Los Angeles

John Paul Jones

Barnsdall Municipal Art Gallery

Since the works included span a number of years and styles, the temptation is to see progress. However, Jones’s angular abstract intaglios of the early fifties hold their own and seem superior in formal realization to many of the later works. This is not to say that an artist should feel bound to one idiom because of its success, but the safari from precise intersecting structural forms to evanescent melted human curves inevitably produces casualties. The plastic unity of the early prints begins to dissolve as Jones adds disassociative figurative emblems inside planar compositions (e.g., Pieta, 1957 and Annunciation, 1959.) When the subject matter is intrinsically closer to the angular works as in White Table, 1957, harmony is established between soft and sharp elements.

In general, the oils are the weakest works in the exhibition because the artist seems to have expected less from the medium, assuming that it is sufficient to merely start the perceiver’s experience by wiping-out or scratching figureheads from a solidly painted surface. But the result is only an illusory virtuosity. Jones does a better job as a conjuror in Standing Woman, 1960 a pastel and charcoal drawing which is successful because of the sensitive contour to the profile figure. Here the line has been lovingly varied and shaped by a control that is missing in the oils.

Rosalind G. Wholden