It almost came as no surprise that while I sat in the stairwell of Des Moines’ artist and activist Jordan Weber’s studio waiting for him to arrive, sweat beads were forming on my forehead. Five minutes of waiting in his second floor inferno felt appropriate — offering up a level of anticipation and discomfort similar to what his art is capable of producing.
The studio itself sprawls out in a manner that may resemble the layout of Weber’s own mind map: an open floor plan, painted mostly white with a feeling of endless possibility. The hand-applied sheen on the steps leading up to the studio and on the concrete floor inside creates simultaneous feelings of both finish and a raw lack of refinement. A broken piano sits off to the left, artfully juxtaposed against a handful of broken windows with stickers that read CAUTION DO NOT OPEN WINDOWS — an unintentional coincidence, as if the windows followed Weber’s masterplan: disrupt the patriarchal system.
In the farthest corner of the studio is where you’ll find Weber and his work, almost as if the pressure of upcoming exhibit deadlines have literally pushed him up against the wall (which he welcomes). Strewn about the floor of that same corner include sledgehammers, a taxidermy wolf and a handful of half-finished canvases rolled up together, waiting like treasure boxes to be opened and rediscovered, perhaps by Weber himself.
Weber’s speeding down a new road in his career, one which can be thoughtfully traced back to his 2014 squad car turned art piece “American Dreamers” — created in response to the August 9, 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer.
His new collection sits comfortably collided at the intersection of Lichtenstein street art style and mechanical deconstruction — a nod to his artistic past and a peek into his continued investigation of societal degradation. Heavy in both the weight of machinery and the contextual expression it embodies, the work awaits final touches and artistic approval before it is shared with the public this Friday.
Pillaging of the land and body, colonization by way of eradication, and the annihilation of an entire people are all sentiments at play in Weber’s newest body of work. It’s a mouthful of well-versed descriptors, but ones backed by research, proving Weber reaches far to find truths that are being silenced within this generation, but have been heard as screams in the generations before his.
Part political collusion, part artistic collision, Weber’s work will continue to shine just like that studio floor, a nod to the foundation he stands on, as both raw and refined.
New Work by Jordan Weber, presented by Moberg Gallery, opens Friday, July 14. Details here.