Eric Joyner: Tarsus Bondon Dot
Corey Helford Gallery
By Shana Nys Dambrot
Through June 3rd
The more robots and donuts change, the more they stay the same. Which is to say, the utter cheeky perfection of Eric Joyner’s parallel universe in which a robot dreaming of a donut is all of us, is like ours, infinitely explorable in its many ordinary and extraordinary aspects. Because of what Joyner includes in his lexicon of characters, he is often assumed to be a Pop Surrealist and that’s that. But the truth is, he has much more in common with the 19th and early 20th century genre painters who developed a richness of technique in the service of the captivating, magical ordinary. His flickering, confidently gestural brushwork is far looser than the dominant saturated superflat hyper-crisp aesthetic of pop surrealism, instead serving up evocative realism with a classic skill set and affinity for pre-War for interpretive convention.
The leisure class is a common theme of the last 100 years of Western painting, from the Ashcan School with their wavy-gravy street scenes of Manhattan and Hudson River towns, to early Impressionists and their obsession with the Parisian culture of parks and boat-parties. One clue to this lineage as it currently manifests in Joyner’s studio is how he lavishes as much attention on the surroundings as on the robots (and donuts). Charming storefronts, late-summer landscapes, roxy deserts, dramatically lit sports arenas, cloud-speckled skies. When he does execute an abstract background he sagely takes the opportunity for a bit of emotional expressionism, such as had little or no place in his pictorialist fantasies; his color sense is eccentric to say the least.
“Tarsus Bondon Dot” is, one soon figures out, an anagram of “Robots and Donuts” and that is a telling way to chart the evolution of what Joyner is up to. In previous iterations of this motif, he has examined other cultural and literary tropes, from noir to sci-fi to cinema and art history. In this, his seventh solo show with Corey Helford Gallery, both the style and the subjects of his compositions center on a warmer, more familiar set of experiences and witticisms — our boring lives and the things we do to escape therefrom, which are often also a little boring. Golfing, hiking, hitting the beach, stopping for a snack, going bowling, outdoor festival-cruising. Okay driving an ice cream truck off a cliff is a bit unusual, as is the jungle safari elephant riding, but you get the idea. Robots, even when they are breaking their diets on vacation, are just like us.