Jordon Wolfson - Artist
by: Mashal Asher
Jordon Wolfson, an award winning visual artist has worked with variety of multimedia platforms, to capture thought provoking narrative structures, often inspired by adverts and the internet in hope of revealing complexities in human relationships through animated characters.
Born in 1980 in New York, he received his B.F.A for sculpture, from Rhode Island School of Design. By 2013, he had joined the art gallery David Zwirner where he exhibited solo exhibitions.
Highly experimental, he has worked in a broad range of media, from films, photographic works to installations of sculpture animation and painting. Currently labelled as the art world’s “provocateur” his work tends to challenge the spectator, where he often produces uncanny, horror like situations making the user uncomfortable, thereby confronting the idea of art as a “spectacle”.
In this blog, I will be talking about Jordon Wolfson, his works, analyzing his techniques and styles and how his work influences my own.
(Jordon Wolfson,(right) with his work Female Figure (2014),(left))
Jordon Wolfson’s work is often rooted with personal psychological issues and deeply emotional content. His art seems to provoke empathy, with direct gazes and digital images. Jordon Wolfson likes to play with his audience, with his indirect subtle references to culture, bringing life to our innermost private fears.
Wolfson carefully constructs dramas which revolve around commentary on his everyday life, where he engages in conversation which can be often seen as very private. Films such as Animation Masks 2011, can be seen as an example, where he works with digital animation and sound to provide an awkward intimate encounter with his lover.
(Animation Masks 2011, Jordon Wolfson, below are video stills. For full video click here)
Wolfson’s video Animation Mask 2011 can be seen as paradoxical, he delivers random narratives, hidden behind a cartoon character, such as an orthodox Jew, flipping a Vogue magazine, preforming a lover’s exchange. The usage of cartoon characters is common with him, he enjoys working with animators, with experience in commercial films. He states in his interview "There’s something very alien about making a cartoon that has the quality of the world outside of art, that has certain commercial qualities and a sort of abstraction to them.". Repetition and rehearsal are also intensely used in his work, this film, is seen to play with the idea of endless time, where a character repeats his actions, as he reads through a script.
Despite his deep love for cartoon characters, recent years have shown Jordon Wolfson shift from film to animatronic sculpture. His recent piece, The Female Figure (2014), consists of a female life-like automaton in a short white dress, a grotesque mask, smeared in soot. The figure dances in front of a mirror, programmed with facial recognition to make eye contact with her viewers. The experience is intimate, with one or two people in the room, and as she dances to pop songs, often voicing private conversation.
Female Figure (2014), Jordon Wolfson, video below :
The piece suggests visual authority, the viewer is forced to keep eye contact, making it an uncomfortable encounter. Jordon Wolfson’s pieces are often seen as collages, where he combines pieces of music, pre-recorded voices, animations and videos he would find on the internet or produced. For Jordon, the internet is the ultimate database, he describes it as a “hyper generative body” where information is constantly being consumed and processed by the current generation.
Jordon Wolfson enjoys playing with his audience, his work eye contact, a common theme in his work. His latest piece, Colored Sculpture (2016) can be seen as a sequel to his automaton (female figure) consisting of a cartoon – like boy, suspended with chains. In addition to chains, LED lights are fitted in for the eyes, as they seek out human movement, as it thrashes across the room. A hybrid of Howdy Doody, the work is very violent where he tests out the theory of art withstanding abuse prolonged over a period, questioning the value of the work as it is destroyed infront of our eyes.
Colored Sculpture (2016) installation still pictured below, for video click here:
Jordon Wolfson is heavily influenced by the artist, Jeff Koon’s, known to use production studios, flashy sculptures and his interest in objectifying art. Jeff Koon’s piece “Made in Heaven” inspired Jordon’s Female Figure, where the concept of challenging the spectator comes to play. Both artist focus on the female figure, as an object, dispalying the fetish that is the "women's body" in society. For Jeff Koons, his work such as Woman in Tub shows the ultimate form of obession for a female body. Jordon's work seems to mirror his sentiments, and he experiments with the concept of figuration and sculpture.
His other works suggest his fascination to cartoons, Disney and Pixar production studios in paticular, which he described as "unattainable". Jordon Wolfson doesn't shy away from using large production houses to make his work to him " Everything is made, everything is contrived.", which mirrors the ideas of Marcel Duchamp* and his ideas of using the ready-made as an artwork. His main resource being mainstream internet, he often uses pop music tracks, flashy gifs, and popular internet trends in his work. Other influences include religion, in his film Animation Masks, he used a jewish character, which challenges stereotypes such as a Shylockian Jew, gesturing rap gestures while reading out a lovers dispute.
His work can be described as social commentary, he picks out themes that are somewhat taboo, or culturally clashed to produce work to challenge the spectators. In the Female Figure, he focuses on the female body as a sexual being, making the spectators uncomfortable. He sets out challenges for the standards in society to by confronting them with work, outside of the internet, exposing how different experiences can be when you are anonymous, to when you confront the real thing.
Made In heaven (1990-91),Jeff Koons consists of the artist himself and a porn star, pictured below :
Jordon's films Raspberry Poser (2012), is a peice which discusess sexual health which society can see as a shameful and taboo topic especially when discussed in school. The video consists of computer-generated imagery, hand-drawn animation and sound. It cycles through various videos of a angry cartoon boy, glimpses of sexual diseases such as the HIV virus with backdrops of the real world. This cartoon boy is an interesting element to his work, because when we think of cartoons we think of Tom and Jerry, which depicted immortality and repetitively constructed violence. Jordon Wolfson, associates that in his work, the idea of a cartoon figure never dying, but puts in situations involving real life problems and backgrounds. The cartoon, therefore transforms into something more, dealing with "adult-life", or problems which are cultural and social.
Raspberry Poser,Jordon Wolfson (2012) gif, (below). For full video, click here.
My work and his work
As an artist transitioning from a traditional art background, Jordon Wolfson’s work is very inspiring. His work doesn’t fixate itself in any medium, which is interesting to me as I often struggle to find influences of artists who can combine drawings, and sculptures in new forms of technology. In particular I like the theatrical element of his work, a character usually dominating the screen or room which has recently inspired me to create a character of my own.
Jordon Wolfson’s versatile nature is what inspires my work as an artist. His usage of cartoons, to evoke psychological meanings is fascinating to me. As my work often circles around psychology, art challenging the viewer, I like how he uses eyes to manipulate his audience. My previous work (when our eyes meet) shared a similar theme, and my latest interest in animatronics, makes him resourceful for my upcoming project. The theme my current project is based on is war, and the psychological aspects surrounding war in the age of technology. I am experimenting with different war periods, trying to condense my research in a film, and I have found Jordon's work paticular in that feild, as he likes to play around with collages and narratives in his work.
As my current project revolves around an animatronic boy, and a stop motion film, Jordon's work can be insightful in exploring the field of film. His work is often layered and dense, where he mashes up several themes into one. To me that was quite resourceful, as I usually work intensely, focusing often on one aspect of my work. As he has done cartoon films in the past, along with animatronic sculptures, his work has been insightful as he has provided numerous examples to revolve my work around. His pieces often strike the right balance aesthetically and thematically, something I have shaped my project to. It has also made me realize what I am getting myself into, as a robotic piece isn’t easy, Jordon Wolfson in the past, has used production studios for his work. But his work has shown me it is possible, and has inspired me to push myself into creating something that speaks to the audience, physically and emotionally.
Jordon Wolfson website - (Website on David Zwirner Gallery)
Jordon Wolfson interview - (Media Interview)
Art Review by filthy dreams - ( Art Review )
Art Review by Art Agenda - (Art Review)
Art Review by the NY Times - (Art Review)
Art Review by the W Magazine - (Art Review)