John McCracken knew Jack

“You Don’t Know Jack”: The Best Art Enabler (That’s Fabricator, to You)

Take my word for it after just, this spring, teaching a class called “Thinking About Art Now”:  Fabrication, the definition of art-world fabrication that has another human being (gasp), not the artist him/herself, physically making the actual work, remains for many scornful young people a very, very bad word. Yes, a synonym for lying, maybe.

Katherine Cone Gallery in Los Angeles has just closed part 1, “You Don’t Know Jack,” of a  three-part paean to the f-word’s poster child, Jack Brogan, who insists he’s not an artist but a technician (yeah, the one who had the idea of fixing Peter Alexander work to the floor with silicone). Part two, “Summer of Jack” will open June 16th (and runs through July 14th) at Katherine Cone Gallery at 2673 S. La Cienega Blvd. in L.A.

Brogan, for those of you who (is it yes or no?), don’t know Jack, has been fabricator extraordinaire for art world luminaries of the look, Ma, no hands ilk. The material mastery with which he began working for artists dealt in being able to fabricate and finish polyester resin or acrylic plastic, which Los Angeles genies like Robert Irwin or Helen Pashgian or Clytie Alexander had ideas for, but limited ability to make as large as they envisioned, or the color they imagined, or the thinness or thickness that woke them up nights. Later on, cardboard (as in, Frank Gehry furniture), even steel (Chris Burden) entered Jack’s shop-lexicon. And installation, the challenges, yes, of affixing those non-tacky surfaces to sheetrock walls, has also always engaged the deft hands and mind of Jack Brogan.

At the culmination of the Pacific Standard Time events which were L.A.’s anthem to the west coast 1945-1980, L.A. is still barring no holds on history and its shiny, shiny currency. We don’t have to be nostalgic as it’s all still happening, rogue gestures or nonchalant postures (Hello Lynda Benglis), Space Odyssey surfaces (John McCracken, beam us up?), armatures in miniature (Chris Burden!), that at once belie embellishment and bear out that handless-perfection can, yes, become an edition, if you know the guy’s phone number.

Works from Jack Brogan’s own collection made up part 1 of works in homage to “the ultimate artist enabler.”

Brogan’s thinker-upper confreres were in pretty good form at the opening, judging by the pictures. Never mind. You can’t touch virtual space either. (But here’s the party pictures link.)

More to the point is how the show installation was displayed, via such visual pyrotechnics as to place a 1977 red McCracken next to a 2007 Larry Bell cube. Helen Pashgian’s 1969 Polyester of which now 5 (count ’em;  you saw the figure 5 in polyester?) remain in existence hung to the left and right centered by Chris Burden’s Indo-China Bridge (2002-03; stainless steel) sculpture. For great background, listen to L.A. critic Hunter Drohojowska-Philp on KCRW (link here), on the origins of knowing Jack (plus, a funny story.)

Who’s an artist?, is really not the point. Hands on or hands off, ideas still are art’s very big show.

Helen Pashgian (1969) at Katherine Cone Gallery in You Don't Know Jack


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