Artist: Kim Jones
Exhibition title: Walgrove
Venue: Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium
Date: November 12 – December 19, 2015
Photography: Peter Cox, images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
We are pleased to introduce you a new solo show by Kim Jones, who joined the gallery more than ten years ago. ‘Walgrove’ includes drawings and sculptures that have been revised or created the past three years. Kim Jones’s work encompasses performance, sculpture, painting, drawing and video. Born in San Bernardino, California in 1944, Jones has lived and worked in New York City since 1982.
The title ‘Walgrove’ refers to all three schools Jones attended – Walgrove Elementary, Mark Twain Junior High and Venice High – are linked by Walgrove Avenue. Even his Sunday school was at the Baptist church on Walgrove. More or less on the border between Mar Vista and Venice, California, much of his sense of the world began on Walgrove.
The work by Kim Jones is very intense, physical, expressive, disturbing and uncanny. It brings a language one connects with the night, fear and struggle but also with beauty and a sense of humor. His autobiography and the context where he grew up are of great meaning. About his childhood and youth he writes the following: “As a child, open garage doors frightened me. My father, stern and aloof, frightened me as a child, a teen and even as a young adult. He never beat me but his idea of a joke was blowing pipe-smoke in my face. We used to visit his father, a World War I veteran who sustained such massive nerve damage that, despite numerous operations, he had lost most of both his arms and legs. Throughout my childhood, he always seemed in a good mood. Only later did I realize he was probably on morphine.
We had no art books and went only once to the Los Angeles County Museum. But comic books and cartoons, especially Walt Disney, specifically Mickey Mouse, were huge influences. I wanted to be a cartoonist. When I was about 6, I stayed with some cousins. From their house we could look into the house next door, which had a television. When we got a television a few years later, the whole family watched together: Howdy Doody, You Bet Your Life and, eventually, the Mickey Mouse Club.
But none of that left as much of mark on me as the years from seven to 10 when I had Perthes, a childhood hip disorder. I spent three months in the hospital, drawing much of the time, including a game of my own invention, the battles between x and dot men that became the War Drawings.
At around 16, my high school art teacher sent me to Saturday life drawing classes at Art Center School. They had a drawing formula. I lost the natural joy I had in drawing. It felt more like work. During the break I listened to Lorser Feitelson lecture on art history.
In 1966, I knew I was going to be drafted and chose instead to join the U.S. Marines. I did it mostly to please my father. After four years in college and art school, I had slightly bushy hair and didn’t look like his idea of a real man. I was in the Marines from 1966-69 and did a tour of duty in Vietnam.”
The core of Jones’s oeuvre finds its roots beginning of the seventies in Los Angeles, a time when this city wasn’t yet so glamorous. It was a place where artists such as Paul McCarthy, Barbara T. Smith, Allan Kaprow, John Baldessari and Chris Burden crossed each other and organized exhibitions, live actions and performances. The body and activism for civil rights, sexual liberation and an anti-war belief was a shared common at that time. Everyone knew Kim Jones as Mudman, his alterego. His naked body was covered with mud, his face hidden behind silk stockings and on his back he wore a large structure of wooden sticks, foam rubber, tire and mud. Wearing army boots, he walked through the streets of Los Angeles.
On January 28 in 1976 he walked from sunrise till sunset, a cycle of 12 hours from the east till the west of LA, a work known as ‘Wilshire Boulevard Walk’. This was his first real performance. The same year ‘Rat Piece’ took place at the Union Gallery on the campus of California State University, LA. In this controversy performance he set three rats on fire, joined the screams and once they were dead he covered the cage and left the room. Rats often reappear in his iconography. Those animals are often a tool for medical experiments, they were everywhere during his time in Vietnam and represent the underground and disease in Western society. It is cruel but so is war where thousands, millions of humans are being killed. His reaction was: “We all kill in some way. I was interested in how it feels, the implications of killing something.” The rat becomes a personal icon for him. In other cultures, especially the eastern one, animals get often another meaning and value. For Jones, rats are survivors.
Drawing had always been of great meaning for Jones. He draws surrealistic figures that are half human, half beast and often adds erotic elements. Eros and Thanatos seem to challenge each other more than once. He draws and paints on advertisements, photographs he makes or collects or on pictures people made of his performances. Besides this he realized an extraordinary selection of war drawings. These refer to a game he played as a child but is nevertheless an association to war. There are all dots and X’s on the move. He draws, erases and updates. Ghost images appear.
In May a solo show is planned at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield where his work has been exposed before.
Besides numerous performances and exhibitions in the seventies at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (Lace) and Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art (LAICA), Kim Jones was invited at PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York in 1982, 1983 and 1984 to show his installations and performances. In 1985 he participated at the Biennial of Paris. One year later he was part of ‘Choices’ at the New Museum in New York. In 1987 he was invited for a performance at the Kunstverein Hamburg. In 1993 he was part of a traveling show ‘The Return of the Cadavre Exquis’ which started at the Drawing Center in New York. MoMA New York invited him in 1994 for the exhibition ‘Mapping’ and a year later they included his work in a drawing show about the collection. In 1995 his work is again on view at The New Museum in New York that keep on exposing his works in the following years, just as MoMA New York. Centre Pompidou in Paris included his work in a group show in 1997. In 1998-99 his work travels in a group show that attended the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. In 2004 Jones participated at the SITE Santa Fe Fifth International Biennial in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Two years later his work is on view at the Second International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Seville. The same year a retrospective traveled from UB Art Gallery at the State University of New York to the Luckman Gallery at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex at the California State University at LA and the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington. In 2007 he was invited for the Venice Biennial and in 2010 for the Sydney Biennial. In 2013 he travelled to Seoul for a group show at the National Museum of Contemporary Art where he realized an impressive wall war drawing. Many other group shows included his work.
His work can be found in the collection of Centre Pompidou in Paris, Hammer Museum in LA, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LA MOCA, MoMA in New York, Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, SFMOMA, Santa Barbara Museum, Metropolitan Museum in New York, Whitney Museum of American Art and The Morgan Library in New York.
Kim Jones, T-Shirt 1, 2003 – 2004
Kim Jones, Marine Jacket, 2012 – 2014
Kim Jones, Coat with War Drawing, 2014
Kim Jones, Untitled, 1980 – 2006
Kim Jones, Untitled, 2011
Kim Jones, Untitled, 1997 – 2000 – 2012 – 2013
Kim Jones, Untitled, 1974 – 1984 – 2000 – 2005 – 2013
Kim Jones, Untitled, 2013
Kim Jones, Untitled, 1971 – 2013
Kim Jones, Untitled (Doll House), 1974 – 2013
Kim Jones, Untitled (War Drawing), 2013
Kim Jones, Untitled, 1974 – 2014
Kim Jones, Untitled, 1974 – 2014