Jarrod Beck

Beck working with Studio Collaborator Lisa Switalski

During my year in residence at Dieu Donné I was also traveling to my land in far west Texas where I’ve been creating an installation of cast plaster in the ground called Disruption Regime. Each year heavy rains bring sediment into this desert wash and the plaster I’ve placed deflects the silt, creating a drawing in the ground. I would come back to New York and get to work in the wet studio, eventually developing a process of throwing thinned out pulp at a mold and then using my arm to pull and rub the pulp across the mesh of the mold. I have been looking for ways to show the desert ground-drawings without photographs, and I see these works in paper as a medium to transmit the process, rather than an image, and to shift the scale from a fleeting experience of walking five acres of land, seeing thousands of acres, and tens thousands of years in the compacted sediment in the mesas and mountains that surround the property to an experience of several square feet of color and translucency that’s here now, indelibly in front of you.

Each layer of these works marks a gesture, an index of the frisson between my arm and the architectural surface of the mold. Couching these layers together gives them strength and they depend on one another for permanence. I’ve used pigment in the pulp to differentiate between layers of these pressed-together gestures, mixing up the figure from the ground, using tones to pull texture toward you and pushing it back with veils of fiber. I’ve continued this gestural work back at my studio using pigmented cotton pulp and theatre scrim stretched across the studio. The cold of being third, in the front room of the gallery, is indicative of this scale, allowing me use the full range of my body to throw the pulp into space. The force presses the pulp into the mesh, and the wet muck of it traps and slows lumps of pulp that roll down these surfaces attached to the walls and makeshift frames I build for them.

This process, like all good stories, started in the basement. Lisa Switalski, the Studio Collaborator with whom I worked on these pieces, was extremely generous in sharing her knowledge with me, aiding my research into plant fibers for paper, which brought me from the deep dark corners of boxes of forgotten fiber in the Dieu Donné storeroom to the the yucca-studded land of a cattle rancher in the Texas panhandle. I am indebted to Lisa for her careful attention to my intuitive way of working and to her dedication to the finished works. During our studio days Lisa and I would often pause and look at the floor and see a work we wish we could catch: what you see here is just the part of the work that would fit on the mold. Thanks to the entire staff at Dieu Donné for their support and enthusiasm during what could sometimes be an immersive installation of wet pulp in the studio. The door that was opened to me here has challenged me as an artist and will remain hugely impactful on my process and progress. 

— Jarrod Beck, 2015

Jarrod Beck lives and works in New York, NY and Study Butte, TX. He earned a M.Arch degree from Tulane University and a MFA from the University of Texas at Austin.