About Otis Jones
Someone once summed up for Otis Jones their frustration with the way in which people tend to view art today as “too many words, not enough eyes.” This speaks to the very heart of Jones’ personal artistic philosophy as well as how he would prefer viewers to approach his work.
Otis Jones’ works contain an ineffable quality allowing the viewer to focus on their essence. His abstract, circular wall pieces and works on paper are provocative and engaging without leading the viewer by the hand. Jones liberates his audience by leaving them to consider the formal elements of color, scale and composition to achieve a personal and emotional response, shying away from attaching too much meaning to his work himself.
And while the viewer may initially respond to the physicality of his work, Jones also conveys a deep sense of spirituality within each painted surface. The physicality of the work is paramount for Jones. Works that at first glance may seem spare are, in fact, intensely physical. Jones uses part instinct and part experience as he works and reworks his surfaces, continually adding and subtracting.
Although Jones’ palette seems to be consistently monochromatic, further investigation reveals that each work is composed of various colors integrated, manipulated and worked to the point that the overall coloration is created by the visual tension of colors applied within the under painting. However, there is nothing artificial about Jones’ choice of colors. They embody each canvas as if they were grown there. Despite the labor intensive process, Jones’ works have such a natural quality that lingering fingerprints serve as evidence of hand. They remain as the truthful byproduct of handling, a signal that Jones does not want to be too precious about his work.
Otis Jones’ work offers intuitive, abstract compositions of sparsely painted canvas stretched over irregularly shaped wood relief’s as well as heavily textured works on paper. By painting abase plaster ground, then over painting with multiple layers, sanding and painting again, the works develop depth and intensity. Crater-like surfaces attain a romantic quality in their treatment, like walls of an ancient ruin. His paintings on circular and rectangular wooden platforms, some with as much as a 4″ relief from the wall, become sculptural in presentation. “Blue Circle / Gray Line” is a particularly stunning example of this series and serves as an example of a new trend in Jones’ work. Larger in scale and more colorful, Jones seems to be drawing from more external sources for inspiration these days. His use of blue is derived from his love of architectural blueprints. The very clay like reds of some of his most recent works might be the influence of travels to New Mexico. While Jones’ works have remained fundamentally consistent throughout his career, they continue to evolve. Jones is not interested in continually trying to say new things, rather he seeks out the best ways in which to convey one idea.
Again, Jones gives no hint of ulterior designation for his work as he titles his pieces simply and directly. “Small Black Circle, Previously Blue Circle,” and “Horizontal and Vertical Blue Lines” are other typical titles for his works. By labeling his work with such descriptive titles, Jones further places the challenge of understanding and interpretation on the viewer.
Jones received his B.F.A from Kansas State University in 1969, continued graduate studies at Montana State University and earned his M.F.A. in 1972 from the University of Oklahoma. He was the 1982 recipient of a Visual Artists Fellowship Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and has taught at Texas Christian University, the University of Texas at Austin and has served as an Associate Professor and Visiting Professor at University of Texas at Arlington. Jones’ work can be found in many private and public collections such as the Dallas Museum of Art, A.H. Belo Corporation, American Airlines, Rosewood Corporation and Compaq Corporation.