Allen Jones was born in 1937, in Southampton, England. From 1955 until 1960, he studied at the Hornsey College of Art and at the Royal College of Art, in London. There he met fellow students R. B. Kitaj, Peter Phillips, Derek Boshier, and David Hockney who, like Jones, would be among the most important representatives of British Pop Art of the early 1960s. After finishing his studies, Jones participated in the legendary exhibition »Young Contemporaries,« which made Pop Art famous.
From 1961 until 1963, Jones taught lithography at the Croydon College of Art, and in 1964, he taught drawing at the Chelsea School of Art. After 1964, Jones lived in New York for two years. Since the early 1970s, he has taught at several art academies in the USA, in Canada, and in Germany, for example, at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts, at the University of California, Los Angeles, and at the Berlin University of the Arts. In 1986, Jones became a member of the Royal Academy.
Jones’ artistic interests, pursued in the fields of painting and graphic arts, in his Combine Paintings, and his well-known sculptures of the 1960s, negotiate sexuality and pornography. Shortly after British Pop Artist Peter Blake, only slightly older than Jones himself, Jones consistently and provocatively turned towards pin-up aesthetics and the construction of the body in the media. Gender relations and, especially, the commodity and consumption character of the female body, are the themes of his works. They are often situated between the genres of sculpture and painting: for example, Gerz created sculptures painted in various colors, object-picture-constellations, overpaintings or collages where he also used material from journals. Next to the female body and its presentation as pornographic object, Jones’ works also employ more reduced signs, reminding of his earlier abstract, cubist-like paintings. Among these are phallic motifs as well as loud pictures of everyday objects such as cars (Buses, 1964), shoes (Shoe Wheel, 1964/65), or mannequins.
Towards the end of the 1960s, Jones’ highly provocative female figures attracted a lot of attention. They were lifesize, made of fibreglass and painted in different colors, with human hair, shrill leather accessories, and sexual props. He showed industrially standardized female figures in sadomasochist positions, figures that had mutated into pieces of furniture, into tables, chairs, or clothes racks. The figures were indeed commercially produced. They were made by manufacturers specializing on mannequins, realized on the basis of Jones’ instructions and drawings. Through his female figures’ sexually provocative poses and their obvious function as objects of use (as table or armchair), but also as objects of sexual desire, Jones inflated the aesthetics of the pin-up, shifting it towards pornography. Moreover, in the context of an art exhibition, he offered his objects to the voyeuristic gaze of the audience (Hatstand, 1969; Chair, 1969; Table, 1969). His works therefore provoked criticism from voices of the women’s liberation movement.
In the 1970s, a different spectrum of works emerged, often grounded in painting and graphic arts. Still following the earlier works in their thematic focus, Jones’ art was now more clearly inspired by surrealism’s repertoire of forms and its techniques of collage and overpainting. He also engaged in surrealism’s explorations of sexuality via depth psychology (Cut-a-Way, 1976). Furthermore, his works drew on the aesthetics of magazines, advertising, and comics that had emerged since the 1920s (Ways and Means, 1976/77). Often accompanied by punning titles, Jones’ works now showed a more ironical negotiating of gender roles and sexuality. Yet even his later works remain indebted to a focus on the human body, even if they turned towards sports, dance, and the stage. The earlier puppet-like figures gave way to a different figural approach. It is situated between concrete and abstract sculptural expression in sometimes monochrome, two-dimensional coloring, between three-dimensionality and two-dimensionality (Acrobat, 1993). Jones’ œuvre also include large-format sculptures, positioned in public space.
Since the beginning of the 1960s, Jones’ works have been shown in international solo exhibitions (for example, in New York, Cologne, Milan, Tokyo, Vienna, Edinburgh, Düsseldorf, Basel, Venice, Paris, Madrid). The artist also participated in the Documenta 3, in 1964, and in the Documenta 4, in 1968. Large retrospectives were dedicated to his work, starting with an exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the ICA, London, and the Barbican, London. Jones’ works are part of numerous large collections.
Allen Jones lives and works in London.
Allen Jones: Ausst.-Kat. Royal Academy of Arts, hg. v. A. Lambirth, London 2005
Allen Jones, Prints: München 1995
Allen Jones, Retrospective of paintings,1957 — 1978: Ausst.-Kat. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden Baden, hg. v. H.-A. Peters, Chr. Klemm u. I. Bartsch, Baden Baden 1979
Livingstone, Marco: Allen Jones, Sheer magic, London 1979