Tuesday 17 September 2019

Word on the street

Sophie Gorman

There's something refreshingly playful about American artist Jack Pierson's interlinking of two such distinct, potentially devastating but overlapping emotions in this famous word sculpture.

'Desire Despair' is a very visual representation of the theme of isolation and loneliness that runs throughout the first major Irish exhibition of Pierson's work, in parallel with the theme of the eroticism of passion.

In one of his first word sculptures, he used two menu-display signs, but with the wording altered to read 'Breakfast/Hope, Dinner/Fear' to echo his experience of frequent stays in soulless hotels.

These works confirm his ability to expose light in the darkness, to make you laugh when you should be crying.

The full scope of Pierson's work is currently on display at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Comprising some 45 works, the exhibition features photographs, drawings and installations, including a number of Pierson's trademark word sculptures, which the artist has been producing for almost 20 years.

He creates these pieces out of reclaimed signage found in locations such as Las Vegas casinos and derelict New York cinemas.

Pierson certainly exemplifies this generation's tradition of deconstruction, irreverence and awareness of celebrity culture. Hollywood icons who come under his scrutiny in this exhibition include Elvis Presley and James Dean.

Each piece tells its own story of love, loss or loneliness and each is tinged with an autobiographical shadow.

Viewed together, the work presents such an emotional evocation that you get the feeling it has a very personal meaning for the poetic artist behind it.

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