SUSANNE VIELMETTER LOS ANGELES PROJECTS has announced its representation of Samuel Levi Jones. The Chicago-based artist makes innovative three-dimensional works out of books, taking an intellectual approach to working with the tomes that could be described as anthropological abstraction. The news that Jones is joining Susanne Vielmetter comes about four months after the opening of “One Blood,” his first exhibition with the gallery.

Jones works with deconstructed academic books and reference volumes, reimagining the source materials as abstract collage “paintings” and sculpture. He considers exclusion and equality and questions historic and contemporary power structures that frame knowledge production. Through the labor-intensive desecration of encyclopedias, black history, law, and medical texts, he explores and challenges accepted and highly regarded modes of representation and documentation.

For example, The works in “One Blood” were made from discarded medical reference and text books found on the streets of San Francisco. Several of the volumes contained information about J. Marion Sims, the “Father of Modern Gynecology.” In the mid-19th century, Sims’s pioneering research led to a procedure able to cure vaginal fistulas. The medical development was a result of experimentation conducted on enslaved black women, in which no anesthesia was used.

Susanne Vielmetter gallery describes how Jones unpacked this history and its symbolism in his work: “This research and the resulting knowledge about women’s bodies is a product of both violent white supremacy and male supremacy that continues to inflect gynecological practice and research to our present moment. The works in ‘One Blood’ do not carry this information in any literal sense: The viewer can neither read the texts nor see the titles of the books. And yet the flayed and collaged paintings suggest that knowledge both expands through time and remains consigned to the structures and value systems from which the questions of contemporary research originate.”

“The viewer can neither read the texts nor see the titles of the books. And yet the flayed and collaged paintings suggest that knowledge both expands through time and remains consigned to the structures and value systems from which the questions of contemporary research originate.”
— Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects


SAMUEL LEVI JONES, “Dark Truths,” 2017 (deconstructed medical books, canvas and wood, 76 x 60 x 2 inches). | Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Patron Gallery, Photo credit by Robert Wedemeyer

 

BORN IN MARION, IND., Jones lives and works in Chicago. He earned a BFA in photography from Indiana University (2009) and an MFA from Mills College in Oakland, Calif., in 2012. Two years later, he won the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize. Papillion Gallery in Los Angeles presented his work in 2014. He has had solo exhibitions at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Last year, Jones had a show at Halsey McKay Gallery in East Hampton, N.Y., and “Burning All Illusion” was presented at Galerie Lelong in New York City.

As Galerie Lelong notes, “Jones builds upon a movement within abstract painting that prioritizes formal investigations while also addressing social and cultural issues. Using a process that recalls radical forms of art that employ detritus and everyday found materials, Jones reveals the social discrimination at play in how value is assigned to different cultures and the objects that represent them.”

A couple of months ago, Jones presented “Remedial Suffering,” a solo exhibition at Herron Galleries at Indiana University. He spoke to his alma mater about his practice:

    HERRON: Calling attention to social injustices and the subjective nature of “history” seems to be a key motive of your art practice.

    JONES: Calling attention to the struggle is a means of grappling with or surviving the past in the present, and what feels like will be an ongoing maltreatment of the other.

    HERRON: How do you decide which books to use as source material, and where or how do you track them down?

    JONES: The choice of material typically comes from subject matter — initially encyclopedias, then law books, and most recently medical books. The decision to use encyclopedias was a result of thinking about histories and narratives left out of standardized resource material. Much of my material has been sourced via Craigslist. These books tend to be the least expensive.

Asked how he would categorize his works, the artist said: “I refer to the works on canvas as paintings even though they hold no paint. Sometimes these works become large installations. But I am most interested in the way the objects may or may not move the viewer to think about the subject matter than I am with labeling them a particular medium.”

“I refer to the works on canvas as paintings even though they hold no paint. …But I am most interested in the way the objects may or may not move the viewer to think about the subject matter than I am with labeling them a particular medium.” — Samuel Levi Jones, Herron Galleries

Jones is represented by PATRON in Chicago and Galerie LeLong in New York, in addition to Susanne Vielmetter, where the roster of more than 30 artists also includes Charles Gaines, Edgar Arceneaux, Kevin McMillian, Wangechi Mutu, Pope.L, and Mickalene Thomas. The Los Angeles gallery’s next exhibition with Jones is to be announced. CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Samuel Levi Jones | via Galerie Lelong

 


SAMUEL LEVI JONES, “Repudiate,” 2017 (pulped medical reference books, mixed media, steel, 30.75 x 14 x 13.5 inches). | Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Patron Gallery, Photo credit by Robert Wedemeyer

 


SAMUEL LEVI JONES, “Into One,” 2017 (deconstructed medical books, canvas and wood, 76 x 60 inches). | Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Patron Gallery, Photo credit by Robert Wedemeyer

 


SAMUEL LEVI JONES, “Remnants of Fabrication,” 2017 (pulped medical reference books, mixed media, steel, 30 x 14 x 14 inches). | Courtesy of the artist, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Patron Gallery, Photo by Robert Wedemeyer

 


SAMUEL LEVI JONES, Installation view at Halsey McKay Gallery, East Hampton, N.Y. (July 23-Aug. 8, 2016). | via Halsey McKay