Tempe Artist Jon Haddock on Police Violence and Drawing Inspiration from Pop Culture

Tempe artist Jon Haddock with his oversized paper mache gun.EXPAND
Tempe artist Jon Haddock with his oversized paper mache gun.
Mikey Estes

What happens in the studio shouldn’t always stay in the studio. Studio Visit Q+A is a weekly series that profiles artists in their studios. We ask them questions, they provide answers, and then we have a nice discussion about their work. This week: Tempe based artist and educator Jon Haddock.

The last we saw of Jon Haddock’s work was in 2011 in “Us Versus Them,” an installation at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art that playfully positioned the artist as a superhero of sorts. Though lately Haddock has been spending most of his time teaching and thinking about teaching, he doesn’t really make a separation between that and his art practice. We visited him in his studio to discuss the many projects he’s currently working on.

Since Howard House, the Seattle gallery that represented Haddock, closed its doors in 2010, he hasn’t been under pressure to produce and exhibit work. This newfound freedom has allowed Haddock to take a more intuitive approach to art-making. “I kind of figured out there’s two aspects to making,” says Haddock. “There’s the part where you’re really making the art. It’s about communication and it’s about getting it right. It’s about hitting all the marks and understanding how your audience is going to respond… and then there’s this other part that I never believed in before of just messing around.”

Two of three abstract expressionist inspired paper mache sculptures in Haddock's studio.EXPAND
Two of three abstract expressionist inspired paper mache sculptures in Haddock's studio.
Mikey Estes

The desire to just mess around with paper mache came out of a project that Haddock started called Everything Your Heart Desires. Responding to the commercialization of the Internet and technological advances like 3D printing, Haddock would make rough, endearing copies of items that people wanted, like a Rolex watch or a Nintendo 64 controller. From here, the project became a series of sculptures. “I just started making stuff that I wanted,” said Haddock.

Pulling from both popular culture and high art, these works in progress have a sense of humor, but like much of Haddock’s work, there’s serious implications at its core. A group of abstract expressionist-inspired sculptures made out of papier-mâché comment on value and artistic genius. Another work, a bust of Chris Pine crying at the Oscars following a musical performance from Selma, gets at issues surrounding whiteness and institutionalized racism.

Some of Haddock’s most popular works are his isometric screenshots, which were part of Phoenix Art Museum’s 2013 video game art exhibition. These screenshots are pixelated renderings of events, both historical and fictional. Haddock is revisiting this way of working in a series of new pixel drawings that are evidentiary accounts of violence enacted by police. With only the descriptions on the police reports, Haddock creates anatomical drawings that gruesomely depict these heinous acts of violence against people of color.

These and his older isometric works play with fiction and reality. These very real and brutal events rendered in video game perspective somehow make it all the more real. And at this current moment, understanding the reality of these acts of violence has never been more important.

Haddock's digital workspace in his studio with isometric drawing of violence enacted against Abner Louima.EXPAND
Haddock's digital workspace in his studio with isometric drawing of violence enacted against Abner Louima.
Mikey Estes

Tell us about your work in haiku format.
Without the stick
This mule finds it can see
In the darkness

What artist(s) are you really into right now?
Slavoj Žižek, Pat O'Neill, Fritz Lang (the opening sequence of Clash by Night)

What are you reading?
Blown by Philip Jose Farmer

What's the last TV show, film, or video you watched?
Richard Elfman's Modern Vampires

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Clark Ashton Smith — I think it would be affirming to work with someone who was weird before the Internet.

Haddock's work in progress depicting Chris Pine's tears at the Oscars.EXPAND
Haddock's work in progress depicting Chris Pine's tears at the Oscars.
Mikey Estes

Upcoming Events

What was the last exhibition you saw and what did you think of it?
Kyle Daniels' "Object of Affection" at PCA. I felt remorse for the careless way I've substituted archiving objects for doing the right thing. So that worked. I also got a decent jacket for almost nothing (as long as I don't keep thinking about why I have it).   

Jeff Koons or Marina Abramovic? and why?
I'm thinking the difference is pretty superficial. They're both such polished showmen; maybe Abromovic, because we do need that modernist heart. I have still hopes for Koons though.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
"If your story is more interesting than your piece, then your story is your piece." Received from David Dunlap.

What are you currently working on?
Papier-mâché copies of everything in the world that is cool, and internal anatomical maps tracing the wounds of people who were injured in encounters with the police over the last 20 years.

What's your most valued tool as an artist?
High density extruded polystyrene.

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