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Joseph John Jones 'Joe Jones': A major twentieth century painter and printmaker,
Joe Jones was almost entirely self-taught. He began exhibiting his paintings and prints around St. Louis in the late 1920's. He also organized and taught art classes for children of unemployed workers in 1934. At about this time Joe Jones became a member of the Communist party and a leading political activist throughout the decade of the Depression. His views were greatly criticized by mid-western conservatives and thus, Joe Jones left St. Louis for New York in 1935.
Many of Joe Jones's paintings and prints from this era (including five large murals) were commissioned by the government supported Works Progress Administration. Also, in 1937, he was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and his art was included in important exhibitions at the Carnegie Institute. In World War Two, Joe Jones worked as a war artist for "Life Magazine".
During his career, Joe Jones's art underwent significant changes. His early paintings and prints (many depicting laborers and farm workers) were at the forefront of both Social Realism and American Regionalism. Until the end of the Second World War the large majority of Jones's prints were in the medium of lithography. Joe Jones made his first experiments in the newly invented art of the color silk-screen in 1945. After that date he devoted much of his talents to this method. The possibility within the silk-screen of creating large prints with full ranges of colors and tonal values contributed to a transformation of Joe Jones's art. Moving more towards a lyrical, almost calligraphic form of abstractionism, Jones brilliantly explored the relationships of line, form and colour. His silk-screens from the post war era, such as this original example, are now seen as masterworks of their time.
Prominent galleries that today include the art of Joe Jones in their collections are the Smithsonian Institute, the White House, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Butler Institute of American Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
In 1937 Joe Jones received a Guggenheim fellowship to create a pictorial record of conditions in the dust bowl, of which Wastelands is an example. Born in St. Louis, he quit school at age fifteen to work as a house painter. Winning his first award in 1931, Jones gained the attention of St. Louis patrons who financed his travel to the artists' colony in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Returning to St. Louis, he alienated his supporters with the pronouncement that he had joined the Communist Party, so Jones signed up for the Public Works of Art Project in 1934.