G. B. Jones: Living Life Like a Car Crash

Crash by G. B. Jones

Crash by G. B. Jones

Since 2000, G. B. Jones has embarked upon three significant series of drawings since completing her famed Tom Girls collection: Car Crash, The Svastia Collection, and The Last Women On Earth. Ambitious in scope, even more sublime in detail, these series were all a sharp departure from her Appropriation work in years past, much of which (along with her contributions to Fifth Column, the original proto-riot grrrl band) came to define third-wave feminist art in the 1980s and 1990s. For years, G. B. Jones and Fifth Column didn’t get anywhere near as much credit for their contributions and level of influence as they deserved, and it has only been recently that people are beginning to wake up and acknowledge that some incredible things were happening with these three women in Toronto in the early eighties that would set in motion events that would help ignite an artistic and cultural revolution the world over. And riot grrrl was just the beginning of something bigger, faster, and more threatening to the patriarchal order than anyone could have imagined. For G. B. Jones, life since then has been something like a car crash in perpetual motion, a jagged loop of explosive dissonance and precise edges, a life lived deep in the inspiration and melancholy that gives rise to that infernal spark which keeps artists of genius alive and thriving. And behind every car crash, there is that terrible silence that takes hold and drowns everything and everyone else out, and if it is possible to capture that in a graphite drawing, then certainly G. B. Jones has accomplished such a feat.

After Didier Courbet by G. B. Jones

After Didier Courbet by G. B. Jones

The beauty of the Car Crash series is not so much in the apparent damage and decay of the scenes, but rather in the silence of their poetry. Looking at these drawings, even if only a cursory glance, reveals such an emotion, that there is no sound or meaning, just an infinitely lasting moment of silence, precisely captured for posterity in graphite and luminescent safety paint. Amazingly, these works were accomplished very much for the purpose of Appropriation, in that each of the cars are based upon actual crashed cars that were discovered as “found objects” by several different contemporary artists, each of them named after their respective artists. As a critique of the banality of much contemporary art, in which a damaged vehicle, abandoned along some desolate road or highway, could be possibly considered as “art,” the series is bitingly accurate. If that were the only meaning that could be attached to them, it would be more than enough. Yet, the works were done with such emotional fragility, at the same time compulsively precise in detail, that they rise above the limitations of Appropriation. As with any great and lasting works, they defy labels, and such art must be more than simply its own justification, but rather must be the total expression of all that the artist is.

That this series is the work of a woman is even more significant, given that women artists are routinely subject to short shrift by the male-dominated art establishment. The more radical or political a woman artist is, or has been in the past, the more they are deliberately sidelined, ignored or misrepresented. The most dangerous women artists are those who eschew the abstract and conceptual in favour of unveiling the illusions of the status quo and granting us a mirror into the morally and ethically bankrupt society of our times. GBJ has had the fortune of being one of those women artists who are impossible to ignore, who against all odds force the world to accept their work on their terms. In this, she has been more than successful, and the Car Crash series is a symbol of the individual right of the artist to see the world through their own lens, rather than through that of the critic, dealer and gallerist.

No matter what anyone may say or wish to believe, in art, the artist will always reign supreme.

Leave a Reply