Joe Light (1934–2005), Pony, 1988
Enamel on wood, 36 x 38 in.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation
Compared with the American art-historical movement of the 1960s, Joe Light's particular brand of pop art is unexpectedly sober and serious. Light never pokes fun at the tacky side of American society; he never uses art to make an ironic point about material culture. The only connections Light has with the world of high art are its remnants that have made their way to the flea markets or those that have come to him diminished by the limitations of his TV screen. He fashions a religion from this high-to-low fusion. He redeems the bric-a-brac, honors it, and makes it respectable, even holy.
Joe Light (1934 - 2005) was born in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and spent his early childhood working on a farm. Light’s religious awakening - his conversion to Judaism while incarcerated for armed robbery - changed the course of his life and fueled his artistic output upon his release from prison in 1966. In the early 1970s, after settling in Memphis with his family, Light translated his religious fervor into the painting of wooden or cardboard signs installed around his yard to express his opinions and inspire the betterment of his neighborhood. His practice soon evolved into painting and sculpture, his two biggest influences being his spirituality and the vibrant, bold aesthetics of commercial culture.
Joe Light’s work is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the High Museum of Art.
Learn more about Joe Light here.
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