"Pierson approaches his work in various media from the perspective of [an artist] capturing the life of his alter ego.... Viewed together, his photographs, word sculptures, paintings and drawings are the poetic redemption of his past. Each tells a story of love, desire, loss, hope, or loneliness" (B. Clearwater, exh. cat., Jack Pierson: Regrets, Miami 2002).
Jack Pierson's five early works explore the flip side of the American dream. His photographs and delicate drawings are imbued with ambiguous yet undeniable layers of emotion and meaning. Executed in the 1990s, at a time when the slick, generational confidence of the 1980s converged with an alarming, dilapidated reality hastened by AIDS, Pierson draws on the subject matter and iconography of everyday life to express what he calls, "the tragedy inherent in the pursuit of glamour."
Fate, an early picture from his "snapshot period" presents a deck of tarot cards laid out on a deep pink tablecloth. The work's lush, over-saturated color is characteristic of Pierson's photographs, as they were meant to mimic the aesthetics of low-grade photography. Approaching photography in a pictorialist and painterly fashion, his photographic works are often compared to scenes from road movies, whose rapturous race toward fulfillment have become etched into the American landscape. Executed when Pierson first began his Word Sculptures in 1991, which use found letters salvaged from junkyards, casinos, and other forsaken places, Fate implies a similar sense of roaming restlessness that is echoed in his early drawings.
From the beginning Pierson used poignant textual motifs, drawing on both their visual and textual power. Gone, with its outlined, vertically arranged letters appears at once romantic and hardnosed: steeped in the emotion of his found and collaged letters, but with an utter economy of means. Pierson finds simple beauty in the use of single word, though unlike Carl Andre who repeats a word continuously, Pierson's work allies closer with Ed Ruscha's stylized, emblazoned text. Intimate and haunting, Then I'll Be Without You, Who'll be There? and Gone use visible hand and fingerprints to evoke a raw, emotional charge. Pierson's question and his prosaic single words convey a kind of vagrancy; his drawings become poignant meditations on the subject of art and creation, fame, immortality and the passage of time.