Robert Jacks

15th February – 10th March 2007
Anna Schwartz Gallery

From the start of his career as a painter, forty years ago, Robert Jacks, along­side his min­i­mal grids and mono­chro­mat­ic fields of colour, has been inter­est­ed in com­pos­ing abstract paint­ings as though they implied a nar­ra­tive or pos­sessed the pres­ence of a still life. In this mode, the paint­ings either progress from piece to piece, from shape to shape, form to form, or jux­ta­pose oppos­ing ele­ments with­in a cen­tral over­lay of shapes, rem­i­nis­cent of the clas­sic design of late Cubism. The City Sleeps, belongs to the pro­gres­sion, or per­haps more accu­rate­ly, the pro­ces­sion­al pieces. For a dou­ble pro­ces­sion occurs in these paint­ings: the pro­ces­sion is with­in each paint­ing and from paint­ing to paint­ing, imply­ing a walk­er in the city, even the fla­neur. Although Jacks sets up each pan­el as a hor­i­zon­tal panora­ma, each paint­ing is ver­ti­cal­ly, even ver­tig­i­nous­ly, com­posed. There are voids and vol­umes, mass­es and the spaces between them in The City Sleeps and The City Ris­es, less so in The Sound of the City where the blocks and grounds have a tighter, more rhyth­mic quality.

The effect of ver­ti­cal­ly arranged or com­posed pic­tures in hor­i­zon­tal, land­scape for­mats is to slow the process from sim­ply read­ing them at a glance to one which goes from stack to stack, not­ing the vari­a­tion in tone, scale and in the fit of block to block. The City Sleeps and The City Ris­es are com­posed around six ver­ti­cal­ly deter­mined stacks or blocks, rem­i­nis­cent per­haps of the inter­change between sky­scraper and city street.

Robert Jacks has always been a keen stu­dent of mod­ern art. His ear­ly work abound­ed in quo­ta­tions from Bran­cusi, Arp and Tan­guy. Lat­er he para­phrased the Picas­so of the 20s and Braque­’s syn­thet­ic cubism. With the present pic­tures two artists cast light on Jacks’ poet­ry. The gener­ic title The City Sleeps has an over­tone of Edward Hop­per’s ambigu­ous aubades and noc­turnes of a name­less Amer­i­can city and there is some­thing of the weight, the thick­ness of expe­ri­ence that Hop­per instills in his finest urban scenes.

Anoth­er echo is of late Mon­dri­an, the painter who began to attach Lon­don and Trafal­gar Square to some of his most aus­tere com­po­si­tions and who breaks into a sub­lime dynamism in his New York Boo­gie Woo­gie paint­ings. As with Jacks’ The City Sleeps and The City Ris­es paint­ings, we inevitably read these paint­ings as silent nar­ra­tives of urban real­i­ties — traf­fic, city lights, the flow and counter-flow of the great metropolis.

But if Jacks is a stu­dent of clas­sic 20th cen­tu­ry paint­ing, he is unques­tion­ably a mas­ter here of his own mate­r­i­al. With their scale, their live­li­ness, their sense of under­ly­ing order and pro­por­tion, the bal­ance of the ran­dom and the con­tained, they are mas­ter­pieces of con­tem­po­rary painting.

Patrick McCaugh­ey 2006

Images

Robert Jacks

The City Rises, 2006
Acrylic on linen
183305 cm

Robert Jacks

The City Sleeps, 2006
Acrylic on linen
183305 cm

Robert Jacks

The Sound of the City, 2006
Acrylic on linen
183305 cm