Jack Pierson was born in 1960 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While studying at the College of Art in Boston, he became associated with a group of artists who would become known as the Boston School, of which Nan Goldin, David Armstrong and Mark Morrisroe were also a central figure. Pierson’s practice incorporates photography, sculpture, installation, painting and found objects through which he explores the varied emotional undercurrents of daily life, from the intimacy of romantic attachment to the idealization of wanderlust.
His large-scale wall sculptures composed of letters in different sizes and materials are diametrically opposed to the hazy, soft-focus effect of his photographs. These photographic works have been compared to images from road movies, whose rapturous race towards fulfilment have become etched into the American landscape, while his Word Pieces are similarly rooted in nostalgia. Rather than valorising the American Dream, however, he reveals the underbelly of this seductive ideal. The mid-century lettering in fact evokes a sense of nostalgia, while the phrases are sourced from the contemporary vernacular – overheard in cafés and his daily commute, or borrowed from political aphorisms and advertising slogans – in works that defamiliarise everyday language. In the 1990s, Pierson primarily used slogans that were a melancholy reminder of the bygone Hollywood heyday, while his more recent works explore philosophical ideas. Concise and sometimes laconic, these works tap into the poetics of modern culture, using classical, literary and biblical quotations that evoke subtle associations for the viewer. They can be considered an American variant of concrete poetry, where language itself is represented through the skillful combination of word and material.
Today Jack Pierson lives and works in both New York City and Southern California. He has widely exhibited in both Europe and America. He has had important solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2002) and at the Centre d’Art Santa Monica, Barcelona (2007). A retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, in 2008. His work is in several collections, such as; CapcM Bordeaux, Whitney Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Museum and Guggenheim.