65GRAND is pleased to present smooth square, soft circle, an exhibition by Jerome Acks, his second with the gallery. In this latest body of work Acks takes on music as his subject, but rather than draw inspiration from songs or cite the nostalgic memories associated with certain bands and albums, the artist engages the materiality of music. More specifically he explores the method of pressing records and presenting them through cover art.
Upwards of 80 records, housed in their square cardboard sleeves line the walls of the gallery on slender shelves. The artist has altered them through collage and painting, using them as the starting point for new compositions. Acks has selected the records not for the music, but for the cover art. This reflects not only his artistic process of responding to visual moments, but his relationship to music as a child:
“NPR and Christian stations were always on and I always had a tendency to tune them out. Unlike most of my friends who grew up with their parents listening to classic rock, I never really had that experience… Music always seemed like it was ‘just around.’ … I would hear a song in a movie or in a TV show and from that moment the song on would always have that reference until something else filled those shoes.”
Rather than appropriating pop music and sampling it like a DJ, Acks is appropriating its visual and physical material. This is emphasized further in the ghostly white molds of records laid out on workbenches. The artist is conflating the physical labor of art making with the industrialized production of music distribution. Progress has pushed these practices together even further; in the 21st century both art making and LP pressing have become specialized enterprises.
Jerome Acks was born in Baltimore, Maryland and lives and works in Chicago. Recent exhibitions include the group exhibition Night Sky at the Evanston Art Center in 2012 and Big Sky, his first solo exhibition with 65GRAND in 2010. Additionally, he has exhibited at the Contemporary Art Workshop and Julius Caesar (in collaboration with Kaylee Rae Wyant), both in Chicago. Acks received his MFA in painting and drawing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was a recipient of the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship.