In Restaurant, Canton, Ohio (2011), a convenience store offers food, liquor, and Coca Cola to an empty street. A series of boarded-up storefronts marred by peeling paint conveys a sense of the pre- or post-apocalyptic—the hush just before or after a disaster. The reds, pinks, and oranges of the buildings give off warmth, but the absence of human activity makes the glow eerie and strange. Once a booming steel town, Canton is now struggling, and many of its buildings have been neglected for decades.
In the early 20th century, the Hercules Engine Company was doing a brisk business producing customized, heavy-duty engines. Seventy years later, when the United States military started opting for Humvees and stock parts, the company began to fail, and it entirely ceased production in 1999. Hercules Engines, Abandoned, Canton, Ohio (2011) depicts the manufacturer’s former productive core, gone fallow. A sapling has grown up in the loading dock, and a view straight through the industrial interior shows a field on the other side.
Killed is a video projection in which William E. Jones appropriated and edited, in a rapid sequence, a selection from the more than 68,000 censored or discarded films produced by the Farm Security Administration’s photographers between 1935 and 1943. Roy Emerson Stryker, the then director of the program, was in charge of what he called “killing” negatives by punching holes in them to render them unusable. Killed continues Jones’s use of discarded film footage seen in his video created from vintage 1970s and 1980s gay porn that was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial.
Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker William E. Jones appropriates vintage film material that he rearranges into new compositions. Often concerned with the way gay imagery was depicted in 1970s and 1980s, Jones’s early films explore the complex configuration of homosexual identity with a rather nostalgic and romanticized gaze. Though fashioned in the same way, his later pieces look more directly at pornography and the appearance of fetish in popular culture.