MEANING IN ART: Tangible Polygons: The solution is to keep solving

Tangible Polygons, installation view

Jacob Perkins, untitled (work from BFA exhibition)
2009, vine and compressed charcoal on paper
I met Jacob Perkins at the UW - Seattle, School of Art.  At the time I was working in the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, an academic gallery in the School of Art, and was hanging the 2009 BFA Painting show.  I remember the first time I really looked at Perkins’ work: I had surveyed his paintings and drawings in order to hang them properly and in the right location, but it wasn’t until I placed his painting on the nail that I really gave it its due time.  With my hands still on the frame, I closed my eyes and took a moment’s rest (installation is hard work), as I opened my eyes I became lost in Perkins’ universe of microscopic strokes and restrokes. 

Perkins is notorious for building up a surface and tearing it down again, or burying it and excavating it years later.  While many painters are known for this, Perkins does it to a degree that is almost infuriating to me.  Indeed, living and working along side him during his residency here at 17 Cox has been agonizing as he solves one area of the canvas, but has to paint over that area to solve the entire canvas.  

Sphere, oil on panel, 2011, 24 x 30”, installation view
This exhibition is evidence of the trouble-shooting and correcting that few can truly appreciate, but I think it's an exhibition that a painter can definitely appreciate.  Perkins is a “painter’s painter” in the sense that he follows Clement Greenberg’s stipulation that the medium ought to acknowledge itself in the work.  Looking at the works in Tangible Polygons, there is no hiding that they are paintings, yet Perkins' history of actions is  discerned and felt.

While traveling with Perkins to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, I took him to the 3rd floor of the Art of the Americas Wing.  There he wiggled through Cesar Paternosto and Frank Stella to point out a Josef Alber’s painting to me, and you can definitely see the influence of Post-Painterly Abstraction in Perkins' work.  Certainly not a hard edge painter, I admire the way that Perkins approaches solutions that we assume to have a hard answer somewhere; somehow he finds and offers up the finer lines in between these answers.

Jacob Perkins, (clockwise from upper left) Raspberries, Drrr., Arizona, Vibestone Beach

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