Jefferson Pinder

Modern Painters

June 1, 2009

Jefferson Pinder By Kiki Anderson

Jefferson Pinder, installation view of “Juke” (2006). John Riepenhoff/Inova/Kenilworth Gallery, Milwaukee

“Jefferson Pinder” at Institute of Visual Arts (Inova) Milwaukee
Feb. 25 – June 14

Assembled here together for the first time in this large-scale survey, Jefferson Pinder’s films and videos feature subjects who never speak. But their message comes across loud and clear nevertheless. When a white man repeatedly slaps a black man across the face (Passive/Resistance; 2008), or when two men in suits — one man is white, the other black — endlessly wrestle (Fisticuffs; 2004), or a lone, naked black man mysteriously finds clothes for the office as he races through woods and then city streets (Marathon; 2003), viewers understand that they are witnessing the difficulties and frustrations inherent in the African-American experience.

The highlight of the show is a 10-video series titled “Juke” (2006), which features close- ups of people lip-synching rock songs. Juke is slang for music or dance, but it is also used to describe a tactical move in football when a player fakes out someone from the other team by running in the wrong direction. In the videos, the performers, all African- American, reclaim the music that never would have existed had blacks not first invented the blues. Freddie Mercury’s strange scatting in Juke: Stanley (Under Pressure) and Patti Smith’s white punk appropriation of the “N” word in Juke: Anna (Rock n Roll Nigger) both become problematic in new ways via this interpretation. The scatting becomes silly, and Smith’s attempt to redefine the racial slur wears thin. The tight close-ups on the actors offer pure and undiluted performances, and taken as a whole the work negotiates an visceral and cerebral existence that is far from didactic.