Royal Jarmon “Fire Escaping”
The Hole NYC
Royal Jarmon Fire Escaping Exhibition Catalogue
The Hole April 2018
Soft cover, 15 pages
Published by Anteism
The Hole is proud to present “Fire Escaping”, the debut solo show here by emerging artist Royal Jarmon. In our black-bricked rear gallery, Jarmon exhibits eight new fire escape paintings, hung like windows opening out onto New York fire escapes.
“Fire Escaping” brings together one of Jarmon’s favourite themes in his work, the “still life” of the junk that accumulates out there. Across the city and the LES especially, old steel monsters screwed to the sides of tenement buildings are a defining characteristic of the landscape. Part emergency exit, part makeshift patio, these beasts were required to clamp onto buildings from the late 1800s up until 1968. Having lived on Ludlow street and covered my fire escape with ash trays, dead plants, clothes, beer bottles and truly unimaginably random objects, I can attest to their tendency to retain debris. It might have perhaps (very illegally) also furnished a little grill in the summer….
These fire escapes are a riff of the traditional still life painting by juxtaposing unexpected objects on a fixed surface. We are tempted to let the objects tell us a story; one apartment has perhaps been renovating, with their tape measure, screwdriver and level. Another apartment with playing cards and a milk crate suggests some al fresco gambling. A Squirt bottle that looks like it is from the 1960s may suggest a weird old shut-in dude behind the opaque window. Many apartments have fruit outside for some reason, and almost everyone drinks a lot of Modelo beer.
The perspective is always crushed up towards you, many objects you can see both the top and bottom and middle of. The background is airbrushed blurriness suggestive of urban scenes and the foreground objects sometimes super crazy detailed and sometimes quite minimally suggested. The buildings you can see snippets of are super brushy and smeared around expressively. At least three types of paint application are going on in each one; some objects are rendered with stippled color outlines a la Peter Saul, some have the lurid neon static of an Ed Pashke, the discrete areas of smear thru brushiness I’m not sure I can find a precedent for.
There is some strong computer vibes in the paintings, tho they are purely made my hand and involve no computers in any way. The blurred background, the off-kilter perspective, and the nuclear neon colors are some kind of future pop; how many photoshop filters would it take to turn a Morandi bottle into this wiggly Squirt bottle? The virtual reality feel in these very non-digital paintings is my personal point of entry here; but if the title is any indication, the artist is more in the habit of providing egress. Is the implication that fresh air is being breathed into the still life genre? Or that there is something escapist about relishing the randomness of decorating these spaces? The fire, however, is definitely these paintings.
Royal Jarmon was born in 1986 in Sacramento, CA and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. Solo exhibitions at Gallery Urbane in Texas and Castor Gallery on the LES debuted Royal to audiences in 2016; here at the Hole we first included his work in “Post Analog Painting II” a group show of how computers have influenced traditional painting.