Los Angeles

John Paul Jones

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Nationally honored as a printmaker, Jones becomes the first local artist to be seen in retrospect at the Museum. Shown again as a painter and a sculptor, there are obvious and expected relationships between the three approaches. A translation of print techniques appears in the rubbed, wiped, scumbled, and textural conditions and recent traces of decalcomania. As well there is the preference for a solid or closely-woven support suggesting a source of method in the absorbency of the monoprint or the manipulation of an inked plate.

The paintings however are not merely ringers spun off, but another chief, now primary, direction. In the dense, grimacing heads looming hieratically from the dark ground (early 60s), appear distant allusions to the fantasia of Redon and the terrorized existentialism of Giacometti and Bacon. Rather, these personages’ vulnerability, and Jones’ individual position, stem from a melancholy historicism tempered by earnest intent, personable sly humor, and sharp inventive insight. These qualities also exist in the tiny, barely protruding sculpted heads and figures of the same period.

A second, lengthier European visit has caused Jones to push further to a rare and refined sensibility. The palette of monochrome has been altered to include the preciousness of such as mauve, rose, lavender, moss, ivory and tarnished raw sienna. His carefully delineated full length actors are now set in vaguely suggested interiors or more detailed landscapes. Jones’ movements seem effortless yet concentrated; the imagery evocative yet minute. The paintings strike a balance between the drenched amorphic and the acutely incised. It is purple patch painting, Pre-Raphaelite in these velvet and visionary aspects.

––Fidel A. Danieli