Jessica Stockholder: Kissing the Wall


We discussed this book at our July meeting. Our biggest debate was whether Jessica Stockholder is commenting on consumer culture in her work, using as it does, consumer products, sometimes in large quantities. There weren’t too many clues in the text, so the question ultimately became, can an artist’s work comment on something, that the artist may not intentionally be commenting on?

Stockholder touches on it tangentally, when she says, ‘Domesticity is not seen to be as important as work, politics, and intellectual life. We all have domestic lives, men and women. People’s desire to buy and accumulate are tied to domesticity.’ (15)

Other than the issue of consumerism, our discussion hewed pretty close to the text, pointing out interesting excerpts:

She discusses color a lot, discussing David Bachelor’s book ‘Chromophobia:’ how color is associated with the lower class and white with the upper class: ‘Color is not very popular as a place to focus conversation or intellectualize because it’s so difficult to articulate. It’s subjective.’ (19)

She has a lot of interesting ideas about experiencing art and being an artist. She says about an installation where she invited other artists to install works as part of her piece, ‘I think that the way we define success in art requires that the artist be unique, special, different from other people, and for that reason it is difficult to relax and just enjoy the similarities and connections between works of different people.’ (12)

She also asserts, ‘Abstract expressionism was taboo, and it still is even today.’ (13)

On experiencing art, she states, ‘The art (in the white cube) looks beautiful, authoritative, and impressive, but quite separate from you, bigger than a single you.’ (14)

She sums up her process, hinting at something intuitive, ‘…if you come at it from the other direction, insisting that it all makes sense, you miss an opportunity to really take advantage of the bigness of what we are.’ (20)

This is a great book to get more of a handle on her work, which often ‘shifts from picture to object to architectural construction.’ (36)  There are lots of images of work, paired with interesting discussions and interviews. A fast read, but it definitely lays out the body of work clearly and concisely. Not quite a catalog, not quite a biography, it would be great if there were more artist profiles like this.

-Gina Beavers

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