Childhood and Youth
Controversial British Pop sculptor and painter, Allen Jones, was born on the 1st of September 1937 in Southampton, England. While Jones’ parents were amateurs at art, the family visited the Tate and his father would engage in watercolor paintings for Sunday afternoon relaxation.
Jones began his art training at Hornsey College of Art, London in 1955-59. He went on to the Royal College Art in 1959 but was later expelled a year later. While attending the Royal College of Art, he studied alongside fellow pop generation classmates, Peter Phillips, David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj.
After expulsion, he finished his degree at Hornsey College of Art from 1959-60 where he was associated with the rise of Pop art. The theories of Nietzsche and Jung motivated his first collection of paintings such as Hermaphrodite (1963; Liverpool, Walker A.G.), a metaphor for the creative act of depicting fused male/female couples.
In 1964, Jones moved to New York, settled for a year and unearthed an oasis of sexually motivated imagery that was the popular illustration in the 1940s and 1950s. The discovery profoundly characterized his paintings such as Perfect Match (1966–7; Cologne, Mus. Ludwig) , henceforward, his subdued eroticism became very explicit adopting a precise linear style as a means of emphasizing tactility.
His male figures were often representations of cocktail-lounge Mad Men-styled suit-tie-and-trilby combination of shapes. His most famous female figures, however, were life-size, sexually provocative realistic women models in bondage gear incorporated into domestic furniture pieces. The full scope of his Pop art inspiration became apparent in these provocative female figures best known as the trio of fiberglass: Hatstand, Table, and Chair created in 1969 which propelled his fame in the art world.
Many critics and feminists viewed the rubber BDSM costume-clad furniture figures in submissive poses as having misogyny and sadomasochist undertones. Though, Jones aims to personify the human condition and sees the figures as an expression of his fascination with the fakery and effort of people to present themselves.
In the 1970s, Jones returned to painting after turning to sculptors earlier in order to give his pieces a true, physical presence. His paintings, henceforth, were works inspired by fetish-wear, mail-order catalogs.
Jones’ more painterly conception in canvases such as Santa Monica Shores (1977; London, Tate) and to a playful stylization in figure sculptures, notably The Tango (1984; owned jointly by Liverpool, Walker A.G., and Merseyside Development Corp.), a larger than life-size dancing couple made from polychrome steel plate.
Lithography, in which his output was prolific, proved an appropriate medium for his graphic flair. Among his publications are Figures (Milan, 1969) and Projects (London, 1971), the latter including his designs for stage, film and television. In 2004, Jones placed emphasis on furniture works and drawings when he and David Hockney co-curated the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.
His retrospective includes more than 50 years of steel, glass, fiber and wooden sculptures as well as paintings, preparatory storyboards and photographs. Jones’s sculptures and paintings are now held in major modern art museums worldwide and command inordinate prices at auctions.
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