“Words like figuration or naturalism usually imply people or landscapes — my works are most certainly not landscapes. Whether you see a recognizable figure or not, my work is inspired by nature. It always references an experience from the world, because that is where I, and all humans, come to know ourselves.”
Born in 1935, Oliver Lee Jackson initially emerged as an arist amidst the vibrant, cross-disciplinary arts scene of St. Louis, where he led a series of community arts programs and was closely affiliated with the Black Artists' Group (BAG) that fostered collaboration among musicans, dancers and theater performers in the St. Louis area from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. As one of the two visual artists affiliated with BAG, Jackson created sets and costumes for the group's performances, and his artwork graced album covers for the musicians. In addition to its creative innovations, BAG was also pioneering in its adoption of community-oriented, participatory art programs and its commitment to activism.
Jackson's avowed intention is for his art to serve as a conduit to archetypal, quasi-spiritual spaces that exist outside of the physical realm of material, form and line. Rather than any pre-ordained pathway or closed forms, he sees his artworks as points of departure. Jackson states his intention to make work that can "get past the eyes" and facilitate discernment of a "vision beyond." Jackson's agenda predicated neither formalism nor narration. Rather, he invites viewers to step into their own dreams.
Oliver Lee Jackson (b. 1935, St. Louis, Missouri) is a painter, sculptor and printmaker based in Oakland, California. Jackson was awarded a BFA from Illinois Wesleyan University (1958) and an MFA from the University of Iowa, Iowa City (1963). During the 1960s, Jackson worked extensively with community-based arts groups in the St. Louis region during which time he was Assistant Director of the People’s Art Center and later the Director of Program Uhuru.
He was closely aligned with the landmark Black Artists Group (BAG), which included musicians, theater performers and dancers in addition to visual artists, and he was a close collaborator of renowned jazz musician Julius Hemphill. Jackson also co-founded the arts organization African Continuum.
Jackson was an artist-in-residence at Harvard University from 2000-2001. His artwork has been exhibited extensively at major institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY); the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY); the Museo de Arte Moderno (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil); the Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, WA); the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA); the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, Illinois); the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA); the Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA); and the New Orleans Museum of Art (New Orleans, LA). Jackson's recent show at Burning in Water Gallery (New York), Untitled Original, was recommended by Artnet News and Time Out - New York and selected as a "must-see" exhibition by Artforum magazine.