Alfredo Jaar, Ronald Jones


Prologue by Amy Simon, American Artist, and David Neuman, Director Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall
Interview: Alfredo Jaar, November 15, 1988 – New York City, by Dore Ashton, American Author and Professor of Art History
Interview: Ronald Jones, November 16, 1988 – New York City, by Jerry Saltz, American Author and Art Critic

Exhibition catalogue no 3
No of pages:
34, color, illustrated
soft cover

Language: Swedish and English
Year: 1989
Publisher: Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall


Interview: Ronald Jones, November 16, 1988 – New York City by Jerry Saltz

JERRY SALTZ: You seem interested in the fact that nothing is abstract or neutral in the intersection of history and geometry. What does geometry mean to you?

RONALD JONES: Well that’s true isn’t it, nothing is neutral, absent of meaning. Frank Stella’s well known assertion that his paintings were only about what could be seen on the canvas speaks volumes about his art and the culture which played its host. Interestingly the interview with Stella in which he made that observation was published just two years before the Paris peace talks began. In 1968, the parties directly involved in the war, the South Vietnamese, the United States, the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, or the Viet Cong, spent months trying to come to agree on a design for the table around which their negotiations for peace would take place. These diplomats understood what Stella never could: that meaning textures the most rarified geometric designs. Geometry, as neutral as it may appear, is a document of history that can be read.

There were seven proposed designs for the table. The South Vietnamese and the United States offered six. Each design was bifurcated down the center to convey their political, social, and economic objectives to preserve the sovereignty of South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong made only one proposal: a round table meant to sufficiently picture their desire to unify the country.

Thinking back, this kind of aesthetics of diplomacy recontextualize Stella’s paintings as sadly naive. As much as the tables, Stella’s pictures symbolize the ideology of a power struggle.

JS: Inevitably you tend to use highly seductive materials and precise craftsmanship to make your art. Is a contradiction created between the allure of your art and its subjects centered on social and political repression?

RJ: Look, it should be clear by now that making art that is socially or politically confrontational is only the evidence of a permission to do so. If confrontational works of art had the capacity to reform our culture in fundamental ways they would never see the light of day. There are as many examples of this form of censorship as one wishes to name from Delacroix’ Liberty Leading the People, which was hidden in the basement  of the Louvre for fear that it might rekindle revolutionary sentiment in the years following 1789, to Hans Haacke’s cancelled exhibition at the Guggenheim in 1971. When I lecture I remind my audience of this saying at the outset that if I were truly empowered to inspire reform I would never have been invited to lecture in the first instance. (…)