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Jon Key: Violet: Mythologies and Other Truths

Jon’s work refigures notions of the past, present, and reimagined future of QTPOC bodies and the American Dream. After the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre, Jon began examining the spaces and frames in which Queer people of color inhabit and claim as safe. With acrylic paint on paper, Jon’s work expresses the tension and anxiety of performing and existing as a Queer Black Man.

Through the process of writing, photography and painting, Jon’s practice is autobiographical in nature with references to his personal history. His stringent use of a limited color palette of Green, Black, Violet and Red grounds the work in a cosmic universe particular to his consistent explorations of Southernness, Blackness, Queerness, and Family. Raised in the bucolic surroundings of rural Alabama, the foliage of his home such as Magnolia Leafs and Southern Captula leaf frame his paintings and imbue the works with a lush, primordial backdrop which recalls the reverent studies of nature by artists such as Henri Rousseau. Still lives of plants intersect with graphic symbols such as polka dots which in turn were lifted from Jon’s memories of his grandmother’s nickname, at once playful and potent reminders of a visual bloodline.

Trained as a designer, Jon’s practice explores the spatial plane of his paintings as flat, surreal dimensions which constrict the body, forcing it into elongated, twisted formations. At times resembling collage, Jon delineates foreground from background, figuration from pattern with layers of raised paint or “keloiding” which subtly confounds the visual flatness of his compositions. The scarred surface of the painting suggests punished bodies and repressed personal traumas. The viewer is invited to negotiate the tension of queer, black bodies pushing against the container of the painted surface, brimming with classical symbols of beauty, protest and sentimentality.

Jon’s work has been showcased recently in Spring/Break Art Fair, Biennial of Graphic Arts Slovenia and Jeffrey Deitch NY. He lives and works in Bushwick, NY.

Jon is a co-founder and the design director of Codify Art, a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist collective whose mission is to create, produce, and showcase work that foregrounds the voices of people of color, highlighting women and queer people of color.

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