Joan Jonas ’58 has been a leader in producing innovative performance and video art since the 1960s and 1970s, and she pioneered what is known today as installation art. Jonas is still at the forefront of contemporary art and was chosen to represent the United States at this year's prestigious Venice Biennale.
In anticipation of that exhibition, an MIT show of Jonas's work from 1972 to 2005 was considered at length in a recent Boston Globe article.
A nod is given to Jonas's study of art history as a Mount Holyoke College undergraduate, from which she emerged to lead her contemporaries into new areas of contemporary art.
The new show, wrote art critic Sebastian Smee, provides "a fascinating overview of Jonas’s achievement, which is as rich and complex as it is disarming and improvised. It has also been hugely influential. Jonas’s wide-ranging interests—in masks and mirrors, in repetition and ritual, in dance and drawing, and in a vast range of literary sources—have left a watermark on the culture discernible in the work of contemporary artists . . ."
The article talks about the influence of Jonas's low-tech early works—such as Good Night Good Morning and Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy—on her later pieces, such as 1989's Volcano Saga or Lines in the Sand. In the last piece, Smee noted, Jonas combines "all of her favorite elements: video footage, dance, song, drawing, voice-overs, storytelling, and ritualistic repetition."
"Jonas has described her interests as cumulative, and her art as akin to cooking," the article continued. "The comparison feels right. It’s a wonderfully hearty and strange-tasting stew that’s been simmering away all these years."
• W magazine: "Command Performance"
• NY Arts magazine: article on Jonas' They Come to Us Without a Word
• Vulture: "A Brief Guide to Joan Jonas, the U.S. Venice Biennale Representative"
• NY Arts previewed the world premiere of Jonas's They Come to Us without a Word II for the Venice Biennale.