Lindy T. Shepherd
“Playing off the grid”
New works by Rick Jones
Abstract urbanscape painter Rick Jones has spent the last five years or so as an active artist, collaborator and supporter of the Orlando arts community. This impromptu display of nine new works at Taste restaurant in College Park will likely strike those familiar with his compositions as something altogether different; it’s as if his typical geometrical pieces have been whirled about. In addition to more light and vivid colors, there’s a sense of movement and freedom achieved by Jones’ looser hold on the grid.
Even in March, when Jones held a solo show, Deep Field, at Stardust Video & Coffee, critic Richard Reep wrote on his website that the title piece “combines geometries with a loose orthagonality integrating an angle that is neither 45 nor 60 degrees but somewhere in between, the resulting facets are uniformly dark or light with tones either purely white nor purely black.”
He’s broken away from that uniformity in this show, which consists of small graphite drawings and acrylic paintings. Fresh from a trip to New York, Jones says he whipped out the pieces in a period of calm creativity. None of them are titled, and they pop out in the narrow room that serves as a gallery near the front entrance – it’s cozy if not conducive to far-away perspectives.
In Jones’ cityscapes in black, white and shades of gray, the horizon rises and falls with what appears to be differing high-rise structures, and the forefront conjures a slice of urban jungle. There are multitudes of lines and angles that cross and intersect, in addition to the occasional asymmetrical mass that suggests form, such as a tree or a
The acrylics also depart from uniformity. On the widest canvas, the colors and subject matter change from the left to the right side, suggestive of a landscape; a tall, dense structure appears to be flanked by “scenes” in green and blue set against a white background. In a small, square painting, black outlines are thick and close up, like an architectural detail of a New York City apartment building; therein, a block of intense purple imparts drama – it’s just another story in the big city of life.
There’s warmth in these works that makes them breathe and gives a sense that they’ve been released from their trappings.
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.