Jack Hallberg was my student in the early 1990s. He has been my friend and neighbor ever since. He is also, for me, a living repudiation of the idea that artists develop. In fact, artists decide. For about a year after Jack arrived in Las Vegas, he made bad paintings. Then one day he just got sick of it. He began making good paintings, and he has made them ever since, steadily and without complaint through a virtual tsunami of accident, illness and personal disaster. During this onslaught, Hallberg’s paintings never lost an iota of their goofy, meticulous, good-hearted, ebullience. I have no idea how he has managed this or where the paintings come from.
They are full of art history, of course, and I can cite references. Seurat? Certainly. Pollock? Of course, but through Lichtenstein. West Coast abstraction? Absolutely. Ultralounge Vegas, Sci-Fi Surrealism and Kenny Scharf? Without a doubt. But none of these references address or explain the charm and equanimity of Hallberg’s paintings. I can only suggest that they share these virtues with paintings they do not much resemble by Elizabeth Murray, John Wesley and Peter Saul and that the work of all these artists exudes a level of good humor and self-possession that is daunting for its sheer lack of neediness and aggression. On a cultural battlefield full of striding warriors and calculating strategists who demand our awe and attention, strewn with bloody victims demanding our care and sympathy, high physical comedy can be challenging and intimidating. It can seem like an insult to the entire endeavor, because it is one thing to abandon drama for theater. That is the contemporary move. It is quite another thing to abandon theater for high-hearted conversation, because solemnity is not an option in everyday talk. So these questions arise. How dare these artists, at this rich and profligate moment, seem to need so little? How dare they seem be having so much fun? How dare they tempt us into the daylight?
Curated by Dave Hickey