Advertisement

William E. Jones

David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, USA

When he was 19, William E. Jones went to Greece to meet a man in his 70s named Alexander Iolas. No longer a household name, Iolas had been a hugely influential dealer in his day (in 1952, for instance, he gave Andy Warhol his first solo show). The encounter was more a brush than a collision: Jones knew he wanted to be an artist but, at the time, he wasn’t quite sure how to take advantage of his connection to such a connected man. Yet, the young Jones at least had the wherewithal to shoot a few rolls of film.

wj_17-001h.jpg

William E. Jones, Fall into Ruin, 2017, HD video still. Courtesy: David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and The Modern Institute, Glasgow

Twenty prints from the ‘Villa Iolas’ series (all works 1982/2017) line the gallery walls at David Kordansky, illustrating the Greek’s sprawling Athens redoubt in its prime. Iolas was a dealer, not a collector – he saved the best stuff for his clients – so the examples decorating his home (which include Max Ernst, Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle and Paul Thek) tell more about their owner than would the usual blue-chip trophies. Villa Iolas was designed like a museum; the walls are clad in marble and some rooms seem furnished only with art. In a couple of shots, such as Matta, René Magritte, Greek Vases, the objects listed in the title recede into the lived-in clutter: a stuffed book case, either well-thumbed or a well-dressed set. There are the unfashionable finds, too, like Byzantine Icons, Gold Door or, in a back courtyard, a set of antiquities bracketed by marble columns. The quotations of classical sculpture – bronzed muscles, chiselled brows, pale flanks – that make their way into contemporary art, as a kind of ballast, are all pictured here. Takis depicts a sculpture by the eponymous contemporary Greek artist: the body of a male youth, truncated at neck and knees, brandishing an erection; the piece riffs on the libertinism famously enjoyed by the ancients. Elsewhere in the house are actual antiquities – the remains of a crouching Aphrodite, some fragments in contrapposto.

wj_17-017.jpg

William E. Jones, Villa Iolas (Les Lalannes, Georges Mathieu), 1982/2017, hand-coated inkjet print, 50 x 40 cm. Courtesy: David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and The Modern Institute, Glasgow; photograph: Lee Thompson

Jones’s warm-toned and grainy prints preserve the sense of mortality that attends golden ages and golden youth. Fall into Ruin (2017), a half-hour video slideshow over which Jones narrates his and Iolas’s histories, marks the passage of time. The piece is comprised mostly of photos Jones took in 2016 on his second trip to Athens. There are tourist sites at first, then a long sequence of artefacts: the usual sutured and bare-assed stone youths propped-up in museum rooms made melancholy by Jones’s recollections. Before long, Jones’s camera turns to the city: a cherub on a lamp post splashed with pink paint; a dirt lot where a building has been torn from its neighbours. This is what we came for: Jones’s project marks, if not quite anticipates, our present fascination with the Greek troubles – the Euro and refugee crises, austerity and documenta – and a modern Athens whose streets enjoin the interlopers with the tag: ‘Enjoy Our Ruins!’ (referring, bitterly, to the new ones).

wj_2017_install_02.jpg

William E. Jones, 2017, installation view, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles. Courtesy: David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Lee Thompson

Five years after he and Jones met, Iolas died of AIDS. He was a famous man that Jones barely knew, but whose life, perhaps for this reason, lends its arc to Jones’s own story: the last slide in Fall into Ruin shows Iolas in his garden, between two columns, while Jones has found his voice as an artist. The dealer’s estate languished in chaos after his death: plans to turn the villa into an official Alexander Iolas Museum foundered and the grand house became a ruin all of its own. The last half of Jones’s video comprises snapshot after snapshot of once carefully decorated rooms blasted with spray-paint: columns lie broken; the cladding slumps off the wall in piles. Now, with the mess and sass of a vandalized villa and a box of faded negatives, the artist knows just what to do.

William E. Jones runs at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, until 26 August.

Main image: William E. Jones, Fall into Ruin (detail), 2017, HD video still. Courtesy: David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles and The Modern Institute, Glasgow

Travis Diehl is a writer based in Los Angeles, USA, and is a recipient of the Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant. 

Issue 190

First published in Issue 190

October 2017
Advertisement

Most Read

With authors, curators and musicians recently denied entry, the UK is fast painting itself as a cultural pariah
Why does the ‘men’s rights’ guru to the alt-right surround himself with Soviet-era memorabilia, which he doesn’t even...
Alongside a centuries-old collection of Old Masters, Delftware and Chinoiserie, the Devonshires continue to commission...
In a Victorian-era baths in Glasgow, the artist stages her largest performance project to date, featuring a 24-woman...
In further news: UK class gap impacting young people’s engagement with the arts; Uffizi goes digital; British Museum...
Italian politicians want to censor the artist’s poster for a sailing event, which reads ‘We’re all in the same boat’
A newly-published collection of the artist’s journals allows silenced voices to speak
The arrest of the photojournalist for ‘provocative comments’ over Dhaka protests makes clear that personal liberty...
The auction house insists that there is a broad scholarly consensus that the record-breaking artwork be attributed to...
‘We need more advocates across gender lines and emphatic leaders in museums and galleries to create inclusive,...
In further news: artists rally behind detained photographer Shahidul Alam; crisis talks at London museums following...
Criticism of the show at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest comes alongside a nationalist reshaping of the...
A retrospective at Munich’s Museum Brandhorst charts the artist’s career from the 1980s to the present, from ‘fem-trash...
At the National Theatre of Wales, a performance alive with wild, tactile descriptions compels comparison between the...
There are perils in deploying bigotry to score political points, but meanings also shift from West to East
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: social media platform to review nudity policy after blocking Montreal Museum of Fine...
The first public exhibition of a 15th-century altar-hanging prompts the question: who made it?
Poland’s feminist ‘Bison Ladies’ storm the Japanese artist’s Warsaw exhibition in solidarity with longtime model Kaori’...
An art historian and leading Leonardo expert has cast doubt on the painting’s attribution
How will the Black Panther writer, known for his landmark critical assessments of race, take on the quintessential...
The dissident artist has posted a series of videos on Instagram documenting diggers demolishing his studio in the...
In further news: artists for Planned Parenthood; US court rules on Nazi-looted Cranachs; Munich’s Haus der Kunst...
A mother’s death, a father’s disinterest: Jean Frémon’s semi-factual biography of the artist captures a life beyond...
Jostling with its loud festival neighbours, the UK’s best attended annual visual art festival conducts a polyphonic...
It’s not clear who destroyed the project – part of the Liverpool Biennial – which names those who have died trying to...
Dating from 1949 to the early 1960s, the works which grace the stately home feel comfortable in the ostentatious pomp...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018