Date of Submission

Spring 2013

Academic Program

Studio Arts

Project Advisor 1

Jeffrey Gibson

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Count Backwards From a Thousand

by Jake Reed

I draw inspiration from various forms of commercial imagery and graphic design, including posters, road signs and postcards. My interest in these visual sources permeates most work that I make, providing me with some sense of visual identity as an artist. At the year’s start I lacked the inspiration that comes from the desire to communicate an earnest message, but I had an idea how I wanted my work to look.

Through a number of projects, some failed or abandoned, others on display, I honed this aesthetic and drew closer to formulating a statement I felt comfortable with making. While it is common for one to approach the senior project by executing a single idea on a large scale, I avoided committing myself to a project of a singular sentiment or appearance for fear of losing interest, or worse, confidence in the work. My indecisive nature often slows me down and can keep me from following through with an idea, but I don’t feel as though it hindered my ability to ultimately produce a body of work that I am proud of. The process that led to the work in my show, while slow at times, was more natural than it would have been had I simply followed a guideline set for myself. It’s fluidity also allowed the work to be receptive to changes in my attitude and my life.

One such change was brought about by a personal event. In the middle of a cold night over winter break, I was attacked while on my way back from hanging out with some friends. On the very block I grew up on, a group of three men assaulted me, breaking my jaw and stealing my phone and wallet. The event led to a series of meetings with detectives and an Assistant District Attorney, and introduced me to New York City’s legal system. I viewed three lineups and testified twice in front of a Grand Jury. I was impressed by the police’s ability to track down a number of suspects within a couple weeks of the attack but was struck by their casual attitude, which in no way seemed to match any of my emotions: anger, confusion and pity, among others. I could not stop thinking about the one man I clearly remember from the incident, the one wearing a varsity jacket similar to the one I had been wearing. I spotted him immediately in the third and final lineup.

Both the series of postcards (a matching set of which have served as invitations to the show) and the wall painting depict this man. Seen only from behind, his identity is obscured in the postcards. His jacket is his identifying feature and an item of clothing I have come to identify with. The presence of two mysterious figures in each card references both his and my involvement in the incident. The two of us stare at the ground where I lay as I was attacked. While we are two very different people from different worlds, we found ourselves at the same place on that night, wearing variations of the same piece of clothing. The wall painting is an allusion to the lineup in which I identified my attacker as Number 3 in a group of six. The imagery in both pieces is based on security camera stills used by the police to identify the suspect.

Rather than a condemnation of his actions, these pieces are an attempt to connect to someone who couldn’t pick me out of a lineup, but has forced me to think more intensely about the world I live in.

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