John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
And you thought your public art was gross.
You got to give props to artist Richard Jackson for staging an exhibit where attendees could get peed on by a 28-foot-tall Labrador Retriever. In the gift shop, are museum umbrellas flying off the shelf?
Jackson's "Bad Dog" sculpture, tacked together from matte-black parts reminiscent of a disassembled stealth bomber, towers above the Orange County Museum of Art with one leg raised in the classic dog-urination stance. Every so often, a spray hose inside the massive canine unleashes a fountain of yellow paint onto the wall of the museum. The fake pee dribbles down the wall to pool on the ground, where curious museumgoers appreciate it with the classic but is it art? posture.
"Bad Dog" is the first thing people see when traveling to the Newport Beach museum's retrospective of Jackson's work, titled "Ain’t Painting a Pain." The meaning of the micturating puppy is cryptic. Exhibition materials don't shed much light on what inspired the artwork, and the media are throwing out all kinds of differing explanations. KCET calls it a "cheeky statement about Jackson's views on the art world." The OC Register goes with "not a joke. Nor is it an insult to the museum." The Daily Pilot doesn't take a critical stance, but notes that it is a "favorite of children who visit the museum."
The most interesting take that I've seen comes from Joop de Boer at the Pop-Up City, who writes:
The work, that literally leaves a golden mark on the building’s facade, is a great conversation piece for the exhibition, but it also seems to criticize the architecture of the museum. As the whole facade has no windows or doors it doesn’t have any connection with the space around it. These kind of spaces ask for disrespectful treatments. Although the artwork is not very kind for the building, we have to conclude that it obviously shows the courage of the museum board that commissioned this work.
Dog included, the Jackson retrospective promises to be one of the most intriguing exhibits this year in California. The Sacramento-born artist spent his career pushing the boundaries of what can be considered "painting," reflected here in numerous space-devouring installations like a stack of 5,050 paintings and a room covered with 1,000 hand-made clocks. Jackson's also dabbled with creating weirdo "painting machines," and a couple of them are represented in this show: a Ford Pinto that splurts out pigment in the main hall and a rotating pile of model deer that spray pellets of paint from their butts. (Seriously.) The OC Register properly describes the latter piece, called "Deer Beer," as "like stumbling upon a crime scene, only this one is like a multi-colored carnival. The only things missing are the popcorn and hotdogs."
If you can't make it to Orange County before the show ends on May 5, there's plenty of evidence of Jackson's bizarre creations floating around on YouTube. Such as this unicorn contraption that ejects paint all over a creepy little-girl's room, mounted in 2011 at L.A.'s David Kordansky Gallery:
Top photo courtesy of OCMA.