TOWBIN MUSEUM WING
Rediscovering Wendell Jones
June 14 – October 5, 2014
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 14, 4- 6 pm
The Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM) presents the exhibition Rediscovering Wendell Jones, June 14 through October 5, 2014 in the Towbin Museum Wing. A prominent figure in the Woodstock art colony in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, painter Wendell Jones had a brief but accomplished career cut short by his untimely death at age fifty-six. In barely three decades, Jones produced an impressive number of paintings, drawings, and photographs, as well as a noteworthy total of four mural commissions for the New Deal’s Section of Fine Arts. The exhibition is the first museum retrospective of the artist’s work since 1958 and is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue with an extensive chronology of the artist’s life.
A graduate of Dartmouth College, Jones studied at the Art Students League with Allen Tucker and Kenneth Hayes Miller, taking what was the latter’s new mural class. In 1928, he worked as an assistant to Hildreth Meiere on important commissions for the Nebraska State Capitol and the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. That same year, Jones came to Woodstock and lived at Hervey White’s colony of the arts the Maverick, where he completed Blue Landscape (1932), a mystical scene with an affinity to the work of Albert Pinkham Ryder. Jones’ later landscapes like The Barges (1945) and Landscape with Salamander (1946) incorporate his interest in regional subjects.
In 1934, Jones was accepted into the Public Works of Art Project and began working on a series of drawings and fresco panels to compete for a mural at the New Mexico State Capital. While he didn’t receive that particular commission, Jones went on to complete murals for federal buildings in New York State, Ohio, and Tennessee. A fourth mural was completed for the Federal Courthouse and U.S. Post Office at Cairo, Illinois, but was lost and never installed. Jones’s painting was particularly admired by administrators of the Section of Fine Arts program, as well as by Philip Guston and many other artist friends in Woodstock and beyond.
Jones’s mural output has received scholarly attention from Karal Ann Marling in Wall to Wall America: Post Office Murals in the Great Depression, as well as by Marlene Park and Gerald E. Markowitz in Democratic Vistas: Post Offices and Public Art in the New Deal, but his work as a whole demands fresh examination. The current exhibition follows in the wake of other presentations that to a renewed interest in American Scene and Regionalist painting from the first half of the 20th century. Yet Jones’ later work goes beyond the American Scene painting typical of the 1930s and 40s and reveals a forward thinking artist influenced by his Abstract Expressionist contemporaries. Even before 1950, Jones had begun simplifying and stylizing his subjects and, a few years later, was working confidently in an abstract style with few if any recognizable objects in his images, as exemplified by The Bridge (an earlier representational painting that Jones reworked in 1950 to its present composition) and Abstraction #1 (1955).
The exhibition was curated by Wendell Jones’s son Peter, who ably safeguarded and documented the artist’s works over many decades. Peter Jones, an accomplished painter in his own right and Professor Emeritus of Art, Louisiana Tech University, was assisted by his daughter Emily Jones, a trained archivist on the staff at WAAM, and guided in preparing the exhibition by former WAAM curator Josephine Bloodgood.
For more about exhibitions and events at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum, go to www.woodstockart.org or call 845 679-2940. The WAAM is located at 28 Tinker Street in the heart of Woodstock, New York and is open on Friday and Saturday from 12 to 6 pm and Sunday, Monday, Thursday 12 to 5 pm. The WAAM is a not-for-profit membership organization featuring a landmark collection and archives, contemporary artist galleries, and a dynamic education program. Exhibition and programs are supported by the WAAM Founders Circle, other individual supporters and membership.
Georges Malkine: Perfect Surrealist Behavior, October 11, 2014- January 4, 2015 (the WAAM will be closed October 14 – 20)