Justin Randolph Thompson
Brutus Jones is a mobile sculptural performance venue based on the history of Alexander Jackson Davis – an architect and urban planner who designed the former community of Ravenswood, Queens, where Socrates Sculpture Park is located — and inspired by Paul Robeson and his role in the 1933 film, The Emperor Jones (shot at nearby Kaufman Astoria Studios) and subsequent concerts in Peekskill, New York.
Thompson’s sculptural form combines multiple mediums and backgrounds, drawing from battering rams initially used in Ancient Rome to break rock in quarries, to the Jamaican tradition of do-it-yourself sound systems with an array of reutilized speakers. This ram is built onto a flatbed tow truck, similar to the one from which Robeson performed his historic concert in Peekskill (also Thompson’s birthplace) in 1949, and its head is a sculpted portrait of Robeson himself.
The structural elements of the sculpture is laden with gothic architectural references to the historic façade of the Belmead Plantation Mansion in Powhatan, VA and is patch-worked with quilt fragments and squares. This complex, hybrid, and non-linear connection to history and political discourse deepens the discussions around cultural, socio-economic, and racial hierarchies when transformed into a singular visual experience.