
left at a couple of fried eggs at the foot of the
stairs—yeah it’s a couple of fried eggs and furniture.
Just a curl.) possessed a vaguer and more interesting
squalor than Bonnard. I mean thinking
of those rooms of his where a door is open and a
woman is coming in but you hardly see her. Jackie
gives you less. There is no woman in the room.
There is maybe a spoon. A scoop shape. And
again the feeling, a dull tingle. And its roundness
fans out. You get it all in a bad video way, I mean
the space, the lighting one is not supposed to like
but helplessly we dwell in. This is not all presence
but all depth—regaling in its own perceptual moment—
when you’re standing there in your greasy
hands with a day’s schedule. These are the art. Is it
feminist work when there’s no woman. When it’s
all schedule. An index of color and a map of time.
You’re her and everything there is. The work simply
slows down, changes you. That seems immense.
By Eileen Myles
2009 PROVINCETOWN ARTS 77
Jackie’s mentor was Paul Brach, the New York
painter who died in 2007 but in his midlife
headed west to ride horses and to design the pedagogical
approach that informed Cal Arts, not a
big painting school at all. He came back to New
York. Jackie gleaned so much from Brach—both
teaching and painting. She’s spent her adult life
teaching art to autistic kids for the Board of Ed
and now works in the childhood and adolescent
Psych ward at Bellevue. The city keeps defunding,
deciding who doesn’t need art anymore, but she
manages to alight on the next right occasion. The
painting I turned toward when I entered the
show—a pouring abstract grey, a painting I felt I
already knew, even owned; but no, this time
there’s a thing in it. Which for me is her great
revelation. A car or a train, a box—something installed
within the force of her painting. To have
that external something in the painting, a sealed
thing that says stop but means go.
The Arthur Dove-looking paintings in what I’d
call the middle of her show were paintings full of
bright round things, areas outlined—my science
geek would call them vacuoles—yet I imagine
them painted one by one. The assortment drawn
quickly and then colored in. I’m not a painter.
Piles of fruit, people, things, a landscapey cumulative
effect, abundance. Seeing is accomplished
by using these portals of activity, this rudimentary
lens, her circle, a web of concurrent choices. Her
early moderns have a bright palette that lauds the
juiciness of the endeavor of working and living.
These are American paintings. In a very William
Dean Howells kind of way. I get giddy thinking
about how much they are not paintings of
agony—while also being not unaware of suffering.
Almost communal choices make these paintings
cohere. Their openness, their transparency of
structure. Their frankness about how the very obstructions
to our intended path—the building’s
pulled down, the train’s stuck, somebody died—
that next thing, something abstract, whatever
happens, is what keeps us in life. Horrifyingly
true. And that’s her strength here. Her view is
trusty. This very young show by an older person.
I love the fact of Jackie Lipton. The continuing
newness of her game.
EILEEN MYLES is a poet (Sorry,Tree) who writes fiction
(Chelsea Girls, Cool for You) and an art writer and
journalist whose The Importance of Being Iceland,
a collection of writings on art, culture, and queerness for
which she received a Warhol/Creative Capital grant, will
be out in July from Semiotext(e)/MIT. She is Professor
Emeritus of Writing & Literature at UC San Diego. She
lives in New York.
Provincetown Arts Magazine