16 | 07 – 09 | 10 | 2022
Jordan Wolfson is a renowned American artist known for his enigmatic virtual reality installations, transporting museum visitors into a computer-animated world. Whereas in the exhibition space they are required to grip a railing, in the virtual world skyscrapers soar beside them, as cars and yellow taxis pass along one of New York’s grand avenues. Street noise reverberates, it is everyday life in the big city. The 3D video is compelling alone in its uncanny proximity to reality. But a monstrous act begins to quickly unfold in the immediate vicinity, a man is beating another to death with a baseball bat. The viewers become witnesses, they see the victim twitch and ultimately bleed to death, implicating themselves by looking. Virtual reality, VR, becomes RV, Real Violence.
Wolfson examines the underbelly of popular culture using at times dark and at times playful humor as well as imagined realities, to unpack the human condition within contemporary society. His practice has touched upon difficult subjects including sexism, violence, racism and anti-Semitism in an unflinching way creating the inscrutable tension his work is known for. Wolfson is concerned with witnessing the world as a passive observer, rather than trying to change anything beyond his control. In doing so he often situates his viewers in unexpected and at times compromising encounters. Wolfson adopts ideas from Jeff Koons, Jean Tinguely, and Paul McCarthy, but mass media and its consumption likewise play a role. In a podcast during the first lockdown in April 2020, he recited I’m Your Man by Leonard Cohen, while in another he talked with the NFT artist Beeple.
Wolfson develops robotic figures, which are fascinatingly lifelike, but always betray themselves in a moment of shock, subverting viewers’ expectations. One such robotic manikin dances in front of a mirror, muddied, dressed in a go-go girl’s uniform, sporting patent leather boots, armlength gloves, a tight dancer’s dress, and a blonde wig. A green witch’s mask conceals its face, as the figure confronts audience members with its menacing gaze. The manikin is grimy, the scene vexingly shabby, the arms’ ball joints revealing the artificiality. The dancer swivels her hips in front of the mirror, to which she is connected by a pole. Mutating from submissive object to frightening monster, Female Figure seems poised to free itself from the gallery wall. Wolfson’s animatronic sculptures are reminiscent of the old concept of the animated marionette known from amusement parks. Such objects, devices, and manikins also act as mirrors for viewers, uncannily lifelike at times, performing repressed fantasies, and “hacking into automatic ways of seeing and mechanisms of judgement.” (Jordan Wolfson, Kunstforum, vol. 265, p. 153)
Jordan Wolfson (* 1980, New York), studied sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
In 2018, the inaugural London presentation of Jordan Wolfson’s Colored sculpture took place in the Tanks at Tate Modern. Also in 2018, The Broad in Los Angeles presented Jordan Wolfson’s (Female Figure) and the Zabludowicz Collection in London showed 360: Jordan Wolfson. In 2016 and 2017 Wolfson presented Manic/Love/Truth/Love, an early career retrospective, at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and 2015 at Cleveland Museum of Art. The work Riverboat Song, produced by Sadie Coles HQ, London, was shown in a solo exhibition at Moderna Museet in Stockholm (2019), Schinkel Pavillon in Berlin (2018), and the Pond Society, New Century Art Foundation in Shanghai (2017).
He participated in the 6th Glasgow International and 14 ROOMS, Art Basel, in 2014. Further solo exhibitions have been presented at Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent (2013), Chisenhale Gallery, London, and Kunsthalle Wien (2012), REDCAT, Los Angeles (2012), Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (2011), CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2009), Swiss Institute of Contemporary Art, New York (2008), Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo (2007), and Kunsthalle Zürich (2004).
In 2009 Jordan Wolfson received the Cartier Award from the Frieze Foundation.