Review of “Deep Field”
by Richard Reep
In the wintry sulk of Central Florida’s art exhibitions, Rick Jones’ Deep Field is an outlier, being neither representational nor topical, but rather seemingly a few specimens excavated from high abstract expressionism, fitting little into the multipolar art scene slopping around in the galleries and museums of today. He is mining some of the traditions of that movement and presenting a view more than tinged with the philosopical approach of modernism, and as such his work is interesting in this day of unraveling pluralism as we question nearly everything and find only anti-heroes and decay to be worthy of worship. Jones takes the opposite approach, and his fairly rigorous canvases are worthy of note for their aesthetic adherence to the principles of modernist tradition.
Jones is studying structures that have nearly no hierarchy, no perspective, no beginning or end, mostly no depth or edge or even, damn it, a focal point. The modernists threw all of these out, and Jones carefully takes his point of departure from these rules to develop geometries with nested, repeating patterns that are neither organic nor purely artifical. He appears to hold back from dipping a toe in either pool, and therefore studiously avoids representing something else: “Art as art” (Ad Rinehardt’s famous epigram) a rule by which Jones vigorously abides.
“Deep Field”, the painting with the show’s title, combines geometries with a loose orthagonality integrating an angle that is neither 45 nor 60 degrees but somewhere in between, and the resulting facets are uniformly dark or light with tones neither purely white nor purely black. Contemplation of this piece leads the viewer into an exercise which we nearly never do today, but which was a favorite pastime of viewers of abstract expressionism, an exercise in which the mind slowly discards all of the conventions imposed upon it from school: seek, find not a center; seek, find not an edge, seek, find not a hierarchy, seek, find not a purity; and so on until one reaches a unique placeless space far outside of the closed universe in which we educate ourselves about art.
The destination on this particular journey is an inner aesthetic one that is worth the trip. Jones’s larger pieces such as “Gold” takes one effectively into this wierd spatial no-man’s land, although it has a slight clustering of density that might derail the train a bit into a conventional focal point. But largely these work, and they prove that art, as critic Suzi Gablick once noted, is timeless in its appeal, unlike science (to which modernism kept hitching its wagon, only to be frustrated) in which each new notion is quickly replaced by the next. In today’s juxtapoz world, one can still enjoy a modernist treat like these paintings provide.
Jones isn’t a purist, and betrays a certain sense of humor in a few of his paintings. “The Geography of Nowhere” breaks his rules to turn one of his crystalline, non-hierarchial forms into a cartographical allusion, perhaps stretching his point to suggest the modernist placelessness influence on our cities. But if one ignores these mannerist distractions – a sop, perhaps, to viewers who find his more disciplined canvases a bit too austere – the rest of the show is quite good.
Modernism, thank goodness, failed in its scientific pretensions, and a Pollock or a Rothko is quite as relevant today as it was 50 years ago; unlike a science paper on, say, Pluto, which would be negated by research coming after. Jones’ exploration of some of the lost concepts of Modernism is pleasing, and he stakes out a unique position in Central Florida with Deep Field.