Jessica Stockholder’s work first caught my eye when I saw images of her Color Jam, a word play on “traffic jam,” installed in a downtown intersection in Chicago in 2012. The installation included sidewalks, streets, buildings, windows and doors. It was a three-dimensional painting, of sorts, incorporating color and texture. Beyond that though, the comings and goings of Chicago’s inhabitants, yellow taxicabs, blue buses etc. augmented the effects of the work.
Stockholder seeks to undermine the preciousness of art. By occupying public spaces she forces interaction and engagement with the work. Visitors, whether they want to or not, become a part of the process and installation. For another work, Flooded Chambers Maid, 2009-10, Stockholder re-imagined a portion of Madison Square Park. Enthused park visitors, environment and weather all interacted with the installation, giving life to an otherwise static work.
Stockholder’s indoor installations are equally as provocative. Incorporating everyday items into sculptures and assemblages, the works become amalgamations of seemingly random things. Upon closer inspection, however, the items are hardly random at all. Rather they create a context that often tells a story. There is also an architecture to her installations that is chaotic and almost overwhelming. Often they threaten to take-over the entirety of whatever space they occupy, inhabiting floors, ceilings, windows, doors and walls . And yet, again, there is a sense of careful consideration with regard to formal aspects of the work; color and composition are hardly arbitrary.
As critic Daniel Baird declared in an article about her, Stockholder’s works are a kind of “stand-up performance.” In her own words, Stockholder says, “The installation work won’t exist past the end of the show. In a way, it’s a very slow performance. Not very much
happens here; everything is kind of still and static. It has a beginning, a middle, an end, and it’s over. It’s a material performance.”