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Bradley Jones b.1944 d.1989
Corridor Painter
- See Exhibition at Center Galleries, 2001-


Taken 9/1/82 at Bobs Park on David Snow's birthday, a little party Bradley , George Korinek and Mr. Bob threw for him.

Picture by George Korinek



By Manon Meilgaard for the Metro Times, Jan. 14th, 1987

ON THE FRONTIER

Bradley Jones and the spirit of the Cass Corridor

BY MANON MEILGAARD

"Detroit is a good place to make art," according to Bradley Jones, pensively gazing through the large window of his studio across from the Eastern Market. "Detroit has a special kind of intensity, and it produces a variety of styles you don't find anywhere else. But don't call it regional art. There's no such thing anymore." One of the original Cass Corridor artists, Jones, a youthful-looking 42, is known by his multitude of friends to have a big heart, lots of idealism, an infectious sense of humor and a mind like a sharply honed rapier. He is also something of a maverick-an aesthetic frontiersman.
Shifting up and down from chair to window, Jones ruminated on a variety of subjects, including poetry, personalities, politics, painting and his native Detroit. "Look at those faces," he said, pointing to a group of mostly black people waiting at a bus stop. "I could spend hours sketching from this window. There are some fabulous characters out there."
He was noticeably less enthusiastic, however, about a nearby, near-derelict -building. "Imagine a fine old building like that being left to rot. Our politicians and lousy architects are more concerned with erecting monstrosities like the Renaissance Center than with restoring old houses. Detroit is a holy city. We are standing on layers of prehistory and buried cultures, Indian, French and English. Detroit should be treated with respect."
This restless energy is reflected in a large stack of stunning, figurative paintings in his studio, ready for an exhibition at the Feigenson Gallery.
Jones' primary focus is and always has been the human figure, but these paint jugs haven come a long way from the dazzling colors, cartoon like styles and
hybrid human/animal forms of some of his earlier work. The colors are now more muted, with predominating blue tones and skin tones varying between pinkish reds and luminous whites. To achieve a - more dramatic or startling effect, Jones may deliberately distort anatomy.
Racially mixed figures of both sexes
(clothed, nude or half-nude) depict situations and confrontations that seem fraught
with tension-often verging on the ominous. Is the naked woman tapping the shoulder of a fully clothed male in a large seascape canvas merely being playful, or does she have a concealed weapon behind her back? Is the male figure peeking over the roof of a parked car where two young women are un-dressing a harmless voyeur, or is he intent on rape, or even mayhem? Are the two heavily made-up, provocatively dressed women standing by another parked car prostitutes or angels?
Jones, who paints from imagination, sketches or photographs, and occasionally uses models, is not about to give any clues. Each painting portrays a modern day situation and has a surprise element, but interpretation is in the eye of the viewer. He shuns acrylics, except for underpainting, and always uses oils for surfaces. "There's no painterliness in acrylics," he explained. "Rembrandt never would have used them." Apart from Rembrandt, Jones has great respect for contemporary British painter David Hockney. "Hockney's one of the few guys who escaped the big-business corruption of artists in New York," he said. "Things going on in the art scene there make the Iran Affair look like small potatoes"
It's almost inevetable that Jones should be labeled a social realist or a social saterist in todays artistic climate, where labels are as numerous as lottery-stake promotions sent through the mail. There is, though, a hint of the expressive realism of Georges Grosz in. Jones' intensely personal imagery and style-a style that attracts many Detroit-area followers, artists and non-artists alike. European car importer Joel Landy, low-key dark-horse patron of the arts and generous supporter of Detroit artists, goes so far as to say, "I not only admire Bradley as a person, but consider him to be one of the most creative artists of this century."
Jones attended the Center for Creative Studies, Wayne State University (B.F.A. and M.F.A.) and received a fellowship at Ohio's Kent State in 1969. Initially, his interest in pursuing art was met with opposition from his father, a high-powered salesman. "My dad used to call me a bum," quipped Jones, "but now he sees me as a fairly successful bum."
During the 1960s, Jones became actively involved in the anti-Vietnam movement, and as one of the earliest members of the avant-garde Cass Corridor group of artists, had studios in both Convention Hall and Common Ground. Spanning a chronological parameter circa 1963-1977, the Corridor created a significant chapter in Detroit's cultural life (both display arts and poetry), and continues to be a source of inspiration to younger, second-generation artists. True, many of the seminal artists, including Brenda Goodman, Ellen Phelan, Nancy Mitchnick, John Egner and Stephen Foust have moved to other pastures (mostly New York). Others, like Bob Sestock, John Piet, Gordon Newton, James Crawford (and Jones) are still working In Detroit. The memorable 1980 Kick Out the Jams exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts was a tribute to many of the Cass Corridor artists. Said Jones, "The Corridor as such might not exist anymore, but the spirit and attitude live on."
Jones compares the DIA to a giant book supported by two vital bookends- the WSU art department and the Center for Creative Studies. He positively recalls former DIA curator of contemporary arts Sam Wagstaff, who played a key role in organizing the Jams. "Sam really cared about Detroit artists, and he did a hell of a lot of much-needed stirring up around there. If the new, guy (Jan van der Marck) lives up to his reputation, I'll support him to the hilt, and so I think will many other Michigan artists-but I hope he kicks ass."
Since 1970, Jones has taught at Wayne County Community College. "This gives me a lot of satisfaction" he said. "My students are of all backgrounds, races and ages - many of them are the underprivileged, and for some, it's their first exposure to art. And since I'm more interested in making art than showing or selling it, teaching gives me an income."
With typical candor, he admits to being a reformed alcoholic beginning two years ago, following a long bout of excessive drinking. "it seems to be the writers' and artists' disease," he mused. "I became a demon for a time, a Jekyll and Hyde character. I hit bottom when I started to hemorrhage from the throat and ended up in intensive care, almost dead. Getting over that was a rebirth, and I have to thank my wife, Cathy, for saving my life and sanity."
Jones is not the type to indulge in maudlin self-pity or sermonizing. According to those who know him best, he functioned amazingly well even during his fight with alcohol. "There's no one like Bradley," said Carl Kamulski, co-director of the Michigan Gallery. "I knew him at school, and we both teach at WCCC. He is one of the most consistent and serious artists I have ever known, and he doesn't align himself to any particular group. Bradley is involved with students, Detroit musicians and poets, as well as artists. He has a great talent and he is a great friend." 

Bradley Jones' paintings will be on display through Feb. 7 at Feigenson Gallery. Call 873-7322 for more information. 

Manon Meilgaard is a frequent contributor to the Metro Times on the local art scene.
Photos by Bob Mckeown


 

By Manon Meilgaard for the Metro Times, Oct. 4th, 1989

Bradley Jones
Photo by Bob McKeown

Bradley Jones-an extraordinary being, an untimely death. 
How to comprehend the darker depths of the human psyche? How to convey the essence, the multifaceted persona of a supremely gifted artist who, in turn, could be visionary, biting, sensitive, humorous, provocative, compassionate and endlessly seeking? Who can, possibly explain the pain and inner conflicts Jones was feeling when, on Sept. 24. the 45-year-old Detroit painter died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds?
The Detroit art world grieves. Talking to his wife, Catherine DeMay (artist and general manager of the Detroit Focus Gallery) was painful. 
"Bradley wanted everyone to Interpret his work In their own way," DeMay said. "His paintings were sensitive and immediate, and yet so mysterious. One look from Bradley meant more than a thousand words. . . what more can I say?"
Said Mary Preston, owner of the Feigenson/ Preston Gallery In Birmingham, who has known Jones for over 20 years: "Who knows what must have been going on in Bradley's mind? Perhaps the colors faded, becoming gray and then black. He was a man without malice or guile. He was giving. He had no enemies, except perhaps himself. He made exciting. truthful, rich and mysterious paintings, and his death is a tragic loss for the Detroit art community."
Jones was born In Detroit and remained an adamant, if somewhat disillusioned. Detroiter throughout his life. This writer vividly remembers him proclaiming ("On the Frontier." MT, Jan. 14-20, 1987). "Our politicians and lousy architects are more concerned with erecting monstrosities like the Renaissance Center than with restoring old houses. Detroit Is a holy city. We are standing on layers of prehistory and buried cultures: Indian. French and English. Detroit should be treated with respect."
After studying at the Center for Creative Studies, Jones earned his BFA and MFA degrees at Wayne State University. In 1970, he became a denizen of the Common Ground art complex on Cass, near Willis, and was a seminal member of the Cass Corridor artists movement during the early '70s. In those heady days. his work was included In 'Kick Out the Jams: Detroit's Can Corridor 1963-77' at the Detroit Institute of Arts. "The Corridor as such." he once said, "might not exist anymore, but the spirit and attitude live on."
From early work that featured spouting water pipes and bulbous excrescences. Jones moved on to sparer compositions like black leather Jackets, comic-strip characters, and hybrid creatures In animal and human form. Tremendously energetic and, admittedly, fun to view, these forms, rendered in garish colors-scarlet, magenta, yellow, dyspeptic green and varying shades of blue-always seemed to portray a serious underpinning, a satirical but somber Intention.
Many of his closest friends were aware of this dichotomy. "Bradley was a gentle soul with a wicked sense of humor." said Detroit poet Jim Gustafson.
"He transmitted so much joy: he was a poet, a local hero. He was always ahead of the game. Somehow, with Bradley around, there was hope for us all." 
In his later work, Jones' primary focus was the human figure. His paintings depicted situations or confrontations often fraught with sexual tension or even violence, but more often a macabre humor seems to be masking an Interior sense of loneliness or alienation. In "New York," which was exhibited at the Feigenson/Preston Gallery in October 1988, he painted kaleidoscopic rows of vignettes in which the interaction between male and female figures could be perceived as loving, disturbing, demonstratively sexual or enigmatic. Always
reluctant to descrlbe his work, Jones provoked the imagination by saying, "Well, there
are a lot of suble things going on here. Each of the segments tells a story, and they are all related, but people have to make their own narratives."
Jones eschewed the limelight. Impervious to the lures of the New York art scene, he stayed on in Detroit while many others left.
Since the 1970's, he taught drawing at Wayne County Community College. 'This gives me satisfaction," he once said. "My students are of all backgrounds, races and ages-many of them are the underprivileged, and for some It's their first exposure to art. And since I'm more interesed in making art than showing or selling it, teaching gives me some income."
During the 1960s, he became seriously  involved in the anti-war movement and became a voracious reader. With typical candor, he once reflected on his battle with alcohol. "Getting over that was a rebirth." he said. "and I thank my wife. Cathy. for saving my life and sanity and rescuing me from the demons.'
But the demons were always lurking. Longtime friend and fellow artist Roy Castlebury perhaps summed up Jones' enigma: "He was Immensely talented, lovable, exasperating, and he believed in the secret lives of human beings. He was a humanist, and in some ways he understood the theatre of the absurd. Bradley made a deep impression on everyone he knew, and his going leaves a gaping hole. I look at his art, and I still long for more. He had a terrific sense of fun. I'm angry, but I'm glad Bradley existed. because he had a style we will all miss and a vision we never got enough of."
Everyone who knew Bradley Jones will remember his humanity, his humor, his painterliness, his imagination, those wonderfully powerful, gestural brushstrokes, and a talent incomplete.
Besides his wife. Jones is survived by his mother, Dorothy Jones, of St. Clair Shores, and a sister, Lynette Yussim of New York. 


A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Michigan Gallery. 2661 Michigan
Ave, Detroit. The family requests that tributes be sent to the Bradley Jones Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Bruce Klein, Department of Fine and Performing Arts, Wayne County Community College, 801 Fort St., Detroit, MI  48231.
Photos by Bob Mckeown

 

Comments about Bradley welcome!

Carl Kamulski writes,

Bradley Jones was hired by WCCC a year before I was. He and I developed the Fine Arts Program at the college. Roy Steyskal developed sculpture and ceramics. Victor Stokes, our displaced Department Chair, also taught full time at the college.

I taught many of the courses in the Downriver and Western Regions and Bradley taught courses in the Eastern and Downtown Regions. Together, with notable part-time instructors Jim Lutomski, Gene Postula, Dan Rasbury, John Piet, Brenda Goodman, Richard Brinn, Rick Vian and so many others from the Cass Corridor, we developed a program offering up to 100 art courses a semester. The college was a great place to teach at during the 1970's and mid 1980's. The Art Department was virtually autonomous and able to "invent" new courses and new ways to teach them. Bradley, Roy and I had a great time during these early years.

Michigan Gallery began in 1971. It was first a studio space for Roy Steyskal, Bradley Jones, Rick Brinn and myself. We opened a small gallery and eventually all of us moved our studios and the entire space became galley. Bradley served as a board member at Michigan Gallery for more than ten years. He curated several shows and, in many ways, represented the gallery in the Corridor and with commercial art galleries.

Many of us believed/believe that Bradley was "THE" painter. He represented, more than anyone else, the gritty, intense and figurative nature of art in our Rust Belt city. He was "the painters painter."

Bradley's death in 1989 signaled the end of an era for the gallery and in some ways for Metropolitan Detroit art and art in Michigan. Perhaps all coincidence, but 1990 began the end of MCA support of non-profit galleries. We were dependent on this support and it's loss over the next five years reduced our programing. The quality of our shows remained high, but the amount of debt grew.

Bradley Jones was an important part of both the emergence and development of Michigan Gallery. His loss remains a significant loss to all of us in the arts.