New York

Allen Jones

Richard Feigen Gallery

For the most part the works in Allen Jones’s show consist of monstrously dead effigies representing a highly specialized fantasy female—the svelte, cone-breasted, impersonal dominator of the male. Dressed in skin-tight rubber or leather garments which set off her breasts and buttocks and exaggerate the length of her legs (enslippered in shoes with the glossiest, spikiest heels and tied with milli-lacetted boots), the Dominatrix demands total subjugation and slavishness from the male or possibly from another female votary. Since we all have read the personal advertisements in the underground press and perused the Punishment and Bondage sections of our neighborhood sex shops, the kind of imagery which Jones is at pains to make ever more perfect and explicit strikes me merely as drearily banal.

But the artist forthrightly acknowledges this in the expensive catalog which accompanies the exhibition. Jones has assiduously noted many of the sources of his imagery. Certainly, Jim of Bound magazine deserves much of the praise which it may be Jones’s lot to cash in on, not to mention the Vargas girl or the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall. What is essential to this creature is a sadistic absence of human sympathy and, as an archetype, the lack of femaleness. Despite her Diamond Horseshoe legs and charlotte-russe breasts she lacks a primary female sex organ.

What Jones has designed and had fabricated for him are two extravagantly pretentious mannequins cast in the roles of a table and chair. The Table kneels upon the floor, exposing her DyDee Doll posterior to some unknown assault while the Chair rears back, legs in the air, to support the seat’s cushions. As furniture they are the very fancy servants of Dali’s Mae West’s lip-shaped sofa and Kurt Seligmann’s Dietrich-legged ottoman—furniture more than a quarter of a century older than Jones’s—not to mention the trashy illustrations of Richard Lindner or the leather and studded busts of Nancy Grossman in the present moment.

I mentioned the highly self-aware alembication in all of this. Hans Bellmer’s cunnilingual dolls at least have vaginas, and Robert Graham’s wax dolls all have pubic hair. But Jones’s classicizing prejudices would never allow for this. His fiberglass and resin furniture has been subjected to the idealizing electrolysis demanded by the archetype. Unwanted Hair was never there. Instead we find a very tired Surrealist great granddaughter of Ingres’s La Source. And, as Ingres continues to wax, so does Jones wane.

Robert Pincus-Witten