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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Oliver Lee Jackson

Oliver Lee Jackson

American, born 1935

Oliver Lee Jackson is a painter, sculptor, printmaker, and draftsman whose work is grounded in figuration.

Oliver Jackson was born in 1935 in St. Louis, Missouri. He studied at Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington (B.F.A. 1958); served in the U.S. Army (honorable discharge, 1961); and attended University of Iowa, Iowa City (MFA 1963). In the 1960s he was active with community cultural projects in St. Louis as Assistant Director of People's Art Center (1963-64), and Director of Program Uhuru (1967-68), which he created at Pruitt & Igoe public housing to bring to low-income African Americans a constructive means of developing dialogue through arts programs. During those years, Jackson became involved with the Black Artists Group through his association with Julius Hemphill and others, acting as consultant and collaborator on multimedia arts presentations for the African American community (he was not an official BAG member). BAG was founded by musicians, theater artists, dancers and visual artists who demanded a greater place in the cultural landscape for the creative expression of African American artists. In 1971, Jackson was a founder of an organization known as the African Continuum, conceived as a vehicle for showing the fullness and continuity of African creative traditions.

As an instructor, lecturer and professor, Oliver Jackson taught and lectured in Art, Philosophy, and Pan African Humanities, and was a Curriculum Consultant for the creation of programs in Pan African Studies. He was Art Instructor at St. Louis Community College (1964-67); Curriculum Specialist and Lecturer at Southern Illinois University (1967-69), and lectured on philosophy and aesthetics of African peoples; Assistant Professor of Art, Washington University, St. Louis (1967-69); and Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies, Oberlin College OH (1969-70). He relocated to California in 1971 to teach in the art department at California State University, Sacramento, where he also developed a curriculum for Pan African Studies and lectured in Pan African Humanities. Jackson continued as Professor of Art at CSU Sacramento until his retirement in 2002.

Oliver L. Jackson was Artist-in-Residence/Visiting Artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1979); Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Wake Forest University and North Carolina School of the Arts, Winston-Salem (1980); Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York (1984); University of California, Santa Barbara (1985); University of Washington, Seattle (1985); University of Iowa, Iowa City (1985); California State University Summer Arts Program, Arcata (1986, 1994); University of Illinois, Champaign (1988); University of California, Berkeley (1989); University of Hawaii, Hilo (1993, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2012); San Francisco Art Institute (1993); California College of Arts & Crafts Summer Institute in France, Aix-en-Provence (1999), and Paris (2000); CalArts Summer Institute, Valencia, California (2007); and Flint Hill School, Oakton, Virginia (2006-2010). As a sculptor, Oliver Jackson spent extended periods of time in Carrara, Italy, in 1983 and 1985 working in marble, which he has continued in his studio in Oakland, California.

Jackson’s works have been included in exhibitions that include the 1983 Whitney Biennial; the 1984 International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; exhibitions at the Museo do Arte Moderno, Rio de Janeiro; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Seattle Art Museum; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, and many others. Solo museum exhibitions include the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA (1977, 1984, 1993); St. Louis Art Museum (1980); Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC (1980); Seattle Art Museum (1982); University of California Art Museum, Berkeley (1983); University Art Museum, University of California Santa Barbara (1985); Newport Harbor Art Museum, CA (1993); Harvard University, Cambridge MA (2002); Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis (2012), and others.

In 2000, Harry Cooper, then Curator of Modern Art at Harvard Art Museums invited Oliver Jackson to Harvard as Artist in Residence. At Harvard, Jackson created a series of paintings for an exhibition in memory of his friend, saxophonist and composer Julius Hemphill. In 2002, Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard presented the collaborative installation Duo in homage to Hemphill, with an installation of six paintings by Jackson and a soundtrack by Marty Ehrlich.

Oliver Jackson has been commissioned for paintings, sculptures, set designs, and album covers. In 1986, the General Services Administration commissioned a marble sculpture for the Federal Courthouse, Oakland, an obelisk that was installed in 1993. In 1986, the California Arts Council commissioned a painting for the State Office Building in San Francisco. Jackson has created numerous theater sets, including sets for plays by Paul Carter Harrison, and for Cleveland/San Jose Ballet's 1993 production of “The Overcoat.” Jackson's works have been used as cover art for LPs and CDs by Julius Hemphill and Marty Ehrlich.

Awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1980-81; Nettie Marie Jones Fellowship, 1984; Art Matters, New York, 1988; Fleishhacker Foundation Eureka Fellowship, 1993; and 2003/2004 Award in Painting and Sculpture, Awards in the Visual Arts, Flintridge Foundation, Pasadena, California.

Oliver Lee Jackson’s works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Detroit Institute of the Arts; New Orleans Museum of Art; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; St. Louis Art Museum; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; San Jose Museum of Art; Seattle Art Museum, and many other public and private collections.

Since 1982 Oliver Jackson’s studio has been in Oakland, California.

  • American
  • drawing
  • drawing
  • prints

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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