Yesterday, Anna Kryczka, Stephanie Gonot and I went to a lovely place called For Your Art.
In college, I went to every lecture I could fit in a crazy schedule of working full time and going to school, also, full time. I went to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. So, not only were there amazing teachers, a great lecture series of the coolest contemporary artists, but there was the museum as well.
The museum’s lectures were aimed more for adults; the funny old lady members. They were so dry, but so good: how a certain Toulouse Lautrec painting was restored, lectures on ancient greek pottery, the new acquisition of a native american weaving and it’s history…etc.
As a student, we also had access to the Prints and Drawings room. There, you could request anything from the museum’s collection to study. What a wonder! I flipped through Cezanne’s sketchbook, I looked at early studies of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’avignon, tiny studies for Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Sooo rad.
I’m saying all of this because yesterday I finally found a place, post-graduation, that made my heart race again. Anna, my good buddy, and future Art Historian (she’s currently working towards her doctorate) wrote a little summary of one of the lectures. I’ll leave it to the smarty pants to describe:
William E. Jones blew my mind yesterday. In conversation with Rita Gonzales at For Your Art, he described his numerous book based projects and good god does his mind work in beautiful ways. His project Killed deals with rejected and destroyed Farm Security Administration negatives. He’s collected and printed the mutilated images that were declared unfit for inclusion in this depression era project of national introspection. There’s so much about this project that just lights your brain on fire - the production of an impossible mass of photographs made by the best photographers of the day in the midst of economic entropy, the nexus of taste and politics that resulted in this delightfully material from of censure, man oh man!
Jones has work up at White Cube in London. This body of work takes and enlarges the allegorical figures that adorn stock certificates. These images too bear the evidence of use and abuse, as stamps and hole punches are enlarged so as to appear cavernous. These sort of nonspecific mythological muscle men call to mind the curious “stock” mythological personae that populate Frederic Leighton’s aestheticist canvases. The author-less figures marshall their allegorical muscle to awkwardly witness financial exchange as materially manifest on the stock certificate.
Jone’s film and book Tearoom presents a startling piece of Cold War repression, the footage from a 1962 sodomy sting. This kind of work really gets at what is so wonderful about what I understand of Jones’s work, this way of expanding, contradicting, and twisting the “public record” through its own materials and means is really powerful stuff!