Click to skip to site content

Due to COVID-19, MOCA is temporarily closed. More information.

Collection > Jack Pierson >

You are Allowed to Touch Things


  • Medium

    Plastic, wood, and metal

  • Credit

    The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
    Gift of Alan N. Kleinman from the Estate of Marsha Kleinman

  • Accession number


  • Object label

    Composed with mismatched lettering from old movie marquees and storefronts, Jack Pierson’s You are Allowed to Touch Things materializes language. Rather than treating text as two-dimensional, this work endows it with color, size, design, and depth—all of which lend the language a high degree of tactility. Conjuring the image of a person who does not feel welcome to reach out and touch, or be touched, transformed into one who is, the phrase betrays a deep sense of yearning and loneliness. The social context in which Pierson made this piece adds an aspect of mournfulness: at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York, many members of Pierson’s gay community were ostracized socially and isolated physically by the unfounded fear that HIV and AIDS were transmissible through everyday human contact.