New York street artist Jerkface playfully reinvents nostalgic pop culture icons with youthful optimism. His kaleidoscopic murals have featured Mickey Mouse and Kermit the Frog, among others.Read More
Born and raised in Queens, New York, the budding artist would draw pictures of his favourite cartoons as a child. He was already enrolled in art classes by the time he reached high school. In his teenage years, Jerkface focused his artistic passions on graffiti, painting large murals behind a group of neighbourhood stores.
After high school, Jerkface studied graphic design and advertising at the School of Visual Arts, New York. By 2012, struggling to find an entry point into the conventional group exhibition circuit, Jerkface turned to curating his own exhibitions across Long Island City, Queens, and Brooklyn's Crown Heights.
Capitalising on childhood nostalgia with an abstract geometric twist and youthful optimism, Jerkface calls upon a cavalcade of colourful cartoon and pop culture imagery. These include characters from the Looney Tunes, Disney, Sesame Street, the Muppets, the Simpsons, the Super Mario franchise, and Dr Seuss, among others.
Jerkface takes these characters and draws out their formal qualities of colour, shape, and line. Using repetitions and patterns, he creates playfully surreal geometric abstractions. This takes various forms, such as: the repetition of the Cookie Monster's hand shoving cookies into his mouth in The Letter C mural in Brooklyn (2016); the various repetitions of Popeye's muscular, tattooed arm in Strong to the Finish (2019); and the pink and purple stripes of the Cheshire cat from Disney's Alice in Wonderland in a mural completed in Chicago in 2017. Often, these appropriated characters lack facial features, redirecting the viewer's attention to the expressive qualities of the overall composition.
Works ranging from the Super Jerkio mural (2014) to Blinking Pink (2019) take a more cubist approach. They present multiple perspectives and elements of the same character within the outline of a singular figure.
In other works, fictional universes collide to form unlikely hybrids. These involve figures such as V for Vendetta's titular character standing amidst a crowd of Stormtroopers, Kermit the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Care Bears bearing Wu Tang Clan emblems on their chests, and Homer Simpson morphed into the body of Spongebob Squarepants.
Jerkface's 2019 solo show Astrocat By Jerkface at Taglialatella Galleries demonstrated how the street artist has been expanding his practice beyond murals and print editions. Alongside custom decorated skateboard decks, the show also presented a selection of small polyurethane and steel sculptures. Reflecting a similar direction taken by established pop street artist KAWS, Jerkface has adapted some of his amalgamate pop characters to the third dimension, among them renditions of his Astrocat and the Disney-Looney tunes hybrid Buggin (2020).
Jerkface's murals, from small backlot pieces to colossal works rising up tall buildings, can be found scattered across New York and other American cities, as well as in Hong Kong. From city walls to white walls, Jerkface's paintings, prints, limited edition skateboard decks, and sculptures have been exhibited in galleries worldwide.
Jerkface's solo exhibitions include Villainy, Maddox Gallery, London (2021); ANTI HERO, Taglialatella Galleries, New York (2018); Donuts, Over the Influence, New York (2017); Saturday Morning, Over the Influence, Hong Kong (2016).
Jerkface's group exhibitions include Alone Together, Marcel Katz Art, Miami (2020) and ARTCELS presents 'XXI', HOFA Gallery (House of Fine Art), Los Angeles (2020).
Since 2020 Maddox Gallery has represented the artist in the UK and internationally.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021