One expects certain types of imagery, however unfairly, to scream. All the better in this case that they exude quietude instead.
Full of bold gestural movements, nethered scenes in deep sweep and flatulent airs discharged by some plunge into ruin, Kim Jones’s drawings on view at Pierogi (through Nov 11) gain richness and allure in their verbal vacancy, in their protagonists’ tight lips and atmospheric terseness in which creakings, croakings, growls and moanings are imaginably diegetic at most, ostensibly eternal at least. Perhaps only a couple among the scores of ethereally bleak figures in Jones’s troupe appear captured in some mode of speech: one in particular, a profiled face racing through a work’s upper register, is depicted mouth agape, neck strained, seized in headlong shriek. Yet utterances for the most part are but the puff sounds of smoking.
Whence in hell do these images hail? Whence in hell Jones’s impetus? Gathered under the title Averno—referencing Lago d’Averno, a crater lake in southern Italy that Romans of yore held to be an ingress to Hades—these works derive from notions of hell indeed, several decades of layered ponderings thereupon, in fact, as the compositions accumulated mediums, marks and figures over time in a way that a postmortem realm would too, presumably. Yet despite such nether-spherical inputs and a palette thoroughly contused in blacks and blues, these freely fluid drawings—incorporating ink, pencil, acrylic and collage—are not so dark as to overshadow bright tones of humor. A sourceless laughter, to be sure, both maniacal and sincere would fold into the show’s conceivable acoustic drapery quite well, even where its allegorical reach extends to Christ-tending narratives or Jones’s personal experiences in war.
On that note, a lone sculpture hangs in a back room with some drawings, a cruciform humanoid terror ramified on all sides with chopsticks and dowels. It conjures Jones’s persona deployed for past performance work, Mudman, yet here it lurks like a subterranean combatant at questionable bay. Kinetically calm, quiet as its company, it is a menacing specter whose tread is nearly audible—like the throaty croak of a leaping frog in the next room.
Image Untitled, 1972-2011, by Kim Jones. Image courtesy Pierogi Gallery