Mary Jones | Attachments
September 24 - November 8, 2020
High Noon is pleased to present Mary Jones’s second exhibition with the gallery, Attachments. Accompanying the exhibition will be a limited edition, full color catalog with an essay by Nancy Princenthal. For the past five years, Jones has been using X-ray images in her paintings. Regarded as a sort of absolute truth of the unseen, her relationship to X-rays as a tool for formal experimentation speaks to the technology’s history as a “pure science,” that is, research with no agenda beyond furthering our understanding of the Natural World. In 1916, British physicist Sir J.J. Thomson who famously discovered the electron stated, “The experiments which led to this discovery seemed to be as remote from ‘humanistic interest’— to use a much misappropriated word— as anything that could well be imagined.” There is a dream-like aspect to pure science; much like we ascribe meaning to a vision we awake from, we ascribe purpose to knowledge.
Of course, science’s contribution to art becomes, at a point, indistinguishable. The methodology of fusing pigment to glass to create the Chartres Cathedral and the lighting mechanisms behind James Turrell’s Aten Reign at the Guggenheim both produced works greater than the sum of their parts. In doing so, both also touch upon the sublime, the ethereal, and the non-empirical, contributing to a self-generating library of content subject to further investigation, and used to shape visual culture. In both theme and practice, the work in Attachments consciously taps into and builds from this continuity with an understated complexity.
Though the works borrow subject matter, materials, and techniques from different eras, it’s important that they are records of how that content exists today. The paintings combine elements of myth and method, as if they’re depicting a ritual of ascension in the climax of a science fiction story. At the end of the classic anime Evangelion, giant Mechas float to the sky and combine into a structure illustrated in the Dead Sea Scrolls to fulfill an invented prophecy for mankind to transcend physical form— centuries of interpreting science and religion coalescing into a single event.
In one of the larger paintings, 2020, dramatic, mostly tonal gestures swirl around each other, blending and separating at exactly the right moments, creating a stop-and-go tension of movement. They echo the monochromatic X-ray of a partial skull stationed hero-sized at the top, fusing internal form and external gestures and making the scale of the brushwork feel almost figurative. The Lookout positions a different cranial image ominously above a storm of distressed, stuttering marks. As the palette descends into a dark, murky bottom, brain scans resembling blooms or mushroom clouds hang in oppressive formation, tinged with the faintly glowing red of a machine being reanimated. The two paintings evoke the anxiety of the moment, conjuring different events in the same story, or perhaps alternate endings.
A series of smaller paintings including Promised Gift are built around a gel-transfer of a 13th century Devata sculpture borrowed from a catalog of the Met’s permanent collection and set against a rectangle of silver leaf, both Byzantine and New Wave. The inherent imperfections of the gel-transfer process erode away the image which melds effortlessly with an environment of punchy, graphic gestures and spray paint, merging the delicacy of ancient sculpture with the franticness and grit of a wheat-pasted street poster.
The works on paper utilize a broader range of media as collaged elements. Christie’s incorporates a cannibalized image of the Hindu deity Shiva from an auction catalog overlaid with a color gel filter. The Destroyer God’s crown becomes the connective device of an oblong cranial X-ray; a crown for a spine, or a brain for a crown. Atop the body, an X-ray is corrupted beyond recognition by acid, mimicking the deteriorating surface of an antique mercury mirror. The works on paper are totemic, implying a hierarchy among our attachments to both scientific knowledge and mythology. Like recorded history, what is passed on is subject to the highest bidder.
Mary Jones received a BFA and MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She began her career in Los Angeles and has been living and working in NYC since 1986. Jones has shown her work in galleries and museums internationally, most recently at High Noon Gallery in 2019. Other exhibitions include the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, John Molloy Gallery, Ovsey Gallery, Cugliani Gallery, Jeffrey Coploff Fine Art, Robert Green Fine Arts, Marlborough Chelsea, and Cenci Gallery, Rome. She is in many notable collections, including the Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles. Her work has been reviewed in the NY Times, LA Times, Art in America, Artforum, and Artnews among others and is included in the book, “L.A.Rising, SoCal Artists Before 1980,” by Lyn Kienholz. Jones is a Senior Critic at RISD, where she has taught since 1998, and an instructor at SVA since 2009. As an art writer, she has also contributed to BOMB Magazine since 2009, and recently for Art Critical, interviewing artists about their work and process.