Los Angeles

John Paul Jones

Felix Landau Gallery

Like the smile on the Cheshire Cat, the portrait image in Jones’ pictures keeps dissolving and the next batch may well be just a smile of thin air. The paintings are dark-to-black surfaces, drawn into with a graffito line and rubbed for a minimal sort of value range in the background. They are less like paintings than suspensions of the developmental stage of an etching plate, inked, rubbed and ready to print. This understatement involves the viewer in the rather trivial pastime of merely trying to read the non-images rather than in participating in what is said. As psychological portraits they have a rather academic relation to the enigmas of Bacon or Goya but the mystery is really only the trapping of mystery pulled around some quite extroverted, and somewhat sooty, individuals. His earlier still-life series seemed much more moving and secret because the paintings demanded that we follow them through to our own conclusion—they trapped us and insisted that we find meaning in a way these centrally positioned elves cannot seem to do.

The small bronzes are more sprightly and less pretentious of deep thought. They have the fresh sketchlike quality of directly manipulated wax that even if not wholly sculptural, and more in the nature of gallery artifacts, is certainly most impressive as a quick summary of individual personality. John Paul Jones is a serious artist and his probings are to be taken seriously. His abilities are implicit in the entire show and it is frustrating to feel that so little of the cat is left showing.

Douglas McClellan