Jones, Ronald
Art in America,  Nov, 1998  by Cathy Lebowitz

By creating tension among many fields of experience (visual, literary, ideological, political), this exhibition engaged the viewer's thoughts in an endless play of signifiers. Known for cerebral displays of provocative information, Ronald Jones presented sculptures of beds, constructed at three-quarter size and individually spotlit. Jones's titles link the furniture on display to four people connected to incidents in recent U.S. history. Documentary photos were the artist's sources for the sculptures; Xeroxes were available at the gallery if you asked.

In an anteroom, The bed Ethel Rosenberg slept in the night before her execution, 1953-1998, introduced the exhibition. The dates that Jones lists imply that the sculptures were begun the year the documentary photos were taken. Rosenberg was executed, along with her husband, during the height of McCarthyism for being a Soviet spy; her brother worked at Los Alamos and was an important prosecution witness. This trial refers to a dark time of fear and suspicion during the Cold War. However the copy of Rosenberg's bed, although based on a prison cot, looks like something you might find in a furniture store display with clean sheets and a thick mattress. In a larger room The bed Neil Armstrong slept in his first night back from the moon, 1969-1998, recalled a high point for the U.S. in the space race. The bed glistened with a woven-aluminum cover. Obtained from NASA, the anti-radioactive material was designed to fill cavities behind instrument panels on the space shuttle. Across the room from the copy of the astronaut's bed, subsidiary events related to the Kennedy assassination were alluded to by a grouping of furniture on a piece of cream carpet. A large unmade bed with satiny sheets was called The bed Jack Ruby slept in the night before he shot Lee Harvey Oswald, 1963-1998. Three toy police cars surrounded one of the bed's legs. A child-sized wooden rocking chair, titled The chair Dorothy Kilgallen sat in as she interviewed Jack Ruby during his murder trial, 1964-98, was associated with the late newspaper columnist, supposedly granted the only interview with the nightclub owner/assassin Ruby at the courthouse. In front of the bed, a television set on top of a nightstand played NASA moonscape footage, while a woman's voice recited a 15-stanza nursery rhyme written by the artist.

All the characters in the exhibition, except Rosenberg, are mentioned in Jones's rhyme, with Kilgallen as the central figure. The drama of the meticulously researched and crafted sculptures was enhanced by the rhyme, which, among other things, claims that Marilyn Monroe told Kilgallen that JFK had shown her space aliens hidden at an air force base. The moral Jones presents at the end of the nursery rhyme is a warning about the dangers of curiosity, which he suggests killed Kilgallen, rather than barbiturates. (After all, it did kill the cat.)