Samuel Levi Jones (b. 1978) deconstructs and manipulates books such as encyclopedias and textbooks, to critically explore systems of knowledge and power. Samuel Levi Jones: Unbound, the artist’s first solo museum exhibition, is a site-specific installation, composed of deconstructed law books, that symbolically dismantles their implicit authority.
In 2013, Jones began collecting the encyclopedias and reference books—often understood as authoritative sources of information, even though they are sometimes biased and inaccurate—that form the foundation of his current project. He tears the covers off these books and stitches the exposed binding surfaces together in grids, which he then mounts on canvas. The works recall the rational grid employed by Minimalists such as Agnes Martin and Sol LeWitt. Further, the raw edges reveal layers of cardboard and fabric and add textural roughness that evokes the painterly, gestural marks of Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock.
For Unbound, Jones presents three new works that are his largest yet, and utilizes law textbooks disassembled into their structural components. Spines and covers form wall-to-wall painting-like works mounted on canvas or adhered directly to the wall (Unbound, Jaded and Don’t Feel Right). In the three wall works, form and materiality are emphasized, while function and value are called into question—the books have been stripped of authoritative identity. These works engage recent criticism of the law and the justice system with respect to human rights and social welfare.
Samuel Levi Jones: Unbound is organized by Naima J. Keith, Associate Curator.