As an early 1970s performance artist doing endurance pieces that were initially overlooked, Kim Jones developed some of the extreme themes established by Chris Burden, Paul McCarthy, and the Viennese Actionists. Much of his material is autobiographical, especially works that reference his experiences as a crippled child with leg braces for Perthes disease, or his time as a soldier serving two tours in Vietnam.Read More
In 1974 Jones began a series of 'Mudman' performances, which included Wilshire Walk (1976), an 18-mile, 12-hour walk between downtown L.A. and Santa Monica—done twice, by day and by night. For these performances, Jones would wear light bamboo and latex scaffolding-like structures, such as Mudman Structure (Large) (1974–2008) or smear his body with mud and occasionally his own faeces. He also made a series of chaotic, very bodily ink-and-acrylic drawings based on his time in Vietnam. These contained images of violence and vivid conflict, cities under siege, coloured viscera, and mutilated animals.
Jones is a prolific producer of drawings and wall sculpture. While his work seems to emphasise the inglorious, abject, and squalid—alluding to trauma—his performance activities are seen as having spiritual connotations by some critics. Art historian Marcia Tucker sees him 'a shamanistic figure, performing solitary, primitive rituals in a time and place not his own, but belonging to other cultures and other lands. He is a catalyst, suggesting mythological beings (half man, half beast), the stuff of legends and fairy tales ...'