There is a naivete as well as technical sophistication — and sometimes an indirect political subtext — to be found in a show of prints by Curtis Jones at the Mainsite Contemporary Art Gallery.
Most abstract are six 24-by-24-inch inkjet prints on pale green paper, which appear to depict circles within circles of vibratory squiggles, bringing to mind the effect on the eye of looking briefly at the sun. Providing a preliminary context for these are 16 smaller, 16-by-16-inch ink source drawings by Jones that are somewhat more loosely executed and lyrical.
Jones said the “Drawing or Nothing” series is based on a collaboration in which he provided pattern and texture-based work for the graphic foreground imagery of his fellow printmaker, Joseph Velasquez.
“Of course, everyone ... readily identified Joseph's imagery and assumed the entirety of the work was his,” Jones said, noting he wanted to make viewers “aware of the emptiness (or lack of subject matter) in the middle.”
Jones added that “when layered, these images evoke ideas of organic structure or explosive phenomena,” but cautioned that “any subjective reading along these lines is entirely applied by the viewer.”
Making the metaphor more explicit is a large installation on a movable gallery wall and the floor in which a circle of cutout, orange and red, repetitive vinyl tape shapes suggest the sun's daily “Rise and Set.”
On the back of the same wall, which moves on wheels, Jones creates the outline of the front half of a “Big Pig” in motion, using a great many blue-green, star-like shapes, screen-printed, hand-cut and pinned up.
This makes a good segue to the more recognizable and folksy but politically charged images found in 35 12-by-12-inch watercolor and screen-printed works from Jones' “Ol' McDonnell Douglass” series. Jones said the series tries to explore the underpinnings of his political beliefs concerning military and agriculture issues without revealing the ideologies they manifest.
“These are also family issues to me in that my father worked for a military contractor for 45 years and both he and my mother were born and raised on family farms,” Jones said in a statement.
“My intention is to present these issues with a sense of wonder … and not bog them down with … overtly critical dialogue,” said Jones, who is a print faculty member at the University of Oklahoma.
Helping Jones do this are the glowing colors and strong decorative elements of the works, which have a kaleidoscopic or doily-like quality, even if they're depicting a missile falling on farm animals.
The pointed nose of a green, highly advanced airplane points at the side or heart of a cavorting donkey, and a pig trots above an exploding “riot smoke projectile” in two works from the series, for example.
Energy issues are raised, at least subliminally, by the shadowy silhouette of an oil pumper, while there is something suspect about the mechanical looking pink bird that appears several times in the series.
Jones show is recommended during its run through Sept. 22 at Mainsite, the home of the Norman Arts Council, where the “Metal Morphosis” sculpture show, and works by David Wang are also on view. A closing reception for the three shows is planned from 6 to 10 p.m. Sept. 14.
— John Brandenburg