A Retrospective Exhibition
Paintings, Drawings and Photographs
1969 to the Present
The Davis Gallery at Houghton House
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
PLEASURES AT AN EXHIBITION
A confounding blend of masterful technique, trans formative voodoo, and unqualified love for the way things look-that’s what I find in the paintings of Mark jones. Find, revere, and am dumbfounded by. Gazing at one of his steady candle flames, a coffee can full of paint brushes, an existential bull, a Civil War re-enactor, or a Vermeerized “ladyboy,” I am struck, at one and the same time, by the painstaking craftsmanship that manufactured the illusion, the magic of the talent that changed the illusion into reality, and the sensual courtship of light itself in all its polychrome interactions with matter, which entirely constitute our visual perception of the world. What I feel also is the virtually erotic pull of the objects, inanimate as well as animate, on my attention. The gravitational field of their separate “thisness”-the uniquely individualized form that Gerard Manley Hopkins termed “inscape”-holds me and arouses in me a craving for their palpable selves, a desire to experience them more intimately, to somehow break free of the quotidian world I stand in, pass through the picture plane, and emerge in the Promised Land of the painting. Some of Mark’s bovine portraits-“Big American Bull,” for example, or “Golden Calf’-evince in the subtle expressiveness of their countenances richer inner lives than the majority of portraits of human beings that line the walls of our museums. And as for his portraits of human subjects, most of them evince richer inner lives than the flesh and blood faces of innumerable people we encounter in life on a daily basis. The Caravaggesque “boy” blessing a chicken or the one holding a basket of fruit, the “girls” wearing Vermeer’s pearl earring or red hat, the Confederate-uniformed re-enactors-these insistently individualized faces-seductive and ineffable, beckoning and forbidding-imply complex personal histories, and, while committed to keeping their own secrets, incite us to imagine the mysterious and intriguing personalities of which they are the sole owners and curators, forever. We realize our desire to better know them is hopeless, of course, but go on yearning nonetheless. I was delighted by Mark’s Modern Man pictures of G.l. joe tableaus when I first saw them back in the ‘SO’s, and I still find them evocative and rewarding to look at, both for the droll situations in which we see joe and his human-size dates and the visual inventiveness of the settings. But of Mark’s two major purely photographic works-the Environmental Aesthetics and Pinhole sseries-! am too inadequately informed about photography to feel qualified to say anything more than “Spectacular!”
What we say we get from looking at works of art is aesthetic pleasure, but just what or what all is meant by that? Certainly it ought not to be taken as limited to matters of form . The pleasures to be found in looking at the art of Mark jones are many and diverse, and have as much to do with ideas about the social construction of gender, beauty, personality, meaning, identity, and even “reality” itself, as they do with the formal properties of a work. But note too that the formal properties here are thrilling. The artist in Mark, like the perceiving eye in Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Snowman” is one who
Nothing that is not there and the
Nothing that is.
Not to mention, the Everything that is.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Mark Jones was born in Saratoga Springs, NY in 1950. He studied at the Rijks Museum School in Amsterdam, the Art Students League in New York and the San Francisco Art Institute .. He received a Bachelors degree from Hobart College and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Brooklyn College. His work has been widely exhibited in museums and commercial galleries throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.