Darren Jones works across a wide range of forms and subjects, often displaying an adroit sense of humor in his installations, sculptures, digital images, and text based artworks. However, Jones’s work is not only a series of well-pitched interventions and re-arrangements; there is a poetic and delicate seriousness that complicates much of what he makes.
Deeper Understanding (2008) turns his old broken laptop, stuck in the process of starting up, into a readymade sculpture. The keyboard of the haggard PC computer has been altered to read, “I know that you are feeling tired,” as though Jones is trying to communicate his appreciation for the now-broken computer’s lost memory and functionality. This ode to a personal computer, lost and gone, gives levity to an experience that can be quite trying and that many people have gone through at least once.
On the other end of the spectrum is his text-based ink-on-paper work, Anagrams (2013), which, as the title suggests, is a series of anagrams. The phrases are from Fire Island Pines, a notorious Mecca for wealthy gay men, a subject that Jones frequently addresses in his work. For example, in the first of six lines, he has rearranged the initial word “paradise” into “aids rape,” a jarring alternative. Although this work is almost devastatingly direct there is still a subtle degree of playfulness in the way the artist alters the forms of these words and phrases.
Two other works that deal directly with the myths and culture surrounding Fire Island Pines are Flotsam and Jetsam (2013), the refuse from a weekend spent on the island; and Rainbeau (2013), an image of the torso of a gay man, typical of the style for dating sites, but softened by unnaturally bright superimposed lighting—glowing lens flares—to make the image appear at odds with the hyper masculine and sexualized portrayal of the subject.
Another work that is both critical and strikingly humorous, perhaps in a sardonic way, is Binary System (2013), a digital print that depicts a Bally’s Total Fitness sign and an Outback Steakhouse sign competing for attention, with counterintuitive yet perfectly synchronous messages.
When asked about the image Jones noted, “Yes it does seem a manufactured composite. But in fact the signs exist like that in reality. I saw them in a parking lot in Orlando. I couldn’t believe it when I read them, as it was a true readymade. I was struck by the conflicting lifestyles they were advertising, both vying for attention; this was a snapshot of differing aspects of American life. I’m really drawn to subtle, wistful, social or cultural commentary.” Jones has captured something quintessential to the 20th century American experience—the constant barrage of advertisements with competing yet intertwined lifestyle messages—and, with the light touch of a cultural anthropologist, he catalogues and observes and offers a look at the present moment in all its complexity.
In the last few years Jones’ work has taken an experimental, but not unexpected turn. Some of his works seem to be purposefully dependent upon the web platform—the artists website—they are displayed through. Jones’ sculpture, The Silent Language of Grief (After Voltaire) (2012) is emblematic of this Internet-based shift. The work is a small sculpture comprised of an ornate gold frame fitted with paper that has been stained with the chemical composition for tears. The piece is a poignant object on its own, but becomes fully realized, contextually, when the artist writes out the chemical composition for tears in the materials list. When asked about the integration of web based platforms with his artwork Jones said: “Some years ago my work became more conceptual, and materially less cumbersome and less rooted in traditional modes of making. The visual transaction between the artist and viewer was more electronic than bodily. As the work became more ephemeral and less fixed, so too did the ways it could be seen. More art is viewed online than it is in person and I like that fluidity. I think much of my work and my sensibility can be understood whether in the gallery or on the screen.” This shift is hard to describe fully, as it is still under way, but Jones is navigating an important area for any artist working now.
Darren Jones is Scottish-born visual artist and writer currently living and working in New York City. He has fine arts degrees from Central Saint Martins College of Art, London and Hunter College, New York. His work has been shown at museums and galleries in group and solo exhibitions in New York, New Haven, Edinburgh, London, Hamburg, Zurich, Washington D.C., and Chicago.