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Ronald Jones. Photo: Royal College of Art.

Ronald Jones (1952–2019)

American artist, critic, teacher, and writer Ronald Jones, whose interdisciplinary practice synthesized pedagogy, poetry, and history to mine the American archive of violence and invention as medium, has died at age sixty-seven. 

Jones eschewed the idea that art must maintain a trademark focus. In addition to being represented by Metro Pictures and Sonnabend Gallery, his many activities included contributing regularly to Frieze and Artforum, composing operas; designing Chicago’s Pritzker Park; and teaching established artists, including Jason Dodge, Matthew Barney, Sarah Sze, Elizabeth Peyton, and Michael Joo, at Yale University, Columbia University, the Royal College of Art, ArtCenter College of Design, and Konstfack University College of Art and Design, among other schools. He was also a member of the Nobel Foundation’s Science and Humanities Program Committee as well as its Science Policy Forum.

“Very early, I understood the profound weakness of modern culture to create and sustain change of any kind, perhaps other than a change of heart,” he said in an interview. “It had fallen victim to its own self-righteousness, withered into an academic study of the anthropology of the ritual of protest. . . . I delivered my politics, not by sloganeering or bombast—the default political timbre in the arts—but rather as did Brecht, Beckett and others, by subtle persuasion cloaked in beautiful and exotic materials and craftsmanship.”

Jones’s work has been exhibited at Artists Space, New York; the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Baltimore Museum of Art; and the Grazer Kunstverein, Graz, Austria. It is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, all in New York.

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