Jason Middlebrook (b. 1966)
APL #1 Humanity’s Problems for the Next 50 Years. 2003.
Colored pencil, graphite, ink, pen, and acrylic on paper.
47 x 80 inches.
The Progressive Corporate Art Collection.
Jason Middlebrook’s large scale drawing, APL #1 Humanity’s Problems for the Next 50 Years, abstracts the Alaskan oil pipe line, sending it zooming through a matrix of the 21st century’s most threatening phenomena. APL #1 puts America’s energy issues front and center, characterizing every other societal issue as tangled up around it.
Plainly listing issues that are, at once, concrete societal afflictions as well as abstract, timeless concepts—“DISEASE,” “POPULATION,” “ENERGY”—APL #1 presents only problems, not solutions. These mocking words repeat throughout the picture, varying in location and size, mocking the viewer like a rodent that refuses to leave the kitchen. A rainbow of colored pencil lines connects and intersects, furthering the drawing’s sense of energy and ordered confusion. Strung through this melee, Middlebrook depicts the Alaskan pipeline as a funky, brightly colored set of loops, like goofy rubber bands dropped on a war chart, like a map of the world adapted for a go-cart track or amusement park map.
In its numerous, text-filled ovals and intersecting graphic lines, APL #1 cites the style of systematic diagrams and charts, reminding the viewer of similar work by artists such as Marc Lombardi or Jorinde Voigt. Exemplifying their overwhelming and illusive nature, it mocks attempts to quantify social and cultural issues through graphs and charts. For, other than informing the viewer of their presence, Middlebrook’s drawing does little to helpfully synthesize the issues it names. Suggesting them as a threatening swarm out of reach, it identifies, but fails to exterminate. Part of an ongoing series of drawings exploring the pipeline, APL #1 expands past this drawing as a continually developing and expanding cartographical project.
Middlebrook holds a BFA from the University of California at Santa Cruz, an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. He lives and works in Hudson, NY.
Grant Johnson ’11
Former Exhibitions and Programs Coordinator