An Eye On Masculinity Beyond The Hood
1 year ago
Artist Duron Jackson Explores the Presence in the Present
Artists create to express. The multitude of concepts and ideas that emerge from any given piece of art can be numerous. The purpose, meaning and story behind the work can at times be complex, elusive, or obscure while some meanings or associations are clearer. The artist that seeks to fully engage his or her audience leaves space for exchange, allowing and welcoming viewers to bring his or her own perspective, baggage and experiences to the work.
Visual artist Duron Jackson’s work solicits viewer engagement and evokes many questions. His work speaks to and addresses masculine mobility (or, conversely, constraint) and existence in society. There is a quote from Richard Wright’s novel Black Boy that still seems to ring true: It states, “The color of a Negro's skin makes him easily recognizable, makes him suspect, converts him into a defenseless target.” However, Jackson’s work aims to push past defenseless to strength, recognition and respect.
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Jackson’s sculpture, Migration, is currently on view at the Benrimon Gallery in New York City in the group exhibition titled, “Configured,” curated by TekaSelman. The show explores notions of identity and the self-portrait. Migration speaks to the idea of from whence one came, specifically via the relocation of southern Black people to various points north and east, most specifically New York. The sculpture consists of a large-scale sepia-toned photograph (that includes the artist's grandmother) positioned on the floor, and a metal needle that pierces through a stack of law books and three eggs.
Migration elicits deeper probing around questions such as how people have progressed and evolved over time, and since the migration. It is also a meditation on how environment and society impact an individual within and outside one's heritage, culture and family.
While Jackson’s maternal family comes from the south, he was born and raised in Harlem, making him able to claim the status of being a native New Yorker, a coveted and powerful identity, one that for some, trumps the self-proclamation of being “American.”
Growing up in New York City of the '70s and '80s shaped and informed Jackson’s identity. It created the landscape for him to bear witness to and live through the ravaging eras of crack cocaine and heroin addiction that annihilated the lives of many men, women and families and led to the violence of the streets as well as the deaths of friends to AIDS.
Jackson survived in part because his mother demanded a better education for her son that afforded him the opportunity to be schooled in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. He also benefitted from having a strong family.
Despite the “dead or in prison” messaging that burdened the shoulders of Black youth and males of that time period, it is paramount that Jackson is still standing, creating and living; he is a survivor. Although survivor is not a part of how he self-identifies, it is a theme that emerges in his work and how he positions materials in a manner that challenges viewers to re-examine their meaning in a given context.
When asked about of his role as an artist and why he chose to become one, Jackson states, “I had to create, I had to do something to prove that I am here.”