Last month, Ben Jones exhibited a new body of work at The Hole gallery on the Lower East Side. The gallery’s walls and floor are painted a bright, startling white; Jones’s artwork, usually drenched in hot hues, here consists only of graphite-colored oil-stick line drawings.
With the permanent invasion of art fairs into the art world economy like a plague, most galleries, no matter how cutting-edge or avant-garde, seem to believe (whether from actual or perceived necessity) that they must participate in all of the increasingly frequent art fair seasons. This endless stream of fairs forces smaller galleries that show conceptual, abstract, or experimental work into a setting devoid of context, stripping the art of its desired impact or importance. While I’m certainly not the first to point this out, nowhere was it more noticeable recently than at NADA New York.
“Multiple paper sizes and stocks bound together with a spiral wire and wrapped between thick chipboard covers.” So reads the highly utilitarian description of Ben Jones’ new book in its accompanying press release, but it’s also as good a definition of the different incarnations of “manliness”—the purported subject of the volume—as anything to be found on its carnation pink and lime green pages.
In July 2004, The New York Times Magazine signaled the advent of the “literary” comic book and described how a significant group of cartoonists — including Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Seth and Marjane Satrapi — had popularized these “comics with a brain.”