Jacks II. upon completion, 27 July 2015.

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 , 1912.

There is no “Jacks II” without “Jacks I.” Insofar as a collage begins with the artist’s choice of component materials, I employed those of the former in opposition to the Viceroy ad, strip of red paper, and faded Jack of Diamonds of the latter. Coupons pulled from Marlboro Red packs I smoked in Portland in 2009. A quarter roll sleeve flattened and pocketed at the liquor store I used to work at in Oakland in 2014. A Jack of Spades set aside out some Bicycle deck I bought at some generic store. Here was my aesthetic of the present-day, the materials of our lived culture. So what?

In arranging these on the page a set of relations proposed themselves. First, the coupons presented a manner of repetition both visual and temporal. All but two are the same, and all acquired pack after pack. And by way of their latent value, the coupons established a monetary association to the quarter roll sleeve: save 16 quarters now and a potential $20 more in the future. To my imagination then, staggering the coupons just so might suggest their accumulation, as if tossed on the same dresser over time. In turn, however, they may only attain their ultimate value at the point of sale, in the possession of the liquor store clerk. Actualization of the coupon necessitates the act of spending that provides the coupon. Or, the 50¢ value is reified in the quarters not spent that exist in the register. In any event, a jack thus valued is still a jack.

Somewhat regrettably, I affixed the coupons with Elmer’s. Yet in the days it took to do so, I came to see motion as the principle governing the composition and drama of “Jacks II.” Motion of the things we handle through space and time, engendering a narrative of purchase. “Ya’ll got a quarter?” “Nah, I got a fiddy cent coupon tho’.”

Retrospectively, I believe this motion was largely determined by the pedestrian items of the artwork. In the same manner, perhaps, that the nature of Duchamp’s nude was determined by the shapes he chose to represent it. That is, the means of expression in “Jacks II” permitted me a novel perspective toward the otherwise unremarkable redemption of coupons. The very absence of the human form proved prerequisite to truthfully depicting human action. The things we use bear meaning according to the other things we use. The aesthetic was unfamiliar, the content literal. Real talk.

14 April 2016