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Jessica Stockholder

Jessica Stockholder, 2016

Jessica Stockholder, 2016

Photo by Morris Malakoff, courtesy of Morris Malakoff

Born 1959, in Seattle, Washington

Jessica Stockholder grew up in Vancouver, taking private drawing lessons with Canadian artists Nora Blanck and Mowry Baden before enrolling in the BFA program at the University of Victoria. Receiving her MFA from Yale University in 1985, she became known by the mid-1980s for her sculptures and site-specific installations, which she prefers to call “situations.” Stockholder’s explorations of materiality and the conventions of pictorial space converged with those of painter Mary Heilmann, with whom she exhibited in Germany in 1990. She taught at Yale before joining the faculty of the University of Chicago in 2011.

In Stockholder’s installations, bright planes of color slide from their usual place on the wall, extending to the ceiling or floor, wrapping around corners and edges, stretching over large-scale structures. These dislocated geometric fields concatenate assemblages of found and mass-produced objects, linking them together or tracing new boundaries within and across them. Stockholder’s “situations” are typically made up of everyday elements such as furniture and thrift store castoffs combined with cheap store-bought goods, textiles and yarn, and building supplies. Sometimes painted or bound together, sometimes simply grouped by color, these ensembles defamiliarize their constituent parts to produce new formal effects and associative meanings. Despite their multifarious compositions, Stockholder’s three-dimensional works remain structured by pictorial conceptions of color and boundary.

Tethered to the wall by a metal pipe, Compound Eye gestures to the traditional location of painting, while moving into the three-dimensional space of sculpture—and further, into the more quotidian, domestic realm of furnishings. Lengths of colorful, patterned rope, loosely woven around an ad hoc cruciform armature, sag over a partly painted stool that acts as a pedestal. While Stockholder typically uses generic, readymade objects, this unusual construction invokes the regional spiritual practices associated with “God’s eye” weavings as well as their popular diffusion as vernacular craft. Exposed cords, cables, yarn, and thread have often played a prominent role in Stockholder’s works, connecting disparate elements or drawing lines to structure architectural space. As in the work of Judith Scott, here fiber is used to bind together a disparate accumulation of common, inexpensive objects.


Jenevive Nykolak


Doll, Nancy, et al. Jessica Stockholder: Kissing the Wall—Works, 1988–2003. Houston: Blaffer Gallery, Art Museum of the University of Houston, 2004.

Jessica Stockholder. With Lynne Tillman, Barry Schwabsky, and Lynne Cooke. London: Phaidon, 1995.