"About a Hundred Things I Forgot," at McDaniel's Rice Gallery, is a very unusual exhibit that doesn't seem like it should be. The subtitle: "Figure Paintings" might lead you to expect an emphasis on those figures. Robert Jones has some other ideas.
Figures are integral, embedded in brushstroked scene, figure and ground, subtle and striking. While foreground figures draw initial attention, a closer look reveals others emerging from context, clear one moment, hazy the next; surrealism where representation is hinted. Jones' style intrigues, never letting you relax, keeping you searching.
His palette is unsettling, especially when he works in pastels. Pale coral and robin's egg blue mix with ochres and greens, figures drawn in the same hues, abstracting while not quite. "The Mighty Have Fallen" creates a somber mood despite the light colors. "Wonder's" woman is tired, only a hint of her strength remaining in her eyes. Jones' colors can be unexpected, not quite saturated, drawing you in to make them deepen. Oranges and reds, black and hunter are clearer, but still require the viewer to work with them to really see the painting.
Jones' brushstrokes are important. He paints vertically, starting above and ending below the canvas, diluted colors dripping like a curtain in front of images. His strokes are rough, as if his brush were old and not quite clean from its last painting, giving his work a raw feel and an energy that is palpable, a sense that something has gone before and will come after this moment in time.
"Limes" is green and saffron touched with gold, young girls barefoot in front of windowed doors, autumn hues at early morning or just at twilight, sun slanted warm, coming aware, possibilities endless. Coming of age moves indoors as a waiflike girl stands solid in a vortex, waiting for what comes next in "The First There Was A Hare."
The "Truffle Hunt" is complex. Lions blend into grassland, orange and red, brown and green while a young girl moves across our view, unaware or unconcerned. Look deep and a man appears, at first part lion, then on his own amidst them. Reality, dream, subconscious wonderings? It is left to us to decide.
"Forest Morels" is wonderfully composed, saturated colors still hiding details of friends, one white, one black on bright blue bikes. Jones perspective is right on in "Sparrow Point," two women, one older, aging house behind - or are they the same woman moved through time?
Don't be too quick with Jones' work. Walk around more than once. It will meet you in a place where time suspends and things you forgot come home.
Pamela Zappardino teaches Art Appreciation. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.