SEAN ELWOOD | DATE 1/14/2016
Compilation, Jennie C. Jones’ knock-out solo show of drawings, wall works, sculpture and sound pieces, recently opened at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, accompanied by a superb exhibition catalogue and first-major-monograph from Gregory R. Miller & Co. (from which all images below are reproduced, except as noted).
Portrait of Jones by Jason Frank Rothenberg, courtesy of CAMH.
In addition to being Jones' first solo museum exhibition, this ten-year retrospective provides evidence that what may have seemed a long, varied, and, at a glance, meandering creative journey is, in fact, one cohesive endeavor—linking bodies of work that investigate and deliver a single intention as inevitably and smoothly as an aqueduct transporting water over uneven terrain.
"Sustained Black with Broken Time and Undertone," 2011.
Jones’ formal and rigorous works, spare in their modernist presence and apparently agnostic with regard to medium, provide a framework for her deep fascination with and research into parallel developments in the art and jazz avant-gardes of the 1950s and 60s.
"SHHH, The Red Series #2," 2014, and "Silent Clusterfuck (bianca)," 2013.
Her work is wry conceptualism cleverly (and beautifully) wrapped in the reductivist forms of modernist painting, sculpture and sound as reimagined through the use of familiar materials and packaging related to the historical technologies we’ve used to record, preserve and replicate music—including vinyl records, cassette recordings, speaker boxes, cables, and foam sound baffles. Jones time-travels back in a quest to unify these fragments into a grand, unified theory of modernist expression.
"Blue Serge," 2015, and "Quiet Gray with 3/4 Red Reverberation," 2014.
By looking through the lenses of race, art, sound and history, Jones' work teases, scolds, retraces and revisits a past where creativity and cultural progress were not—could not—be viewed together as a cohesive and dynamic single process. The fundamental divides that existed (and still exist) prevented an equal consideration of these simultaneous explorations.
"Duchamp's Inner Ear," 2014-15.
While in Houston, I also visited the world-renowned Menil Collection. Walking through an exhibition drawn from the permanent collection, I was struck by the number of works that would show well with those of Jennie Jones—including Ellsworth Kelly, John McCracken, Barnett Newman and Susan Frecon to name just a few. I suspect the Menils would like her work.
"Bass Traps with False Tones #1 & 2," 2013.
This train of thought brought another issue home for me, which is the particular significance of seeing Jones' work so beautifully and respectfully installed at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston—at this particular museum, in this particular town.
"8 Track," 2007.
The Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston gave (and I list these artists in no particular order) Agnes Martin, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Cindy Sherman, Clifford Owens, Dario Robleto, MacArthur Binion, Alvin Baltrop and Dorothy Hood (among many others) their first solo museum exhibitions. CAMH has regularly opened its validating doors to serious and accomplished artists long before most venues even knew who they were. Jennie C. Jones is not an unknown, and it would seem silly to refer to her current, elegant exhibition as being “risky,” but it is her first and it is where it is. That adds, I think, a credential to both the artist for being invited to show at CAMH and to the institution for having her accept. Instead of “risk,” call it intelligence… the kind of tradition that both an artist and a place can help build and bask in.
Designer Miko McGinty, publisher Gregory R. Miller, CAMH senior curator Valerie Cassel Oliver and Jennie C. Jones at the opening. Photograph by Sean Elwood.
SEAN ELWOOD is Director of Programs & Initiatives at the New York nonprofit artist advisory, Creative Capital. Prior to joining Creative Capital in 2000, he was Curator/Collection Manager for the Seattle Arts Commission, Director at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts and Manager of the Art Residency Program at Centrum Foundation. He is the founder of SEEDITIONS Art Publishing Company and Fuller/Elwood Gallery in Seattle. He currently serves on the board of Triple Canopy and on advisory boards for Lower East Side Printshop and the New Foundation, Seattle.
GREGORY R. MILLER & CO.
Cloth, 8.25 x 10.5 in. / 156 pgs / 70 color.