Jim Love

Studio, Houston

Other things in Houston being unequal there is a tacit congruity in the scale of Jim Love’s jacks. Misleadingly un-chic coffee-table sizes, effectively awkward in-between sizes, chair sizes—functional, but comfortable?—and large outdoor sizes, they are all fit but not formidable. They are a reasonable extension of Love’s earlier assembled machine part, found object sculpture—the droll, the perverse, the transformed that remains irrationally snuggled to its former personality. But the jacks are a direct rather than a sly approach to objects; they borrow a shape, not an identity; they are not about analogies, but about that specific shape. Yet, like Barthelme’s Shotwell, Love’s behavior with the jacks is strange.

The shape has no affinity with the poised, symmetrically absolute Feeley form. It is straight and blunt, the six metal rods capped with tough-looking screw-on tops (jack: as in a socket that accepts a plug at one end) and on most of the rods the threads are still visible (jack: as in a usually portable device for raising heavy objects by means of force applied with a lever, screw ). The form is naturally the familiar one, spiky, splayed, forever slanted and tipped on its three equal axes. But there is little of the comfortable finger and palm feel of real jacks, which only have four club feet these days. The central core of Love’swelds is precise, the junctures accurate, the whole too emphatic and solid for nostalgia about ours or Shotwell’s onesies and twosies.

The smaller of Love’s jacks are not “elegant,” the larger are not bombastic or ponderous; they are not playground sculpture either, although children find them adequate, which further confuses the jack identity issue. They near the paradox of the grotesquely increased size without function, the pop stance of the trivial cum monumental, but neatly escape irony and caricature too; the sizes are too variable, each too complacently assured, and nothing is actually monumental. They seem to transcend the expected absurdities, which is the point, perhaps. Mildly complex—a cluster of spokes, a very special join, an interesting tilt—they are concerned with the method for executing a pre-specified model and the veracity of the units and the process, testing the extent to which they may not be detoured by a progressive increase in scale. If Love’s jacks were all tossed out together, on a flat concrete pavement, the way jacks are, but with all the sizes mixed and ample space around (and especially away from the fettering shades of earlier works in the studio) they might be better seen for what they are. He has made them into something outside games, supplying the difference that permits an oddity the coincidence of art, and still they seem intentionally and blessedly unprofound.

Martha Utterback