Oliver Lee Jackson is known for creating complex and layered images in which figurative elements—or what he calls “paint people”—emerge from abstract fields of vibrant color. Jackson’s practice is informed by a deep understanding of global art history—from early modern European painting to African art. Yet his works do not aim to elevate a single message, narrative, or meaning. Rather, the works serve as an open invitation to slow and close looking, encouraging viewers to stake emotional claim on the paintings and not wait for instructions on what to see.
The 12 paintings, drawings, and prints presented in this exhibition were created from the mid-1960s through 2020, tracing Jackson’s aesthetic evolution over five decades and demonstrating his significance as a highly experimental artist working across a range of media.
Jackson was associated with the Black Artists Group, which was founded in St. Louis in 1968, and a close friend of comember and jazz saxophonist Julius Hemphill. The improvisational nature of Jackson’s work relates closely to his love of the spontaneity and freedom of jazz. Many of the works on view are loans from Donald M. Suggs, a local collector and close friend of Jackson’s.
Oliver Lee Jackson is curated by Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art, and Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, with Molly Moog, research assistant. A work by the artist will concurrently be on display in the upcoming exhibition Art Along the Rivers: A Bicentennial Celebration.