To feel a sense of what work and cultural divisions wrought the last time economic conditions gnawed at America’s political soul and livelihood as deeply as they have the past two years, see Joe Jones: Painter of the American Scene at the St. Louis Art Museum.
Arguably after gazing at such works as Studio Interior, Our American Farms, St. Louis Riverfront and Missouri Wheat Farmers, viewers may well wonder why they have not come across his work or name more often.Hailed during his lifetime (1909-1963), Jones’ work has not since received major public attention until the St. Louis Art Museum opened its exhibit in October, 2010.
The artist’s St. Louis Riverfront and Industrial Landscape recall renderings by Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Procurement Division of the Treasury Department’s Public Works of Art (PWA) murals in schools, libraries and post offices. Indeed, Jones did WPA murals in several Midwest post offices.
Considered an American Modernist, Jones style in Studio Interior painted in 1932 reminded this reviewer of realist Edward Hopper’s Office at Night, 1940, but more detailed.
The sculptural approach Jones used in some of his works also recalled regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton, another Missourian who, like Jones, captured what he saw and cared about workers’ conditions.
Injustice as portrayed in The Struggle in the South, workers’ protests in We Demand and the dust bowl encapsulated in Our American Farms are as strong a statement in art as a treatise.
“What was important to me was how rooted he was in the contemporary experience,” said Andrew Walker, American art curator and assistant curatorial affairs director.
Walker who worked with Senior Curatorial Assistant Janeen Turk on the exhibit, considered the timing of the exhibit mirrored both the museum’s efforts to highlight highly regarded local and regional artists and the parallel with the economic times Jones portrayed in his work from 1930 to 1942.
“That we’re experiencing a national crisis not seen since 1930 adds a new level of significance to his work,” Walker said.
Joe Jones: Painter of the American Scene is at the St. Louis Art Museum Oct. 10, 2010 though Jan. 2, 2011. It will be at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tenn., Jan. 23, 2011 to April 17, 2011.
The St. Louis Art Museum is at One Fine Arts Drive, St. Louis, MO, 63110, 314-721-0072.
From Chicago take the daily Lincoln Service on AmTrak
Several daily American and United flights between OHare Airport and St. Louis Lambert Field