David Jones and Dan Max
May 21-26, 2013
Live Worms Gallery
1345 Grant Avenue
North Beach, San Francisco
By John Held, Jr.
The show has come and gone but you won’t be seeing the last of David Jones puzzling art works. Literally, “puzzling”. Jones has been a Bay Area conceptual art stalwart for many years, but recently he’s hit on something so unique and so fitting for his personality, that I don’t think he or it is going away soon. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing a larger selection in the near future. And I want to prepare you for it.
Live Worms Gallery is a permanent venue, but a pop-up for the artists that rent it by the week. It gives the artist complete freedom to arrange the work as he or she sees fit, and you get to keep all the profits from sales. It’s a non-pretentious space down the street from the legendary Trieste Café, custom made for the emerging artist, for those who’s work doesn’t fit in elsewhere, or for art experiments straight from the studio with no middleman to get in the way.
I have known David Jones as a collector of experimental Bay Area art of the Beat and Conceptual art periods. He is very knowledgeable of the eras, and a go-to guy, who I often depend on when curating exhibitions and in need of an extra dollop of ephemera. His previous work has been a bit all over the map, from fabrication to fabric, and maybe that’s been a problem. But in the past year, he’s come up with something that perfectly suits his training and temperament.
He’s been collecting puzzles, mostly antique jigsaw puzzles, from the forties, fifties and sixties. What he found in the process was that the manufactures of these parlor amusements used the same die cut from one puzzle to another, and if you found two different puzzles by the same manufacturer, the pieces were often interchangeable. So, the first step is to collect the puzzles, group them by manufacturer, verify that the die cut is analogous, and interchange the pieces between the two sets forming an entirely different narrative than the original intent. Sounds easy, but I’ve never seen it done before or realized that puzzle die cuts were often similar from set to set. Did you?
Well, David puzzled it out and then made art out of it. Really fascinating art. Makes you want to slap your head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s like that new book that explains why you or your kid couldn’t make drip paintings like Jackson Pollack (“Why Your Five-Year-Old Could Not Have Done That: From Slashed Canvas to Unmade Bed, Modern Art Explained,” by Susie Hodge). It’s the power of extraordinary visual art, or a well turned phrase – it feels like it’s always been there but it hasn’t. And hey, why didn’t I think of that?
The other personality in, “Split Personality,” is Dan Max, who’s been present in the San Francisco art scene as a teacher, practicing artist and bon vivant since the 1970s. He’s a difficult artist, who has been treading a singular lonely path without gallery affiliation for many years. He’s perfectly suited for a space like Live Worms, which is completely artist driven. There is no compromise in his work. From humble materials – paper and a bit of photocopying – he shapes, slashes and scores sheets of paper into poetic assemblage.
Both of these artists have a deep understanding of art history, and it comes out in their work. They also have a firm grasp of the art world, which often filters out mature artists who haven’t made their mark by age sixty (this writer included). When that happens, you just have to d-i-y, which they have done, making them as contemporary as the next twenty-something.
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