Rachel Jones


Curated by Erin Jenoa Gilbert
March 27, 2024
September 1, 2024
Third Floor Gallery


MoAD is pleased to present !!!!!, a new body of work by acclaimed British visual artist and painter Rachel Jones. Curated by Erin Jenoa Gilbert, !!!!! premiers a series of vivid oil pastel landscapes which continue Jones’ ongoing exploration into Black interiority and personhood. Following solo museum exhibitions in the U.K. and China, this is the first solo museum exhibition for Jones in the United States. In !!!!!, Jones remixes her usual lexicon of aesthetics to create complex images that oscillate between the figurative and abstract. Inspired by the poetics of Black writers and the sonic and visual languages of cartoons, these compositions demonstrate masterful markmaking to render images that are both seen and heard.

Rachel Jones

Working in painting, installation, sound and performance, Rachel Jones explores a sense of self as a visual, visceral experience. In her paintings, she grapples with the challenges of finding visual means to convey abstract, existential concepts. In depicting the psychological truths of being and the emotions the seen gender, abstraction becomes a way of expressing the intangible. The artist repeats motifs and symbols across her series to create associative, even familial, relationships between them, underscoring their kinship as part of her ongoing investigation of identity.

The figure is notably abstracted in her works, as Jones is interested in "using motifs and color as a way to communicate ideas about the interiority of Black bodies and their lived experience." Abstracted mouths and teeth suggest a symbolic and literal entry point to the interior and the self. Within this vivid inner landscape, oral and, more recently, floral forms emerge and recede from view. Her expressive use of color becomes a way of provoking or communicating with viewers, who bring their own lived experiences and cultural backgrounds to the interpretation of her works. This sense of community and shared history comes to the fore in her installations and performances, in which imagery, sound and music coalesce in a celebration of Black culture.

Rachel Jones completed her BA Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art in 2013 and an MA Fine Art at the Royal Academy Schools, London, in 2019. Recent solo exhibitions include the Long Museum, Shanghai, China (2023) and the Chisenhale Gallery, London (2022). She was included in Mixing It Up: Painting Today at the Hayward Gallery, London (2021), followed by other institutional group exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C., and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Arizona (2022). She was an artist in residence at The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas in 2019 and the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in 2016. Jones’s work is housed in prominent institutional collections, including those of the Long Museum, Shanghai; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Tate, London, where her piece 'lick your teeth, they so clutch' (2021) is currently on display as part of the Tate Britain's rehang. Alongside her performance practice, which most recently took form as an operatic based work titled 'Hey, Maudie', Jones also designed the BRIT Awards 2024 trophy which will be presented to all winners.

Erin Jenoa Gilbert

Erin Jenoa Gilbert is a New York-based curator and art advisor specializing in Postwar and Contemporary Art. She holds a BA in Political Science and a BA in African and African American Studies from the University of Michigan and an MA in Contemporary Art from the University of Manchester.

Her company EJG International, founded in 2013, explores the relationship between art, power, and politics through exhibitions, publications, and acquisitions. With focus on abstract, conceptual, and sculptural practices, Gilbert, informed by her own migrations between the US, Africa, and Europe, has conjured a curatorial practice that examines the physical and psychological connection to land, the trauma of displacement, and the Black female body as contested terrain. Gilbert's intersectional critical analysis exposes the fault lines in the aesthetic regimes that dominate visual culture, specifically by presenting artists whose contributions to the canon have been overlooked, particularly women artists from the “Deep South” and the “Global South.”

Since 2020 Gilbert has represented Paris-based sculptor Barbara Chase Riboud as Director of Exhibitions, Publications, and Acquisitions. In this capacity Gilbert steered two major retrospective exhibitions including "The Encounter: Barbara Chase Riboud / Alberto Gicometti" at MoMA (2023), Barbara Chase Riboud "Monumentale: The Bronzes" at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (2022-2023), Barbara Chase Riboud "Infinite Folds" (2022-2023) at the Serpentine Galleries, "Black Standing Woman of Venice: Alberto Giacometti / Barbara Chase Riboud" at Foundation Giacometti (2021-2022) and "Prospect 5: Yesterday We Said Tomorrow" (2021-2022).

Prior to working with Barbara Chase Riboud, Gilbert was the inaugural Curator of African American Manuscripts at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art. She has also held positions at the Studio Museum in Harlem and The Art Institute of Chicago.

As Curator of African American Manuscripts at Smithsonian's Archives of American Art (2018-2020), Gilbert acquired approximately twenty new collections including: Emma Amos, Betty Blayton Taylor, Chakaia Booker, Beverly Buchanan, Nannette Carter,  Ed Clark, Renee V. Cox, Allan Randall Freelon, Ruth Jett, Maren Hassinger, Arthur Monroe, Evangeline J. Montgomery, Senga Nengudi, Joyce Scott, Lowery Stokes Sims, Sylvia Snowden and Oliver Jackson Lee. In 2019 she conducted the definitive oral history with Barbara Chase Riboud. She published the AAA Guide to African American Papers and co-organized the AAA African American Oral History Initiative.

As an independent curator, Gilbert produced A Force For Change, an intergenerational, international exhibition presenting 26 contemporary women artists of African descent in July 2021 in NYC . In December 2021 she produced "Artsy Vanguard," an exhibition featuring 20 emerging artists across film, photography, painting, sculpture, and installation in Miami, Florida. In January 2022 she curated an exhibition for the launch of Bel Air for NBC-Peacock. Since 2015 she has organized museum and gallery exhibitions in the US and UK including "Phoebe Boswell: Transit Terminal" (2015), "Zohra Opoku: Draped Histories Beyond Visage" (2016), "Sienna Shields: Invisible Woman", (2016) and "In The Eye of the Beholder" (2018).

A published author, she has penned catalog essays on several artists including Paul Waters (Eric Firestone Gallery, 2022), Robert Reed (Pillar Corrias Gallery, 2022), Chakaia Booker (ICA Miami, 2021), Alma Thomas (Mnuchin Gallery, 2019), Deborah Roberts (Spelman University, 2018), and forthcoming Mary Lovelace O’Neal (MoAD).

"Figure and Force," a conversation she moderated between Barbara Chase Riboud and Malcolm X's daughter Ilyasah Shabbaz for Solange Knowles Saint Heron in December of 2021, exemplifies her commitment to expanding the audience for modern and contemporary art. In addition she has recently conducted interviews with contemporary artists including Rachel Jones for Yale Center for British Art (April 2022), Toyin Ojih Odutola for Hirschhorn (March 2022),  Chakaia Booker for ICA Miami (Sept 2021), and Toyin Ojih Odutola for The Barbican (October 2020). She has also addressed the subject of women artists at The Armory, The Studio Museum in Harlem, National Gallery of Art Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Howard University, Fashion Institute of Technology, and Swann Auction Galleries.

Featured image credit: Rachel Jones, !!!!!, 2023. Oil stick on linen, 220 (h) x 320 (w) cm., unframed. Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Eva Herzog.

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