Curated by Dave Hickey
December 7th, 2006 – January 27th, 2007
Opening Reception: Thursday, December 7th, 6-8p
Jack Hallberg was born on May 17, 1963 in Rockford, IL. He grew up in Rockford with his parents and his three sisters in a house his father built. One of Jack's earliest memories is of going up into the attic with his father. The floor joists were exposed and the ceiling topped out at five-feet. Over the course of the weekend, his father single handedly raised the roof four feet in preparation for two new bedrooms and a bathroom. From this, Hallberg drew the inference that people could, if they wished, do what they wanted to do. In public school, Hallberg tested high and scored low. He was considered a "problem child" but he could draw like an angel. After high school, he went to work, made some money, bought some things, and decided he would rather be an artist. He attended Rockford College, IL, won a graduate scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and began exhibiting his painting. Today he lives in Las Vegas, teaches part time and makes paintings.
Dave Hickey is a freelance writer of fiction and cultural criticism, a curator and lecturer. He has written for most major American cultural publications about a great many artists, writers and musicians. He has published a volume of short fiction, Prior Convictions: Stories from the Sixties (Southwest Life and Letters), with the SMU Press. His critical essays on art have been collected in two volumes published by Art Issues Press, The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty (1993) and Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (1998). His most recent book, Stardumb (Artspace Books, 1999), is a collection of stories with drawings by artist John de Fazio. He has two books in production at the University of Chicago Press: Connoisseur of Waves: More Essays on Art and Democracy (2006) and Feint of Heart: Essays on Individual Artists (two volumes) (2008) as well as a new edition of The Invisible Dragon. His curating projects include: Beau Monde: Toward a Redeemed Cosmopolitanism, SITE Santa Fe's Fourth International Biennial in Santa Fe, NM (2002); The California School (2004) and Step into Liquid (2005) at the Ben Maltz Gallery at the Otis College of Art & Design, CA, and Edward Ruscha: The Long View (2006) at the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo in Mexico City.
The first painting that had an impact on me was Seurat's La Grande Jatte. I was eight years old. My class was on a field trip to the Chicago Art Institute. I didn't respond at first glance but, as I approached the painting, it seemed to come alive, to transform itself into a sea of pieces that comprised the whole. I must have walked back and forth in front of Seurat's painting a dozen times watching it change, confused by the fact something could seem so complete and so fractured, intrigued by the fact that it could make me respond physically. I felt like I had a unique personal relationship with this inanimate object. I liked the dots and the spaces between the dots. I liked the whole experience, and I am always trying to recreate that sense of wonderment in my own paintings, trying to make work that is visually and socially engaging, playful, artificial and well defined, like a welcome guest at a wonderful party.
by Dave Hickey
Jack Hallberg was my student in the early 1990s. He has been my friend and neighbor ever since. He is also, for me, a living repudiation of the idea that artists develop. In fact, artists decide. For about a year after Jack arrived in Las Vegas, he made bad paintings. Then one day he just got sick of it. He began making good paintings, and he has made them ever since, steadily and without complaint through a virtual tsunami of accident, illness and personal disaster. During this onslaught, Hallberg's paintings never lost an iota of their goofy, meticulous, good-hearted, ebullience. I have no idea how he has managed this or where the paintings come from.
They are full of art history, of course, and I can cite references. Seurat? Certainly. Pollock? Of course, but through Lichtenstein. West Coast abstraction? Absolutely. Ultralounge Vegas, Sci-Fi Surrealism and Kenny Scharf? Without a doubt. But none of these references address or explain the charm and equanimity of Hallberg's paintings. I can only suggest that they share these virtues with paintings they do not much resemble by Elizabeth Murray, John Wesley and Peter Saul and that the work of all these artists exudes a level of good humor and self-possession that is daunting for its sheer lack of neediness and aggression. On a cultural battlefield full of striding warriors and calculating strategists who demand our awe and attention, strewn with bloody victims demanding our care and sympathy, high physical comedy can be challenging and intimidating. It can seem like an insult to the entire endeavor, because it is one thing to abandon drama for theater. That is the contemporary move. It is quite another thing to abandon theater for high-hearted conversation, because solemnity is not an option in everyday talk. So these questions arise. How dare these artists, at this rich and profligate moment, seem to need so little? How dare they seem be having so much fun? How dare they tempt us into the daylight?
YOUNG ART CRITICS: Katie Anania on Jack Hallberg