Tate Modern

Jordan Wolfson Until 26 August 2018

Photo by Dan Bradica © Jordan Wolfson, Courtesy the artist, Sadie Coles HQ, London and David Zwirner, New York/Hong Kong

American artist Jordan Wolfson’s Colored sculpture centres on the figure of a puppet hanging from chains

As the chains move, they lift the figure up and let it fall to the ground. This apparent act of violence may trigger a strong emotional response. However, the sense of shock is tempered by the awareness that the deliberately crude, loose-limbed figure is clearly just a collection of fibreglass parts connected by metal links.

In visualising his figure, Wolfson drew upon three slightly old-fashioned representations of boyhood from American popular culture. These included illustrations of Huckleberry Finn, a good-hearted urchin in several novels by Mark Twain; Howdy-Doody, a cowboy puppet from a children’s TV show of the 1940s and 1950s; and Alfred E Neuman, the mascot of the satirical magazine Mad.

Sound is an integral part of the installation. The chains drag and clatter. There is also an abrupt burst of music – the soul classic When a Man Loves a Woman, recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966. A voice seems to come from the puppet, reciting a cryptic list of sometimes threatening desires and actions. The figure can therefore be seen as both an aggressor and a victim. The figure is all the more menacing because it is equipped with sophisticated facial recognition technology so that its eyes can fix on viewers and return our gaze.

The words we hear are read by the artist himself. However, they should not be seen as representing Wolfson’s intentions. As he has done in other works, Wolfson creates a completely fictional persona like a narrator in a novel.

Curated by Mark Godfrey and Nathan Ladd.


Mon, Tues


Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday

10.00–13.00, 15.00–18.00

Friday, Saturday

10.00–13.00, 15.00–17.00, 18.30–22.00

This display contains loud noise, an animated puppet and language that some visitors might find distressing.


Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
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Jordan Wolfson: Until 26 August 2018

American artist Jordan Wolfson’s Colored sculpture centres on the figure of a puppet hanging from chains

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