Kim Jones is an American performance artist known for his intricate figurative drawings, painted-over documentary photographs, wearable sculptures, wall installations, and 'Mudman' performances.
Read MoreFrom 1964 to 1966 Jones went to the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. After serving as a marine, Jones then attended Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, during which time he was involved in much controversy for a performance piece which involved killing rats by setting them on fire. The artist explained in a later interview that this was a common pastime of American soldiers in Vietnam. According to the Los Angeles Times, he was arrested in 1976, and much despised by his colleagues. He later made sculptures with rubber rats entangled in mini-structures, such as Walking Rat (2014), introducing a self-reflexive autobiographical component.
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.
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 ...'
Jones has received many awards, including the Rockefeller Fellowship in 2009.
Jones' work is included in major collections across the world, including Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum Boijmans Beuningen, Rotterdam; Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
John Hurrell | Ocula | 2022