Those that know the artist, and the artist’s various and sundry projects, might believe his defining characteristic to be a choreographed recklessness. I would contend that the unifying thread in Jon Konkol’s art is akin to an aimlessness, an unrequited longing from a rearing in a world soaked in kayfabe romance. The greatest lie ever perpetrated on American children of Konkol’s generation was that you are inherently entitled to a generic ideal of “happiness.” This pervasive tension between expectation and reality is evident throughout the duration of Konkol's output.
In "the room," Konkol’s longest lived trope, subjects are trapped within the confines of a three walled cubic space. These are sparse pieces--primarily using palettes of flesh and blood. The figures are gelatinous and distorted, often undergoing some type of torture. The presentation of the canvas are unstretched and frayed, like art work found in a prison cell. Much like Konkol’s performance art, the "room" series has an affectation that sometimes leans too close to spectacle. I always questioned the agency of the characters in the room series. Are they trapped in a sisyphean cycle or are they taking part in a narcissistic exhibitionism?
Konkol’s newer works have provided me with some answers to these questions. As opposed to the room series, the subjects, mostly metarhuman and monstrous, dominate the canvas. The compositions are emblematic of a solipsism found in the throng of extreme consumer culture. However, much like the room series, the bruised landscapes are littered with detritus of Konkol’s homeland: hot dogs, football jerseys, lard, and appliances of modern convenience. The paintings denunce the American Dream while simultaneously serving as a backhanded example of mythical American exceptionalism.
At times Konkol's work can seem like it was wrought from a fever dream. Yet, even with his most provocative compositions, there is always an implication of vulnerability. These pressure points give even the most banal of his creations an aspect of confessionality. Konkol’s work is an attempt to reconcile with that pursuit of the slippery and, ultimately, illusory concept of happiness. In the mixing and layering of his materials one can see the palimpsest in his mental processes, the journal entries on his canvas.
Text: Chukwuma Ndulue