Jack Daws | Reviews

Read about it in The New York Times, City Room, by Jennifer 8. Lee

Brooklyn Woman Finds Counterfeit Penny Made of Gold

One afternoon in March 2007, Jack Daws stepped up to a newsstand in Los Angeles International Airport with a handful of change, including a counterfeit penny made of 18-karat gold that Mr. Daws, READ MORE


Read about it in Another Bouncing Ball by Regina Hackett

On finding Jack Daws' penny

Jessica Reed, the person who found Jack Daws' counterfeit penny, is an artist. Here's a cake she made in February in honor of Abe Lincoln's birthday, starring his portrait on (what else?) a penny. READ MORE


September 13, 2007

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Artist Jack Daws is an all-American troublemaker

by Regina Hackett

Provocations in art are as common as the last burst of fleas in the fall, but Jack Daws' provocations are rare.
WHERE: Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S.
WHEN: Through Sept. 29 Hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Although art is about freedom, there are conventions within that freedom, especially for artists who deal in politics. Political artists log in on the democratic left. Exceptions (Chicago painter Roger Brown during the Vietnam War) are singular enough to be inconsequential.
From Goya to Picasso, John Heartfield to Hans Haacke, Jacob Lawrence, Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, the Guerrilla Girls and the populists of the public art movement, content cuts only one way.

Enter Daws. Sometimes, he's in step with what's expected. "Nike Branding Iron" from the '90s was created for those who want to do a little more for the corporation than wear its logo on their clothes. Clean and clear-headed, the piece is predictably (if corrosively) anti-corporate.
When I saw it, I thought I knew where I was with this artist. I was wrong. The quality that links this sculpture with all his others is its violation of expectation.
He goes too far. In doing so, he brings to his political content the same unpredictable bite that other artists (such as Duchamp) have brought to the subject of art itself.

Instead of conclusions, Daws offers fault lines. He stirs the pot of cultural assumption to take a look at what slinks out.
"Better You Than Me" is a real .45-caliber pistol coated in colored plastic to look like a water toy, a salute to one nation under a gun. Reversing his transformative equation, Daws' counterfeit pennies are value added, a lost world of real gold impersonating the nearly valueless.
He had "Alamo Pinata," a paper replica of the old fort, fabricated in a Mexican pinata factory and filled with Chiclets and drywall screws. Selling gum and doing dray horse work on construction sites are the kinds of jobs open to Mexican workers crossing the border.
Neither Texans who view the Alamo as a sacred site nor Mexicans abused by the global economy are comforted by this piece, which sings a chilly song.

I love "Serf's Up," a photo of a cheaply fabricated White House surrounded by white Florida sands in honor of that state's hanky-panky in the 2000 presidential election.

"King of Israel" isn't as easy to love. A replica of Michelangelo's "David" stands on an American flag with a loaded Uzi slung over his shoulder and an Israeli flag as his shawl. Is David now Goliath?
The artist isn't saying, nor is he interested in clearing up the controversy that surrounded his "Indian Flasks" decorated with Northwest Coast Native bear, eagle and raven decals.

Although the Stranger's art director wanted to put one on the newspaper's cover in 2005, editor Dan Savage said no. "What's it saying?" he asked rhetorically. "Injuns are drunks."

American Indian writer and filmmaker Sherman Alexie said Savage made the right call and added, "Why didn't Daws put the decals on a casino chip? Why not do something new?"

Oh, the flasks are new. They put their fingers in a wound and widen it. Are they art? Is Duchamp's urinal a sculpture?

Daws took Alexie's advice, after a fashion. His "Indian Dice" in red cedar and acrylic paint are winners for the Indians. Any way the dice roll, they come up sevens for the house.

Airport screeners won't be able to do anything about Daws' "Carry-Ons," brass knuckles and a knife in cherry, maple and walnut. Dangerous as they are, they'd sail through X-ray machines. Yet if they'd elude scrutiny in an airport they won't in a gallery, where they undermine any feeling of security we may bring with us. In Daws' hands, nothing is safe.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Life's flaws inspire Jack Daws' wicked sense of play

by Regina Hackett

What was once a misdemeanor is now a felony, in an edition of 6 at the Greg Kucera Gallery.

I'm talking about Jack Daws' series of small black boxes ("Felony Sculpture") into which he has sealed a variety of hard-core drugs, from crack cocaine and crystal meth to ecstasy, heroin and LSD.

In his exhibit last year at the King County Arts Commission Gallery, he threw the place into a tizzy with his "Misdemeanor Sculpture," a larger black box with pot inside. After much soul searching, the commission declined to exhibit the piece, referring those who were interested to the Kucera Gallery. Getting no public funds, Kucera had much less to lose.

Anyone can be controversial. Daws is aesthetically smart as well as culturally audacious. On one level, his boxes pay tribute to Robert Morris' box sculpture of the 1960s, "Sculpture With the Sound of Its Own Making," as well as Charles Ray's box from the 1980s that wasn't a box but a vat of black ink. Those who touched the surface expecting something smooth and hard came away with a record of their infraction staining their fingers.

Daws' infraction is an inside job. He's making fun of the very idea of drug possession. Who is in possession in this case, and who is the pusher when no one can lay hands on the drug (assuming it's there at all) without destroying the art?

Moving on, Daws examines the idea of sport, focusing on basketball. Jeff Koons in the 1980s floated basketballs in fish tanks, creating a kind of sculpture no one had seen before. Daws trapped his ball in a glass orb, which looks impossible, the glass wrapping around the ball like a glove.

Daws is in David Hammons' territory here, Hammons' meditations on the cult of basketball ("Higher Goals") that narrows the aspirations of young African American males to a virtual impossibility. Daws isn't nearly as serious as Hammons, partly (I think) because Daws is white and Hammons is black. What is tragic for Hammons is just one more piece of absurdity for Daws. On the other hand, I could be reacting to the art based on what I know about the artists, muddying the waters as Daws intended.

Seattle's Daws, 32, was born and raised in rural Kentucky, hence the title of his show, "Kentucky Windage." In his home state, windage refers to the practice of aiming away from the center of a target to compensate for the effect of the wind or an inherent flaw in your weapon.

For Daws, life itself is inherently flawed, and those flaws inspire his subversively wicked sense of play. Consider "Mamma Tried," a playpen Daws surrounded with electrified wire, making it a high-security prison in miniature. Robert Gober has previously dealt with the warping claustrophobia (and dreamy beauty) of playpens. Daws' harsh light makes Gober's look insubstantial. Daws takes his title from a Merle Haggard song, "I turned 21 in prison doing life without parole. No one could steer me right, but Mamma tried." Haggard's saint is Daws' hag.

I love his "Nike Branding Iron," his "Two Towers" photo of the World Trade Center rebuilt as french fries with ketchup, and his backwoods version of Sisyphus. If a Southern man were condemned to push a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back again, he'd hitch it to his pickup truck, wasting his time without wasting his energy.

Daws is hard-wired to go over the line. One of the lines he crosses here is racial: the black-faced Mickey Mouse dolls, the photo of the basketball sliced open to reveal a watermelon, and (above all) his Southern black "Still Life" photo, with watermelon, Kools, cognac and a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket on fake leopard-skin.

He's channeling racist jokes that whites commonly enjoyed before the civil rights movement cast those alleged levities in a less benign light. Fred Wilson, Kara Walker and Hammons (all black) have explored this territory. It's theirs to explore. Is it Daws? Don't artists have the freedom to conjure with whatever cultural codes they choose?

Cover of The Stranger, August 7 - 13, 2003

From the Stranger, Thursday, August 7, 2003:
Picks: Jack Daws and William Kentridge (ART)

Jack Daws is wildly irreverent, but he's never without a point: The objects he fabricates veer a few degrees away from normal, and in those few degrees is a world of meaning. This, his first solo show, features sculpture and photographs, and includes a playpen bounded by barbed wire, a windmill sculpted out of coal, the twin towers built of French fries (pardon me, Freedom fries), and other items that carry his nutty political charge. By way of excellent contrast, Greg Kucera is also showing new drawings and prints by South African artist William Kentridge, one of the few political artists who doesn't make me yawn. - EMILY HALL

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 9, 2002:
When talk is exhausted, artists turn to their craft, creating fresh experience

"American flags pickled like pigs' feet, used motor oil filling a U.S.-shaped container, stuffed animals on the march, the American dream as a military zone: These are some of the ways visual artists have responded to the national disaster known by its date, 9/11. "Everything is different now, but nothing has changed," said Seattle artist Jack Daws. He is one of the artists appearing in "States of the Union: Before and After" at the Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S.

Visually stark, beautiful even, his flags pickled in glass jars suggest a fluid range of meanings. We pickle what we want to save, a homespun American tradition. On the other hand, pickling the flag suggests it suffered a fatal blow. What part of being American can we protect from those who want so desperately to destroy us? When talk is exhausted, we turn to art.

Cliches cling to tragedies, and art peels them off, letting us see fresh facets of the experience. For a good reason, no other major Seattle gallery and no art museum chose to confront this particular experience head on. Artists aren't known for sparing anybody's feelings, and feelings run high on the subject of airplanes full of people turned into bombs that killed thousands. Artists can't be counted on for solace. Since the birth of the modern era, they have insisted on the freedom to examine freely any ideas and emotions, which is why art flourishes (when allowed to) in democracies and dies under dictatorships. The Kucera exhibit is the best but far from the only thing happening in visual art circles to commemorate 9/11."