Artemis is a sculpture made of eleven sections of chipboard that slot together to form a three-dimensional standing structure. The sections of plastic laminated, wood effect chipboard from which the elements that make up the sculpture have been cut are slightly battered, with markings – like scratches, holes, drawn and sprayed lines, strips of masking tape and the stains left by opened tins of varnish – indicating they have been salvaged from a piece of furniture such as shelving or wall units. The reference to domestic furnishings is enhanced by the floral decoration, in violet, green and yellow, on a layer of plastic covering one of the sections, and by the construction itself, which includes two trestle-like legs that support the body of the figure of Artemis represented by the sculpture. Meadows cut zig-zag edges on the suggestion of a tail and wings at the back of his hybrid bird-woman figure; at the front, her face is represented by a dramatic profile emerging from a rectangle of wood effect chipboard. Mirroring the zig-zag cut edges, lines of black paint with a zig-zag border have been sprayed onto some of the surfaces, adding shading and depth. Sections of a string-like element made of narrow strips of grey t-shirt material, either single or plaited, are threaded between holes drilled into the chipboard and projecting angles. Where necessary the strips are joined with lengths of coiled copper wire. A small metal and rubber wheel is attached to the top of the goddess’s head. The artist has commented:
My work is something very simple disguised as something very complicated. Hopefully I can make complex gestures that have a time release. So you might look at the work and only see the way it’s held together on a formal level. But later you might only remember its presence, and what you were feeling when you were in the room with it ... [my work is] a three dimensional representation of musical ideas. I always get a kind of psychosomatic reaction from music that has to do with the logic of the patterns and systems of rhythm, and I aim for that in my work.
(Quoted in Cooper, pp.136-7.)
Raised in Chicago, the son of antique and curio enthusiasts, Meadows took weekend art classes at the Art Insitute of Chicago before studying for his BFA there. He moved to west to complete his MFA at the University of California in Los Angeles (1996-8), having been inspired by the work of Los Angeles artists Chris Burden (born 1946), Charles Ray (born 1953), Mike Kelley (born 1954) and Raymond Pettibon (born 1957), documented in the catalogue for the much publicised 1992 Los Angeles exhibition Helter Skelter curated by Paul Schimmel at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Here he quickly gained attention for his apparently casual combination of household materials to form a sculptural language that blends Pop, abstraction and minimalism. His structures combine abstraction with figuration in varying degrees. In such works as Protagonist 2002, the form is purely abstract and only the materials are recognisable as linked to the domestic world. Other works, such as Live on Sunset Strip 2001, Centaur 2004 and Prometheus 2004, like Artemis make direct reference to the human form. A further type of sculpture – Soldier of Fortune, Upskirt (both 2002) and Runaways 2005 – is abstract, but through its simple upright structure suggests a crudely delineated standing figure.
The title Artemis refers to the goddess who, according to Greek mythology, is the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the virgin goddess of the hunt, wild animals, the moon and childbirth and typically depicted in art with a crescent moon above her head and accompanied by her bows and arrows. She was said to be the reason for women dying in childbirth in some myths. In Asia Minor she was often depicted with multiple rounded protruberances on her chest, first believed to be breasts and later bulls’ testicles. Meadows’s sculpture makes very little obvious reference to the classical precedents. Two circular holes cut in the main body of his figure could be understood as referring to the breast or testicle forms; the grey string joining the sculpture’s sections may evoke the stringing on a bow and the small circular wheel on the goddesses head may be a contemporary version of the classical crescent moon. The classical Artemis is an ambiguously protective and destructive figure; Meadows’s portrait combines the banality of household materials with a combination of strange and familiar forms.
Dennis Cooper, ‘Jason Meadows’, Artforum, volume 36, number 9, May 1998, pp.136-7.
Jonathan Goodman, ‘New York, Jason Meadows’, Sculpture, volume 21, number 1, January-February 2002, pp.66-7.
Bruce Hainley, ‘Towards a Funner Laocoön’, Artforum, volume 38, number 10, summer 2000, pp.166-73.