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Paul Jones Art Collection to Feature Vibrant Images of American Life at ASA Annual Meeting

by Kareem D. Jenkins, Meeting Services

With the culmination of over 30 years of acquisitions­, the Paul Jones Collection is one of the largest private holdings of African-American art in existence. More than 1,500 works by nearly 200 artists from diverse backgrounds comprise the Jones Collection, which was previously showcased in Jones’ Atlanta home and now is on permanent display at the University of Delaware. ASA Annual Meeting attendees will be able to enjoy an exhibition of slides of the Paul Jones Collection in Atlanta.

The showcasing of Jones’ collection—and his life—at the 2003 Annual Meeting is a unique opportunity for sociologists to see a world-class contribution to the study of American culture. The collection works represent diversity in media including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, printmaking, and mixed media. The collection includes the works of noted artists such as Herman “Kofi” Bailey, Earl Hooks, Stanley White, and Jacob Lawrence.

A pioneer in the acquisition of African-American art, Atlantan Paul R. Jones started collecting in the 1960s, while working for the federal government. “I started out with several pieces, a few of which I thought were excellent examples of fine art,” Jones said. “That few became several and then a few hundred pieces, and I was always looking to add to the collection.”

Jones says the art collection has had a profound influence on his life, both in his outlook and in the way he lives. Jones said he is interested in seeing his collection used as a means to weave African-American art into the totality of American art so the works can receive their just due. And Jones states that he developed his collection of African American art specifically to transform how future generations understand American art. The Atlanta locale and the Paul Jones collection help us address issues of meaning, representation, and interpretation, and their implications for sociology as an explanatory science.

When asked about the collection’s relevance to the theme of the 2003 Annual Meeting, Margaret Andersen, professor of sociology and former interim dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Arts and Science, noted, “Although at first glance this appears to be a question only for art historians, studying the collection is rich with sociological implications, such as how race and racism are represented by African American artists, how group identity can be transformed through the study of art, how processes of inclusion and exclusion in major art institutions operate within a racially stratified society. And, at the sheer level of appreciation, the images in this collection provide a rich ethnography of the lived experience of race in America.”