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Raymond Vincent Jonas
(Los Angeles, CA, 1942 - )
Raymond Jonas was born in 1942 and grew up in California, where he had many opportunities to see good art-traveling exhibitions from Europe as well as the work of local artists. Jonas says he has learned much about art from looking at the work of other artists.
His formal studies were completed at the Art Center in California and at Brigham Young University in Utah. He began work as a painter in the 1960s, heavily influenced by abstract expressionism, especially the paintings of Willem DeKooning and Franz Kline. This interest led to a serious study of the paintings, ceramics, and sculpture of the 20th Century master, Pablo Picasso. Although Ray's work, for the most part, does not resemble that of Picasso, that single artist, more than any other, has had the most profound influence on Jonas and on his art.
While studying crafts at BYU, Ray discovered wood as a medium and began "a love affair with form" and made over 100 free-form containers. In the 1970s, he started making wood sculptures because wood was inexpensive, easy to work with, and he could make large forms. The greatest influence on his work at this time was Henry Moore.
Jonas met Milo Baughman, a noted furniture designer, in Utah in the mid 1970s. Working for him was Ray's first experience with the carving and construction of wood furniture. He executed the designs of Milo Baughman and later constructed furniture based on his own designs. This furniture design became the balance of his work in the '80s. For Ray, the furniture was simply sculpture people could sit on. Then Ray explored the use of metal, especially steel, in fabricating sculpture. At the same time, he continued his work in wood sculpture and furniture.
What Jonas is interested in communicating through his work is the beauty of the abstract form, which is what excited him about art from the beginning. He says, "There are certain combinations of materials, certain shapes, certain proportions and relations of materials and shapes-the creation of forms-which can give the viewer an incredible experience with beauty. I have felt this in the work of other artists. They have imbued their sculpture with content or meaning. It is very powerful. It has a life of its own. I strive for this in my own work. I stress craftsmanship in my work and labor to make each new sculpture better."
Presently, Ray is combining wood and metal, especially bronze and wood. In July of 1998, Ray exhibited recent works at the Springville Museum of Art in a joint show with his son, Noel Jonas. These recent works by Ray, "Totemic Images," reflect the Northwest American Culture of the past. Jonas draws on several primitive cultures, including early African and aboriginal, for much of his artwork and appreciates the spiritual role this art plays in each of the respective cultures. Jonas' work is not political, instructive, or illustrative. Instead, he deals with form for its own sake and finds beauty in its simplicity.
Abstract Configuration is a good example of Ray Jonas' early work. He chose sycamore because the wood's size allowed large-scale work. The separate elements were roughed in with a chain saw and sculptors' adz, then refined with a gouge and power sander. The parts are joined together with steel pins and all-thread. By attaching elements, a form even larger than the original tree was realized.
Ray says, "The initial idea was to make a large form, utilizing a hollow bowl, with a variety of shapes, and setting them at angles to one another. That is all I had to begin with-the idea. From there, it was a matter of relating the parts to each other. I moved the parts around until something started to happen. Then I put it together. It was necessary to make some changes, altering some parts, and even abandoning and reshaping others that were not appropriate to the form."
Dr. Vern G. Swanson, Director of the Springville Museum of Art, comments that in Abstract Configuration the artist has created tension in the work by juxtaposing the almost clinically white finish against the richly textured wood, using both the natural grain of the wood and the chisel marks that resulted from his "butchering" of the shapes. The artist also has balanced the formal elements-simple, abstract shapes-in such a way that the piece has an organic feel to it. These paradoxes are repeated in the relationship of the scale and volume to the visual weight.
Although the piece is about six feet by five feet, the white color makes the piece appear light. All these contradictory elements have been combined to create an intriguing piece of sculpture from a few basic shapes.