Loïs Mailou Jones The Prolific Master Preview at the Eye Street Gallery

By Phil Hutinet on October 31, 2014


Installation view 1.  Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Installation view 1. Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

Full Spectrum: The Prolific Master within Loïs Mailou Jones ultimately celebrates the life of the revered painter. The exhibition’s vernissage, on Monday, November 3 from 6 to 8 p.m., takes place on what would have been Jones’ 109th birthday. The retrospective is on view through January 30, 2015 at the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ (DCCAH) Eye Street gallery located at their new headquarters in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.  The DCCAH has planned a series of programs throughout the duration of the exhibition including watercolor classes, film screenings, curator talks and even a panel discussion with the artist’s former students (see schedule below).

Curator Zoma Wallace assembled what at first glance comes across as a visual chronology of the artist’s career from early figure drawings made while attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to her very last painting, a watercolor still life of zinnias and fruit, which the artist painted at age 91 just before passing.  However, within each period, Wallace interrupts the continuity of the timeline with a piece from a future era in an attempt to demonstrate the artist’s strong attachment to revisiting studies from the past and incorporating them at future periods during her adulthood.  For instance, the figure of a woman painted in the 1960s hangs next to figurative work from her student days in the 1920s.  The portrait of an African woman drawn in 1985 rests side-by-side with a drawing done in the 1930s.  In juxtaposing these works, Wallace successfully conveys to the observer the sense of continuity one finds in the artist’s work despite the incredible diversity of styles Jones experimented with throughout her life.

Curatorially, the exhibition offers an abridged overview of Jones’ work, carefully weighing each of Jones’ periods without favoring one over the other.  Naturally, the exhibition includes Jones’ better known iconic Haitian influenced paintings from the 1980s and her 1950s oils and watercolors of the Provence countryside and Paris streets.  Wallace also included a watercolor depicting a scene in Rock Creek Park with Jones’ art students painting in the background. This image gives viewers a glimpse of Jones’ time in Washington where she trained several generations of artists during her tenure at Howard University from 1930 to 1977.

In contrast to the drawings, watercolors and oil paintings, on the back wall of the gallery, three horizontal rows of neatly framed patterns with matching black frames and matting, dominate the exhibition. Framed as 18 works of art, these colorful pieces stem from Jones’ little known career as a commercial artist. Trained in costume design, Jones created patterns for textiles, gift wrapping paper and other materials in her native Boston, MA. Frustrated with the lack of recognition from her work in this field, Jones chose the path of a fine artist instead. The exquisite detail and color combinations of these 18 framed pieces of “commercial art” reveal much about the artist as a young woman and offer a glimpse into the type of work she would eventually create throughout her life.

The Loïs Mailou Jones Pierre-Noël Trust and Howard University loaned most of the works on view.

[Schedule below the image]


Installation view 1.  Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.
Installation view 2. Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.


Upcomming Programming
Documentary Film Screening: Loïs Mailou Jones: Fifty Years of Painting, TBD
Workshops: Watercolor – Sunday, November 30, 2014, 1pm to 4pm
Color Theory – Sunday, December 7, 2014, 1pm to 4pm
Portraiture – Sunday, December 14, 2014, 1pm to 4pm
Exhibition Tour: January 25, 2pm to 3pm
Exhibition Talk: Discussion with former students of Loïs Mailou Jones, on Sunday, January 25, 2015, 3pm to 4pm

  • Events take place at the DCCAH’s 200 Eye Street Gallery located at 200 I (Eye) Street SE

Gallery Hours:

  • Monday-Friday: 9am – 6pm