Jake Troyli: Slow Clap
February 26 through April 9, 2022
By JONATHAN OROZCO, March 2022
Slow Clap, Jake Troyli’s second solo-exhibition at Monique Meloche, is composed of multiple high drama narrative paintings, which give insight into “the spectacle”, and the varied power dynamics existing within it. Visually, the paintings are quite striking in their use of color and general flatness, which is not dissimilar to a graphic or a comic, as well as Troyli’s exceptional attention to detail.
The series focuses on “what it means to perform, what it means to be on display, and what it means for people to watch you,” according to Troyli. The artist gives observers an omnipresent view into his macroscopic scenes, almost like a panopticon.
This fascination and intrigue with being spectated emerges from Troyli’s background as a division 1 basketball player during his undergraduate career, where he became an object to be gawked at for the entertainment of an audience. At the same time, Troyli isn’t afraid to admit and criticize how he exists within that system.
Avatars that look like Troyli, but are not necessarily depictions of him, live within the paintings and engage in scenes of celebration, running, mob burning, theatre, and sportsmanship. There are also some ominous, veiled figures within these paintings. These stylized characters are where the story telling lies.
Technically, the paintings are quite advanced, using methods developed during the High Renaissance, like layering. Brown underpainting is utilized to give life to Troyli’s avatars, with no colored overpainting. In this way, the sepia tone is meant to be read as skin. It also sets a dynamic retelling of race since the only other non-avatar figures are very brightly colored, described as having “hyper-pink skin” by Troyli.
In The Crowd Surfer, the limbs of a brown figure are held up by many pink fists - which reads as an object being manipulated like a marionette or a doll. But what stands out is that we see no faces in this painting. The brown figure’s head exists off the picture plane, while the pink fists are totally disembodied.
Troyli frequently draws from his larger theatrical pieces to develop a series of vignettes, which is the case for The High Dive, a figure perched on a diving platform wearing an American flag patterned swimsuit, and On Your Marks!, another avatar ready to shoot a gun to start a race.
“I think of the show as one piece. Larger works are suns that other works orbit around,” Troyli says.
Surprisingly, both figures in these two paintings are clothed. On this, Troyli says, “nudity does a couple things, it reinforces empowerment and vulnerability. In this work, it becomes their dress, so putting on clothes makes it jaring.”
As a whole, the exhibition complicates static binaries, like the spectator and object, and black and white, and instead, operates with multiple types of gradients and of viewership that can be both active and passive at the same time, something that is not so definitive or easily compartmentalized. WM
Jonathan Orozco is an independent writer based in Omaha, Nebraska. He received his art history BA from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2020. Orozco runs an art blog called Art Discourses, which primarily covers Midwest artists and exhibitions.view all articles from this author