Ravi Jackson: Hardcore
On ViewDavid Lewis
January 13–February 25, 2023
Chaos is far from a state of scarcity—like an angsty 1990s metal song belting from a walkman, disarray continuously conquers our psyche and bodies. On the visual end of this pandemonium, media and technology are key players, shoving gushes of unsolicited graphic mayhem through our optic portals into our subconsciousness, an excess of pixelated mishmash. Pulps of pop culture, gut wrenching violence porn, and eerily sterilized domestic promises are interwoven like a backed-up tarantula’s floppy network. While utterly tumultuous for the average onlooker, there rests for the artist’s potentials for anarchic collage, of aesthetic potpourris and cerebral compositions. Where many consider the chaos’ point of mental clogging, artists may flip through image after image, cherry pick and weave elements of glut to bear juxtapositions of subversions and self-proclamation.
The Los Angeles-based artist Ravi Jackson’s current exhibition at David Lewis, Hardcore, surrounds visitors with versions of chaos. Each work is crafted like lines of poetry unburdened by logic or concern for being understood. Intentionally disordered and even challenging for the eye, the wall pieces and sculptures nearly roar like the angsty metal song from the nineties belting from a walkman. Rather than immediately pulling the headphones off our ears, we feel compelled to keep listening—maybe not raise the volume either—but remain alert for the next track. Pre-aughts’ popular music is not coincidental as the show borrows its title from a 1996 Lil’ Kim album which includes the banger Not Tonight. “I don't want dick tonight / Eat my pussy right,” she unapologetically declares in the song.
Lil’ Kim’s presence in the show is peppered across multiple mixed media collages, including Untitled (2022), a door-like sculpture which, similar to many works, references the body and its orifices and protrusions. A vertical plywood surface is painted into a fleshy abstraction, punctured by a door knob in erect position. The typical “do not disturb” sign hints at the opposite, inviting for carnality with cutout images that include a bronze Greco-Roman nude, a slab of raw meat, a larger-than-life Modernist sculpture, and a portion of the eponymous rapper’s face. The collage of a plethora of homages, from antiquity to butchery and pop culture, sinks into an unpredicted visual chaos—we feel intrigued.
Religion also joins the bunch in Kim (2022), a plywood altar painted into different radiantly-colored paint marks and decorated with cutouts like a teenager’s high school locker. The titular rapper appears three times, including in a photo where she dons lingerie and holds a gun in her crotch in lieu of a phallus. In another image, her face is blocked by a body builder man’s hard nipple while the rest of his vein-lined headless torso shrouds a large portion of the three-piece sculpture’s middle surface—the left door holds a printout of Langdon Winner’s text “Jean Genet Chews Ass.”
Carnality and tension also inhabit the energetic sculpture Dick Gregory Needed (2022), in which a wooden knob is suspended down with a thread that runs through a flat wooden structure. The resistance to gravity yields a kinetic pull, particularly to the pasted print-out over the painted wood surface. The “wanted” report of the titular social activist is an internet search find, and some of Jackson’s paint gesture spills onto its white matte paper. Gregory’s role in the civil rights movement and the rapper’s delivery of Black femme empowerment build a sudden knot, tied by Jackson’s energetic collage-building with a dash of humor. An antithesis to Kim’s claim to her body and sexuality—as well as to Gregory’s position as an antiwar and vegetarian activist—is an image of a younger Kurt Russell in a western flick in Outlaw Peaceful Kurt (2022). The actor’s manicured masculinity with his coiffed hair, a curved “daddy” mustache, and editorial gaze is surrounded by grommets that hold cutouts from Lil Kim’s face, including a suggestively gaped mouth with red lipstick, an erratic juxtaposition with supposedly polar expressions of commodified gender in media.
Chaotic collage finds its three-dimensional embodiment in two mirrored cabinet installations: domesticity receives a warped update with those store-bought furniture items, dressed with more cutouts of the rapper’s Hardcore era photo shoots and wax candles made by Jackson himself. If you near the candle, you receive your share of the fresh scent, all while your likeness appears on the mirrored furniture—you’re none but part of the chaos.