Allen Jones, R.A. (B. 1937)
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Allen Jones, R.A. (B. 1937)

Gallery Gasper

Allen Jones, R.A. (B. 1937)
Gallery Gasper
signed, inscribed with title and dated 'Allen Jones 1966/67' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas, and plastic faced shelf
36 x 36 in. (91.4 x 91.4 cm.)
with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, 1967.
with Waddington Galleries, London.
with Galerie Bischofberger, Zurich.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 6 December 1983, lot 566.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 9 November 1990, lot 273, where purchased by the present owner.
M. Compton, Pop Art, London, 1970, p. 74, no. 73, illustrated in colour.
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Allen Jones, June - July 1967, no. 8, illustrated in colour.
Zurich, Galerie Bischofberger, Englische Kunst, 1967, no. 6.
Belgium, Ministère de l'Éducation, Nationale, Pop Art, 1968.
Knokke-Le Zoute, Casino Communal, Pop Art - Nouveau Réalisme, June - September 1970, no. 62, illustrated p. 51.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Towards the end of a two-year stay in New York from 1964 to 1966, as he was cementing his reputation as one of the leading lights in British Pop Art and his friendships with American counterparts including Tom Wesselmann and Roy Lichtenstein, Allen Jones was struck by an article by the critic Max Kozloff that commented on what he perceived to be the adherence to a new set of academic principles by young painters. This galvanised Jones into a decision to break as many of those unwritten rules as possible. Paramount among them was the mantra at that time about respecting the flatness of the picture plane, as insisted upon notably by the great champion of Abstract Expressionism and Post-Painterly Abstraction, Clement Greenberg. Jones undertook not only to threaten that insistence on pictorial flatness, but to do so in ways that would be abhorrent to the defenders of this new academy: by making his figurative imagery even sharper, by heightening the illusionism and illustrational qualities of his style, by referencing erotic illustrations culled from commerce and pornography, by flirting knowingly with low culture, Kitsch and bad taste, and by insisting both on the sexual and comic potential ready to be unleashed by this daring and (to some) disreputable flaunting of every rule of decorum expected of a serious fine artist.

Jones embarked on a series of canvases, all in a square or nearly square format and of similar dimensions (either 36 x 36 or 50 x 40 inches), each ofwhich pictured a shapely pair of highly modelled female legs tightly encased in form-hugging rubber, leather or diaphanous silk. The desire to accentuate the tactile, volumetric and tumescent quality of these body forms went hand in hand with the play of recessive space against the flatness of the canvas support. The suggestion of atmosphere and aerial perspective through the use of colour and tone in these works called attention to the ambiguous nature of the pictorial space described. To complete these games of reality versus illusion, Jones appended to the lower edge of each of these canvases a plastic-faced shelf that brought the pictorial fantasy right into the 'real' space of the spectator.

The 'shelf' paintings, though inspired by his American sojourn and by the fetish illustrations by Stanton, Eneg and others that he discovered during that stay, were painted in 1966 and 1967 on Jones' return to England and exhibited together in summer 1967 at his London gallery, Arthur Tooth & Sons. Each of the paintings cheekily took its title from the name of a shoe design in the mail-order catalogue of the fetish-wear clothiers Frederick's of Hollywood. With their exotic and sometimes fruity associations, the titles of these works - Wet Seal (now in the Tate collection), Gallery Gasper, Soft Tread, Sheer Magic, Drama, T-riffic and Evening Incandescence - all perfectly complement the allure of these pictures. These were followed by other shelf paintings not included in the 1967 Tooth show, such as First Step, Artistic Foot(Wear) and A Step in the Right Direction, all featured in the exhibition When Britain went Pop (held at Christie's Mayfair in October - November 2013). Taken together, they are as archly self-conscious and imbued with artifice as the over-the-top styles of the glamour models and drag queens that one might be witnessing sashaying provocatively across our field of vision.
Of this series, Gallery Gasper is one of the most wilfully decorative and ebulliently colourful, and particularly playful in its evocation of a shallow space. The orbiting discs in prismatic colours that encircle the female legs resting on absurdly elevated stiletto heels, like satellites around a planet, describe a pictorial space in which those human forms can convincingly root themselves. The single eye placed on four of the discs disturbingly returns our stare, pinning our own gaze firmly back to the surface. Another shelf painting of 1966, Pathway, features a single eye within a pair of feminine lips; as the artist explained to me in 1978, this conflation of eye and mouth in that instance had for him an explicitly sexual connotation. The multiplication of the eyes in Gallery Gasper goes even further, suggesting a voyeuristic erotomania. This is a picture full of sassiness and swagger, an invitation to sensory delirium, erotic fantasy and the delights of painting itself.

We are very grateful to Allen Jones for his assistance in helping to catalogue this work, and we would like to thank Marco Livingstone for his help in preparing this entry.

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