I can’t remember the first time I saw these sculptures by Allen Jones, somehow they seem to have formed a blur in my mind with the The Korova Milk Bar scenery in the film A Clockwork Orange. They hail from the same era certainly. They have stuck in my mind ever since, overshadowing the rest of Jones’ career and work as an artist. Their influence can be seen right through to the shock tactic sculptures made by the Chapman Brothers in recent years.
Here however is a brief history of how these sculptures were made and some of the themes behind them (courtesy of the Tate gallery):
In 1969 three female figures by Allen Jones each slightly larger than life size,
‘Hatstand’, ‘Table’ and ‘Chair’, were cast in fibreglass in editions of 6 by
Gems Wax Models Ltd of Notting Hill, London, a firm of commercial sculptors who made (and make) shop window mannequins and sculptures for waxworks. Stylistically the figures are similar to those in Jones’s paintings of c.1967–8. For the figures Jones made working drawings from memory, not in front of a model.
From these drawings a professional sculptor, Dick Beech of Gems Wax Models, produced clay figures under Jones’s direction; these clay figures were modified in accordance with his intentions. He wanted to make sculpture ‘without fine art marks, devoid of fine art clothing’. When the first, ‘Hatstand’, a standing figure, was finished he realized that it might be construed as a bizarre window mannequin and so he decided to process the figure so that it would not appear to be just a decorative object. This he did by giving the other two sculptures a more obvious function, that of being a table and a chair, so that the viewer’s expectation of what could be fine art would be questioned and allow the viewer to perceive the figure anew as a subject in art.
In Jones’s view ‘because these 3 sculptures of women are recognisably representational it is less obvious that the sculpture is not about being naturalistic. They are not so much about representing woman but the experience of woman, not an illusion’.
With reference to his work in general Jones considers that:
‘ The erotic impulse transcends cerebral barriers and demands a
direct emotional response. Confronted with an abstract statement
people readily defer to an expert; but confronted with an erotic statement
everyone is an expert. It seems to me a democratic idea that art should be
accessible to everyone on some level, and eroticism in one such level’.
Jones considers that the three sculptures ‘Hatstand’, ‘Table’
and ‘Chair’ are the most radical statements that he has made.