Who is Allen Jones?
Allen Jones is a renowned British artist, sculptor, lithographer and arts teacher. He has been awarded with one of the most prestigious awards in artistry; The Prix des Jeunes Artistes in 1963 and along with that, he has also received the post of senior Academician at the coveted Royal Academy of Arts. His popularity started increasing with his pop art influenced creations in the early 60’s and since then, his works have been exhibited and received accolades in many countries around the globe in both the solo and group sections. Apart from creating art for his personal purpose, he has been actively involved in many films and TV shows, working as a production designer for them, such as ‘Oh Calcutta!’, ‘Manner Win Kommen’ and ‘Understanding Opera’. As an artist, Allen’s prestige is unmatchable and he has earned a rightful place among the best artists in the world alive today. Other than creating art, he has been a professor of arts in institutes such as Croydon College of Art, Chelsea School of Art, universities in Berlin, Los Angeles and France.
Childhood & Early Life
Allen Jones was born in Southampton, England on September 1, 1937 to a factory worker father and a homemaker mother. He spent most of his childhood in west London and did his schooling from there only. Ever since he was a kid, he showed an inclination towards art and spent most of his free time creating sculptures from clay.
He got enrolled in Hornsey College of Arts in London to study lithography. He describes it as a very profound experience as it shaped him up as an artist in true sense and he got introduced to some of the best artists in the world. He visited France as a part of his curriculum and took particular interest in Robert Delaunay.
Allen wanted to do something different and he developed his own style of creating art, due to which he was expelled from Royal College of art in his very first year. He was guilty of trying to manipulate his fellow students to deny the existing norms prevalent in the teaching method in the college and to develop their own style of representing their art.
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The expulsion from Royal College of Art didn’t impact Allen Jones negatively and in 1961, his work was showcased in the Young Contemporaries 1961 in London, an exhibition to promote young talent. That was the time when pop art was finding its own language among the contemporary artists and got adapted by many, including Allen.
Among his early works was one where he included buses of London and painted them on weirdly shaped canvases. London West End gallery exhibited his works and Allen received widespread appreciation for his different approach and point of view to art. The gallery owners observed immense talent in the young artist and introduced Allen to the art of American artists such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. From 1961 to 1963, Allen taught in Croydon College of Arts and in 1963, he received ‘Prix des Jeunes Artistes’.
As a result of introduction to American pop art, he migrated to New York City and Allen spent most of his time roaming around the city, while exploring different art galleries to have a better understanding of the explicit arts made by American artists in 1930s and 40s. His erotic painting ‘Perfect Match’ was a result of this new found understanding of art, which got him into ‘The xart collection’ exhibition series in Zurich and he got to stand amongst some of the biggest names of that time.
He delivered lectures in University of Florida for some time and in 1968 he forayed into ‘structure art’ for the first time with a creation titled ‘Life Class’. He moved back to London in 1969 and completed his next work titled ‘Chair’, which indulged in eroticism and sado-masochist themes. He completed and exhibited his very first group of erotic fibreglass structures of a hatstand, table and chair and these creations made him a well-known name among the artist community in England.
However, his work wasn’t safe from criticism and Allen received a lot of flak for table, chair and hatstand when they were put on display in the Institute of Contemporary Art due to their explicit nature. Filmmaker Roman Polanski, however, was unaffected and admired Allen for his works and owned several of his sculptures. Master director Stanley Kubrick was also a big fan of Allen and included several of his sculptures in his 1971 film ‘A Clockwork Orange’.
This new found appreciation from filmmakers got him signed on for a film titled ‘Maitresse’ in 1975, which ran into controversy due to the provocative display of Allen’s sculptures. In 1977, he created a painting titled ‘Santa Monica Shores’ on a traditional canvas. It was around this time when he was teaching art in University of California and occasionally worked as a guest lecturer in Banff Centre School of Fine Arts in Alberta, Canada.
In 1979, he had one of the biggest exhibitions of his work in Liverpool in the Walker Art Gallery and the same exhibition was later taken to Serpentine Gallery in London. In early 80’s, he taught art in Berlin University as a guest lecturer and in 1986, his work was showcased in Vienna among the works of artists such as Brian Eno and Tony Cragg. The year didn’t end at that only, as later, he was selected as a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy.
In the very recent years, Jones has gained more popularity owing to his abstract steel sculptures, several exhibitions showcased his steel artworks and he gained a lot of praise. In 2007, Southampton Solent University awarded Allen a doctorate of Arts degree and his paintings and sculptors kept moving from exhibitions to exhibitions in United States and Europe.
In 2009, he was honoured with watercolour room in the Royal Academy, and the academy further honoured him by including a ‘Retrospective on Jones’ series which ran for 3 months in late 2014 to 2015.
Allen Jones has openly admitted that he is a feminist and despite the heavy backlash he has received from feminists, he says that his work is dedicated to them.
Allen Jones stays and works in Oxfordshire, England.