Unwrapping ‘Jack Pierson’

I stumbled across this 2008 catalog from an exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in the Photography section of a Half Price Books, shelved incorrectly, shoved in between a couple of large Ann Geddes books and sortof pushed to the back, as if someone was trying to hide it. It was still in the wrapper from the publisher, and the only copy in the store, so I couldn’t get a look inside. I was intrigued.

I posted a picture on twitter and asked if anyone was aware of it, hemmed and hawed for a bit: should I or shouldn’t I? I figured $7 wasn’t too much, and I had a 50% off coupon, so I pulled the trigger.

If I was aware of Jack Pierson previously, it was for his sculptural word art pieces, but he may be more well known for his photography. Wikipedia lists him as a photographer, and most of the galleries that show his work show as many photographs as anything else. Really, though, Jack Pierson is a multimedia-type artist, and Jack Pierson (the catalog) focuses on one facet of his practice, thankfully of particular interest to me.

The Irish Museum of Modern Art published Jack Pierson in conjunction with its 2008 exhibition of the artist’s work, and it collects 8 zines/artist book things that Pierson made as part of various gallery shows: Angel Youth (1992); Jack Pierson (1992); Caught in the Rain (1994); Jack Pierson (1996); Jack Pierson (1997); Sing a song of sixpence (1997); Unidentified Youth (2000); Untitled (2003).

Angel Youth, Jack Pierson (1996), Jack Pierson (1997), Sing a song of sixpence, and Unidentified Youth are all photo zine-type things; the others are a mix of sketch and notebooks. they’re all reproduced at actual size in Jack Pierson, and the spine shows the different heights and binding methods. While this helps to get a sense of the different books, I find it a little bit distracting. If you’re not paying attention, it’s not always easy to see where one book ends and another begins. Different paper stocks or some sort of fancy binding (with multiple actual sizes in one bound volume) would help, but also probably raise the price of the book and maybe weren’t readily available a decade ago when the book was produced.

The photography is snapshoty, mostly, and mostly in color. There are some portraits and some landscapes, some light leaks and strong color shifts and other film artifacts. I’ve flipped through the book multiple times, and read all the additional material at the end (a preface from the Museum director, some notes on the books from Mr. Pierson, an introduction by the curator, a piece from Wayne Koestenbaum, and an interview with Rachael Thomas), and without the text at the end, I doubt I would’ve gotten as much out of the different books as I have.

Concept
Content
Design

For half of $6.99, Jack Pierson was well worth it, just to examine the sequencing and pacing of the different books, and if  you’re interested in self-published books, formats, zines, and the like, it may be of interest. But if you want a catalog of Jack Pierson’s work, it’s probably best to look elsewhere: reproductions of his sculpture are scanty and mostly in black & white, and much of his other output is completely missing.

Overall, I’d give it a steady 3 stars.

You can find new copies from the Irish Museum of Modern Art shop, and I’ve since seen one or two copies at every Half Price Books I’ve been in, so it’s out there, and maybe worth picking up.

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