For the past ten years Jeff Colson has been working on a series of sculptures, paintings and watercolors that focus on the ephemeral quality of paper, as a subject and a material. Each work depicts a peripheral accumulation of paper, once symbolic of the day-to-day frenzy of one’s life. As a single sheet it is barely there, but when accumulated, it becomes physical and symbolically loaded as information and the systematization of our daily existence. Colson recognizes that in an attempt to control chaos we are sometimes caught in a manic and desperate spiral to prevent the inevitable, the absurdity of this “Catch-22” is evidenced by the accumulation of almost everything that we desire, regardless of need. Ironically, now with the digital age, paper is on the brink of extinction. This existential view has been the underpinnings of most of his work, coupled with a desire to make objects from memory with all its distortion—a personal validation of acquisition.
Using his own handcrafted techniques, the elements of the work are carved, cut, sawn, sanded, painted, welded, and molded to replicate an object that is recognized at once for its intent and as absurd as an art object. Stacks (2014-2015) is an amalgam of three happenstance load-bearing objects: desk, drop leaf table and a milk crate supporting an ever increasing and ominous mountain of paper stacked like performance bar graphs. These comically wobbly towers of paper, the residue of well-intentioned ambitions seem touching in their sincerity, and the act of attempting insurmountable odds, a universal experience.
Jeff Colson grew up near the oil fields just north of Bakersfield, California. His father was a social worker whose do-it-yourself aesthetic, making everything from toys to homemade life jackets, informed Colson’s own identity as a “crackpot tinkerer.” In his sculpture, Colson refers to both that quirky, by-the-seat-of-your-pants decision-making process and Modernism’s purist grid. The sculptures are fabricated from both personal and cultural memory, often without referencing specific objects or images. The resulting forms are familiar, but aren’t real. Colson’s sculptures are physical documents of remembered reality. The sense of history is also literal as each piece can take months, even years to make.
Jeff Colson graduated from California State College, Bakersfield. His work is in the Collection of Count Giuseppe Panza di Buomo at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; the Sammlung Rosenkranz Foundation in Wuppertal, Germany; the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California; Colección Júmex, Mexico City and in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s permanent collection.
Jeff Colson was awarded a 2012 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and a 2015 City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Fellowship.
The artist lives and works in Pasadena, California