New York

Howard Jones

Wise Gallery

Circles and squares, matte surfaces, stringent execution, axial symmetry, emblematic configurations, are all familiar enough and all central to Howard Jones’s work. In short, the format of Jones’s pieces are inflexibly traditionalist. Even so, let me not demean the diligence and impeccability of his performances which speak, as one says, for themselves.

The outstanding pieces to my mind are the ones which seem to me to break his constricting Miesian mold—two pictures for sound. One is a dull grey square. Exquisitely hung, it is illuminated on a dark wall by a square shaft of light which falls slightly beyond its perimeter. On its imperturbable surface is a group of five equidistant punctures marking the corners of a square and the point in the center. The spectator, in his passage, interrupts the beam of light and the painting resounds with diversified electronic pitches. The picture is notable for the high involvement (here, this devaluated, term may be used with justice) it generates. Possibly the shadows cast by the viewer may be an unconscious reference to Jones’s work of several years back when a cybernetic mesh was laid over the actually painted silhouette of nondescript executives. The other picture, which will appear fatuously absurd in its reproduction, is a console which curves hokily away from the spectator. Across the center a set of equidistant punctures are run horizontally. As in the example of the square painting, the openings thump percussively when the flow of light to its polished surface is interrupted. These seem to me to be the most exacting work Jones has ever done. For the first time, and in the face of received compositional formats, Jones appears to be questioning what a picture might comprise. Whether or not a sequence of sounds might be considered “pictorial” is serious.

Other noteworthy works include square pictures employing steel surfaces brushed in vortex formations about a single center. A spread of tiny bulbs spin off a pattern of roseate light chevrons, most sharp and intense at the point of contact. Jones is really a kind of perfect craftsman and, in this respect, his work is the unacknowledged sibling to furniture. In the case of the sound pictures at least, his work unknowingly has trespassed into the precincts of acute and abstruse esthetic propositions.

Robert Pincus-Witten