Visceral and earthy, yet paradoxically sublime and, at times, tongue-in-cheek, the current Bob Jones show at 65GRAND is a mixed bag of tricks. On view until December 18, the exhibitions marks the third time the Milwaukee-based artist has displayed his talents at the gallery. The latest eccentric paintings and sculptures from Jones evoke the bizarre and whimsical within an all too suitable avant-garde setting. Relying on everyday objects such as a fence post and tar and the forest as a metaphor for exploration, Jones takes the viewer on a journey to self-discovery.
True to odd form the gallery takes it name from the 65 Grand busline, but is located at 1378 W. Grand, in the same building at Oggi Trattoria. You need to go around the corner and enter from the Noble Street side. Such is life in apartment gallery world, where the setting is often as capricious as the art it contains. Having heard raves about this gallery from local artists, I'm anxious to pay a visit.
One must walk up the long flights of stairs of an old Chicago apartment building, most likely built in the nineteenth century. It's the Friday of the opening, around 5 p.m. right before the opening reception is to occur and is a fitting time for the critic to view the art. The whole place to myself, I have the chance to study without distraction. Also I can chat with curator and owner Bill Gross, whose commentary adds food for thought.
Gross and I agree on the merits of the painting Ghillie Suit (seen above), which refers to a suit hunters wear. Here we see a mass of sticks and moss depicted with spray paint and hay debris that tells the story of what it means to be both the hunter and the hunted. Jones suggests the two dichotomies are one and the same, which he depicts in beguiling manner. The use of paint is elusive, drawing the viewer in. Gross notes the oblique nature of the work. I reflect how the painting changes every time you look at it. Like the other pieces in the show, this work is transcendental, the polar opposite of transitory. Jones takes us into the soul of the woods with Ghillie Suit, forcing us to ask ourselves about the ways in which we hunt (covet and collect) and are hunted (desired or pursued as consumers). Jones probes at the humanness of the human animal.
Cans of Old Style are stacked up in silver-plated cisterns, ready for guests to pluck and sip while milling about the two small rooms that make up the gallery. I continue my private tour by checking out the art in the next room.
Four other works capture my attention. In order of impression they are: Tracked, Magician, Perched and Plot Marker.
Tracked (seen above) is a small painting of thick white slabs, or tracks perhaps, of oil, silicon and spray paint crisscrossing one another in a web-like weave. It’s the most aesthetically pleasing of the bunch, like something you can hang on a wall in your living room and visitors will look at it and say, "How nice." In this sense, Tracked differs from the rest of the works in that it’s not as overtly weird and provocative. But still, the thick slabs start to resemble cage, suggesting the trap of the human beast's quest for animalistic fulfillment.
Next on my list is Magician, both humorous and evocative. The clumsy spray painted gold star tacked on the blob of black tar makes you think, "Is he really serious?" However, this seems to tap into the realm of the childhood whimsy, as Jones takes us on a walk through the mystery and majestic awe of the forest, where elves and hobbits are known to roam. The magical could be the opposite of the life or death struggle of animal nature--a ray of hope pinned against the dark starry night of the forest.
Perched (seen above), is a mass of tar, sawdust and latex atop a wooden fencepost illuminates Jones's wit at play again. Random play and creating art out of the mundane, this is exactly what we humans need right now: to think more about exploring our spirit.
Plot Marker (detail seen at top) once again begs the viewer to take life a little less seriously. Look atop the bale of hay and you'll find gobs of used paint and studio dust Jones has slathered up there. Art and nature intermingle and this is Jones's forte. In a world all too serious and materially driven, Jones inspires us to enter the forest -- the unreal world of imagination and play. When explored with the spirit of the pure and spontaneous, life can be more exciting and real than 'reality.'