I had a chance to Face-time for a bit with Grammy award winner Rob Jones tonight to ask him a few questions about his upcoming show Grief: A Solo Exhibition by Rob Jones.
The opening reception will be on Thursday, July 17th from 6pm to 10pm at Galerie F in Chicago and will run for 4 weeks. RSVP to the event on Facebook HERE. The reception is free and open to the public. Original works accompanied by limited edition silk screen prints will be available for purchase at the opening reception while all remaining works will be posted in Galerie F’s online store the following Monday.
Talking with Rob is always an adventure that I look forward to because he does not have the proverbial filter when we talk. He tells it like it is, if its crude or dark he just lets it all hang out there. I respect that about him among other reasons.
To see some of the new pieces is really a glimpse inside of Rob’s mind and how it functions, be it good or disturbing. We spent a good hour going over each piece he has ready a bit more then two weeks out from the opening of the show. Some of the pieces had to be explained to me only because I cannot even come close to Rob’s extensive knowledge of Roman or Shakespearean history.
Each piece had a bit of Robs life in it. The more I listened to the description of the pieces, the clearer it became, without asking, I realized these are his self portraits.
This show is going to be fantastic.
I asked Rob to provide some insight on some of the pieces for the show. Here’s his reply.
“When will the stream be aweary of flowing under my eye?”: I saw Lynch’s “Elephant Man” on television as a kid and became pretty fascinated by John (Joe) Merrick. I got bullied a lot in grade school (shit, high school too. Worst was getting punched out in science class. Shattered my fucking glasses across the room). Here was another figure I could identify with. It prompted me to try reading Treves’ book (dry stuff for an 8 year old). I revisited Lynch’s film quite a bit once my family got a VCR. I kept focusing on the scenes where Freddie Jones torments and beats John. When you get beat up or bullied it boggles your young mind. You know you’re exhibiting nothing but complete harmlessness yet folks treat you like you’re a danger, the same way they might control a rabid dog. If appearing harmless isn’t working, then the next step is to try to not appear anywhere at all.
“Checkmate”: This is a collaboration of sorts with a non-artist friend of mine. The back story is that in 7th grade I saw a bootleg Iron Maiden “Killers” shirt at some rock shop. I rarely got a say in my clothing, but I begged my mother for it. She thought it was too “satanic”. I got obsessed by the shirt and pleaded for a month crudely negotiating to do extra chores. She relented probably to shut me up and allowed me to buy it. I got to wear it once …once. It went into the wash, and then she reported “accidentally” shrinking it with a shrug of “c’est la vie”. I’ve never seen anything shrink to this degree before or since, like it could practically fit a teddy bear. The thing is, I never knew my mom to shrink anything in her life (she’s a pretty meticulous woman). I still had to do the extra chores though, but I have to hand it to her. That was a brilliant play on her part.
I had the same shirt in Question. Mine was so worn by the end of high school. It was sacrificed to the heavy metal gods at a scorpions concert in 1986.
“I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you”: “Twelfth Night” is not one of my favorites from Shakespeare. Judging by how many versions I have on DVD, I guess I’m more of a “Macbeth” guy. Anyways, I remember an instructor pointing out that Malvolio was unique to Shakespeare in that he’s the only character in a comedy with a shitty situation unresolved by the end of the play. If you’re not familiar with it, the incident shown involves some louts that fool Malvolio with a fake love letter from his employer, Olivia. The letter begs him to approach her smiling and wearing yellow stockings cross-gartered as a signal that he accepts her affections. Malvolio falls for this and looks like a loon before being cast into a cell. I’ve never had this sort of prank befall me, thank God, but I’ve had situations with women that probably felt just as terrible or embarrassing. Also I’m probably full of myself like Malvolio.
^This was one Rob had to explain to me, his explanation slayed me
The Blinding Effect of Nostalgia: I have a tendency to privately exaggerate any happy element from my past and cling too hard to it. The problem with that is that it’s in the past, it’s involvement in your present exists only in your mind and embellished memories. It stymies making new connections or enjoying new experiences, at least in my case. A primary reason why I still watch the same 20 movies over and over again every year instead of popping something new on.
“The Face Under The Mask Is the Same as the Face on the Mask II”: I did a piece showing me wearing a Charlie Brown mask. Part of it was to visualize the premise of the show and partly to illustrate the poor social masks I tend to fail at wearing. If I’m thinking it, then it has to be a hell of situation for me not to say it. I posted the aforementioned image on Facebook. My friend and fellow artist, Kevin Tong, suggested reversing it as a Charlie Brown wearing a Rob Jones mask which you see here. I complied with the axiom, “You request it, you bought it”. I’m still waiting on Kevin’s check.
Ill be asking Rob about that check in a few weeks.
I’ll Miss Your Touch on a Windy Day: I was one of those guys in high school you could tell was going to lose their hair. It’s a hard thing to confidently embrace like say Connery or Patrick Stewart does. I still wear it long as a fringe Ben Franklin style (or 70’s sound engineer, or rodeo clown). The problem is that on a windy day my hair will blow up and over my eyes. The sensation of the hair on the front of my face, the obstructed vision, the relaxing shadow it fleetingly casts across my eyes immediately evokes memories of when I had skater bangs going past my chin. It’s a little like hearing a song you associate with a former love now departed forever from your life. If that sounds overly maudlin to you, then you probably have a full head of hair.
Talking to Rob about this one I sheepishly said “Yeah I’m starting to get that old guy balding spot”, He said “Fuck you, as far as I’m concerned you look like Shaun Cassidy“
“That Which Draws Me Inexorably Towards It”: There are things in my life too numerous to mention with a seemingly unbreakable hold on me. No matter how many Bruce Lee quotes on mastering one’s self I might post-it to my computer monitor, I still fail to exhibit free-will around them. The box here is all that shit in one, you can fill it in yourself with what it might be. Well, one easy example obviously would be cigarettes. A less obvious example would be my habit of murdering hobos by the train tracks and stealing their clothes.
“A gift all desire but he”: One of my pastimes is reading up on Roman history and Roman culture. I’m no expert by any means, but it’s something I’ve had an interest in since high school after writing a report on Caligula. Actually Caligula became my main obsession likely fueled by watching the film as “research” for the report when I was 14. I don’t identify with him though, well maybe in the respect of being someone heralded as holding much promise and failing to match those expectations. In grade school I was invited to a “gifted” program at Baylor University for the summer. My mother went to the school to talk to the principal as she thought it was some scam or prank on me despite my grades. She was told that my test scores, IQ tests, what have you were the second highest in the entire school. She was surprised. Anyways the girl who was highest went to Yale and is now a leading researcher in finding new treatments for cancer … and I’m drawing weird Charlie Browns.
Anyways, back to Roman history. The emperor I most associate myself with is Claudius. I just put a few signifiers here so it would yield recognition to anyone else with a surface knowledge of Roman history (the drooling, the runny nose, the plate of mushrooms Agrippina supposedly poisoned him with). He has a gourd for a head in reference to a defamatory poem written about his deification attributed to Seneca. The title of it roughly translates to “The Pumpkinification of Claudius” although he does not transmogrify into a gourd in the actual poem. The mushrooms relate to this a little as Nero would describe them as “the food of the gods” since they were Claudius’ favorite dish and a purported means of his death allowing him to “become” a god (mainly to boost Nero’s rep as the subsequent adopted son of a god).
The title of the piece is from the Sibyl’s prophecy in Graves’ “I, Claudius”.
“Good-bye to All That”: Remember what the Tin Man says when Dorothy gets ready to depart? “Now I know I have a heart because it’s breaking.” Sounds like he got defective merchandise. Don’t bother going to the exchange counter, they’re all the same. God, writing this reminds me of one bout after some girl trouble in high school. I had blankets on the window and just played Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” on repeat while staring away into my manufactured gloaming. It was a Saturday, so friends started dropping by (my house was the “hang-out” house). Two of them were of a similar temper and wound up falling into the sadsack quicksand of my gloom. Another buddy dropped by 30 minutes later, burst in and screamed, “What the fuck are ya’ll doing. Jesus.” Against our protests, he turned off the CD player, yanked the blanket off the window, and then forced us all to get the fuck out of there and grab some grub at the Little Red Doghouse. If you’re ever in Albany, GA, check it out. Great dogs and you can feed a full car of folks for under 5 bucks. I recommend the Tex-Mex and the Chili-cheese.
About Rob Jones: Eleven years ago Rob Jones first went out on a limb and sent some unsolicited posters he made for The White Stripes to a venue they were playing in France. The band’s manager called Jones to chew him out for using band’s name on a print without express permission to do so. And then he told Jones the band wanted to use the rogue poster for the rest of their American tour dates.
Since then, Jones has churned out some of the most imaginative screenprinted posters ever to be slapped to a venue wall, many of them cleverly positioned within the confines of the Stripes’ peppermint candy color palate. And in 2011, Jones became the first member of tight-knit poster art community to take home a Grammy for his work on the White Stripes’ “Under Great White Northern Lights” box set. He accepted his award in a custom-made pink leather suit tailored after the famous Elvis Comeback Special suit seen here.
For more information read an interview I did with Rob last year here.
Follow Rob Jones on Instagram for more previews @animalrummy
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