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Jack Pierson, Frankie & Johnny (1996)


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
It doesn't matter to me whether a cigarette is smoked in poverty or in a penthouse among models and wealthy tennis players. It's the same cigarette being smoked and it's the same impulse to die or to yearn that is smoking the cigarette. That's where the romance is in my work. The dead rose is just as good to me as the live rose. The bad ones are just as good, and the slight ones make up the whole, too. The loss is just as good as the having.--Jack Pierson, 1994

This painting was made from a photograph Jack Pierson took. It was then enlarged through the use of a computer and printed--by a large-scale ink-jet printer--onto canvas. The text on the side of the work includes the artist's name, the title, the date, a random number assigned to the work by the printing firm, and "./2" to indicate that this painting was made in an edition of two.

Pierson, whose work Beauty is also in the Walker's collection, uses new digital technologies to investigate an old artistic medium--painting. He challenges the idea that a painting is a unique handmade object, saying that "it's useless to try and make a perfect painting; it's completely subjective. . . . My painting . . . gets under your skin while pretending not to have any agenda."

The title, Frankie and Johnny, alludes to the traditional folk song of the same name that has been recorded by many artists over the years, first in 1927 and later by Johnny Cash in 1959, Sam Cooke in 1963, and Elvis Presley in 1966. The lyrics--which seem to be reinterpreted with every recording--tell a fatal tale of love lost (a 20th-century version, perhaps, of the stories of Romeo and Juliette or Tristan and Isolde). In recent years the interpretation of Frankie's gender has changed from that of a woman to a man as the song has been adopted by the gay community.

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Type: Commentary, object label
Source: Label text for Jack Pierson, Frankie & Johnny (1996), from the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 1999 to September 2, 2001.
Rights: Copyright 2000 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009