In spite of her advanced age, the artist continues to create pieces that reflect the times we live in, whether it’s commenting on the current migrant issue or repurposing the potatoes she harvests in her own yard.
It’s possible that the Situationist International’s peripheral activities will attract more attention than the organisation itself. Until either her expulsion or resignation in 1962, Jacqueline de Jong was a member of the group. Her brief but powerful retrospective, Imaginary Disobedience, was recently on display at the Los Angeles gallery Château Shatto (the difference appears to be academic).
Jacqueline De Jong
The central issue was de Jong’s defence of her artist colleagues in Munich’s Gruppe SPUR, the original German outpost of the SI, in opposition to Guy Debord’s increasingly strident anti-aestheticism. Whether the Situationist loyalty is important is a moot point, as de Jong went on to establish a marvellously eclectic publication she called the Situationist Times, much to the chagrin of Debord and his remaining allies.
Between the years of 1962 and 1967, the Situationist Times was published. It symbolises de Jong’s outstanding contribution to the avant-garde culture of the decade. Visually, at least, the Times and its opponent, Debord’s Internationale Situationniste, couldn’t be more different. Handwritten text, sketches, and appropriated images abound in De Jong’s journal.
Some Repeating Themes Help to Give a Sense of Direction;
these include labyrinths or knots, the Situationist concepts of détournement and the dérive, and an interest in “primitive” mark-making. Even Nevertheless, the published writings share little outside de Jong’s interests as the unifying theme.
Mathematical topology studies can be found next to Asger Jorn’s (de Jong’s companion at the time) reflections on mediaeval Nordic art and Virtus Schade’s (a Danish writer) essay titled “Forgotten Knowledge of the Universe in the Children’s Hopscotch.”
1 It’s not meant as an insult to point out that the Situationist Times reads like it was deliberately designed to make no sense.
The Times did not attend de Jong’s exhibition at Château Shatto, which featured paintings and a few sculptures spanning the years 1960-2015. There was no indication of a linear progression at all.
Instead, a contrast between two reoccurring themes emerged. An early piece by De Jong, an untitled abstraction (or is it?) from 1962, is reminiscent of Jorn’s contemporaries in that it features excretory streaks of oil defacing a raw canvas ground from which things come and disappear. This picture is unique in its drabness.
Natural Talent for Colour Selection
De Jong has a natural talent for colour selection, and his palette typically consists of bright primary hues, luscious pinks, jolts of green or purple, and a dry, charcoal-like black line. At its most arresting, the artwork features a fluttering, lively brushstroke that borders on the abstract.
De Jong’s style can be broadly classified as expressionist. Violence and sexual assault are pervasive. However, the overall impact is typically humorous rather than gloomy. De achterkant van het bestaan (The Backside of Existence), from 1992, is the largest work in the show and is an unframed, double-sided banner that, at Château Shatto, was suspended in the centre of the gallery space, thus dividing it in two.
Both sides of the artwork feature enormous figures (one humanoid, one not) locked in a conflict that may or may not be real, with winged creatures that could be either angels or devils flitting around. This may be the apocalypse, or at least a moment of existential turmoil. In the 2012 film Peeing Hamlet, an anatomically incorrect skeleton is seen holding what appears to be Yorick’s head.
Like the work of more well-known artists like Amy Sillman and Maria Lassnig, this one is garish, humorous, and scary all at once because to its sarcastic attitude toward human embodiment. In turn, the three-paneled Le Salau et les Salopards (Bastards and Scumbags, 1966) is a true panorama of organ-less bodies.
De Jong employs contrasting hues and surfaces to set her characters apart. They still mix and match with one another. All the players have their own distinct personalities, yet none of them settle on a single name or role, making for a field that is both dynamic and unpredictable.