RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR
Multidisciplinary artist Kim Jones’s first show at Bridget Donahue brings together over 50 years of work, including sculpture, painting, and documentation of past performance.
Jones’s experience as a soldier in the Vietnam War colors much of his work, as themes of guilt, confession, redemption, and forgiveness are brought to bear on his artistic practice. In fact, the title of the show is a reference to Jones’s 1976 performance Rat Piece at California State University during which he burned live rats as a dual gesture of tribute and destruction. Jones draws parallels between the eponymous rat and mankind throughout the exhibition.
The rat, historically imbued with all kinds of symbolic implications—signifiers of plague and pestilence as well as persistent survival—holds an even more personal meaning for Jones. Ever present in soldiers’ sleeping quarters, rats were regarded as both company and enemies. Moreover, under the conditions of war, they become analogous to humans: living and dying like rats.
Jones takes the metaphor further with his work. Sculptures of rats populate the exhibition. Rat With Long Legs [pictured], a 2016 mixed media piece, appears in three different iterations. The reappearance of the creature points to another prevailing theme of the show: enduring life.
Kim Jones, Rat With Long Legs, 2016. Mixed media, 63 × 10 1/2 × 7 inches. Image copyright Kim Jones, courtesy of the artist and Bridget Donahue, NYC. Photo: Gregory Carideo.