Denise Elliott Jones: "Does It Match the Sofa?" at the Butridge Gallery
This divine Texas artist is straight-up messing with the fabric of reality
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., March 1, 2019
All right, citizen, I'm sending you back to the Dougherty Arts Center, to the Butridge Gallery therein.
Yes, I realize full well that I recently insisted you check out the visual arts action in that longtime community space because Dave McClinton's "Despite It All" show there was so worth seeing. But now, here those DAC people go again – with the sort of artwork that you'd think would be exclusive to, I don't know, NYC or Barcelona or Dubai or whatever. Because it's got that high-toned, international-art-gallery feel to it while also being conceptually sharp and a nearly overwhelming treat for the eyes. I'm talking about Denise Elliott Jones and her "Does It Match the Sofa?" exhibition.
You know that whole thing of folks (supposed dilettantes often derided by culture snobs) who prefer to buy artwork that will match their living room's couch, right? Like, never mind the meaning of the work, never mind the subject of the work, never mind a solitary thing except how precisely the colors and patterns of it will match the fabric that covers your goddamn furniture?
Right. So, Jones has taken this trope to heart and rendered it by hand and created a mind-blowing installation of both art that matches the couches and couches that match the art. I mean, she's worked up her usual gorgeous abstracts and mixed-media pieces, and then she's taken couches – actual, full-size, thickly upholstered sofas and a few wooden church pew-like seatables – and painted them to replicate the array of artworks framed above them.
The audacity of this idea is refreshing enough, and the show would be a hoot if that were the only remarkable aspect of it. But Jones didn't just start painting yesterday, isn't ignorant of technique and composition and the long practice required to powerfully achieve them, which means that these couches look (except for how otherworldly their unique patterns are) like they came out of some fine-furniture showroom. Those pigments, those textures, are professionally applied.
And what truly elevates this show beyond any whiff of gimmickry is that Jones' artwork alone is abstraction of a complex ilk that succeeds beyond its creator, is abstraction like the scaled images on the wings of certain rare moths are abstraction. The whole collection is like fabric that a midcareer Richard M. Powers might've designed for Martha Stewart after dropping a couple tabs of acid; I'm not attempting hyperbole here (check out some Powers and read a few issues of Martha Stewart Living), I'm being accurate AF. Yeah, no, that's a good thing. Also, Jones doesn't limit herself to abstraction. Not at all: She handles realism like a master, too. And she's done exactly that in a few of the paintings above her embellished couches at the Butridge. In a few of those canvases, among the oddly compelling spirals and eldritch blobs, she's even painted photo-realistic ... couches.
Denise Elliott Jones is some kind of acrylic-slinging trickster goddess of ornamental depths, and I, for one, am helplessly enthralled. Reckon you might pilgrimage your way DACward and pay a bit of homage yourself, lucky Austinite.
Denise Elliott Jones: “Does It Match the Sofa?”Julia C. Butridge Gallery, 1110 Barton Springs Rd., 512/974-4000
Through March 17