Matthew Day Jacksons Bucky is a monumental, playful and ultimately complex celebration of the twentieth-century visionary and inventor, Richard Buckminster Fuller. In this intricately, painstakingly crafted work, Day Jackson has composed the image by staining the panel, which is articulated by largely geometric marquetry, many of the ones in the background marked at their intersections by sections of mother of pearl, which has also been used to convey the near clairvoyance of this modern prophets eye. Adding to the textural variety of the surface, the glasses have been rendered using yarn, an appropriate material for this storytelling artist. He presents Bucky, as he was nick-named, in a pose that has the iconic impact of Soviet propaganda posters and of Kanye West album covers alike. Day Jackson often chooses subjects which tap into the complexities and ambiguities of progress and development, as well as the history and mythology of both science and his native United States. It is a reflection of the bridging of the worlds of science and culture in Day Jacksons works that a recent exhibition of his work, which was held in 2009-10, was shown at both MIT and at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.
Because of this interest in the realm of science and technology in the modern world, 'Bucky, himself the subject of a Whitney exhibition two years ago, has become one of Day Jacksons favourite touchstones, his legacy appearing in his works in various ways. Fuller popularised the notion of 'Spaceship Earth, of people trying to pull together in order to survive, of evolution and revolution, of the contribution of individuals to the greater good of mankind. Also, partly during his stint at the famous Black Mountain College, where he was a contemporary of John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Fuller perfected the creation of the geodesic domes and spheres. These have made a wide-ranging impact on the world, be it in the form of cheap and easily-assembled structures used for survival purposes, the sphere at Epcot in DisneyWorld, the former FIFA-approved footballs or the Eden Project in Cornwall. This was a part of his concerted effort to promote sustainable housing for the globes entire population; Fullers ideas often appear more relevant to the present world than they were during his own lifetime, granting him a fascinating contemporary currency.
Day Jackson often explores the double-edged sword of technology, revealing the roles that scientific discoveries have often played in the development of weapons. Even Fullers geodesic domes, which were originally intended to help housing problems, were turned to military applications as housings for radars, as can be seen famously in the landscape of Yorkshire. Fuller himself had coined a word, 'livingry, which was intended as an opposite of weaponry, and yet, in an historical complication that would appeal to Day Jackson, his own domes straddled both interpretations.
That ambiguity is heightened by the brooding dark background of Bucky, which is divided by the criss-crossing forms that so deliberately invoke Fullers famous geodesic domes and also serves to thrust the rainbow-like range of colours of the glasses into hallucinatory relief, accentuating the emphasis on Fullers role as a visionary. Adding another layer of tension, in a way that reveals how perfectly Day Jackson has selected a medium which itself reinforces his message, there is an emphasis on the sheer skill, the craft, that has gone into the creation of Bucky, which incorporates wood, yarn, dye and even mother of pearl. Even the lines of the background might evoke that most American of accoutrements, the quilt, allowing Day Jackson to deliberately undercut the technological, nearly sci-fi appearance of the image, revealing the way that science has come to form a part of the fabric of our existence and culture and exploring the complex undercurrents that this involves.