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david ebony's top ten

Jack Pierson
at American Fine Arts

Installation view

Installation view
   A sight for sore eyes, this show of Jack Pierson's recent sign pieces at the very least offers the perfect respite from Yoko Ono's sappy bone yard at Deitch Projects just next door. This is the first show to focus exclusively on the wall sculptures by Pierson, who is perhaps better known for his photographs. Here, he uses found letters taken from old commercial signs and reconstitutes them into words and phrases which seem to reflect both public and private musings and jokes. The blurb-reliefs range from the witty Dhope and the exuberantly juvenile Fuck You, which confronts visitors at the door, to the obscure Noung and the obvious Working Class Values.

The best works are those where the materials and colors seem to function symbolically, as in Torment, with its acid yellow lettering, Working Class Values, a hip dime-store story, and Poor Boy, whose wooden letters are the impoverished cousins of metal and neon characters. While Pierson may not be the Lawrence Weiner of the '90s, he uses language in an imaginative and poetic way. In works such as Was Not and Sover, Pierson offers a street-smart demonstration of Barthes's comments in Elements of Semiology that "signification can be conceived as a process; it is an act which binds the signifier and the signified, an act whose product is the sign."

Jack Pierson, Apr. 18-May 9, 1998, at American Fine Arts, 22 Wooster Street, New York, N.Y. 10013.