SCAD grad’s solo show collides Nascar, Evel Knievel with European history painting

"Broken Heart America," (2020), acrylic on canvas by Evan Jones.
Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art
Caption
"Broken Heart America," (2020), acrylic on canvas by Evan Jones. Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Evan Jones exhibit, “Country Store,” is a hilarious look at countrified tropes.

Evan Jones grew up in Cashiers, North Carolina, and his painting show at Thomas Deans Fine Art channels a strain of old-time religion, Nascar, flag-waving patriotism, duck hunting and corporate logos that inform many Southern young ‘uns sentimental educations. His solo show, “Country Store,” is a very funny celebration of the tropes and fixations of rural Southern life that blessedly avoids using a cudgel of irony or snark to make its points. This is an artist who can enjoy the excesses of homemade advertisements, primitive folk art painting styles and alternative history while offering a sharp-witted read on global art history mashed up with his countrified Americana. He has likened his paintings that blend advertising icons like the Michelin Man and Mobil Oil’s pegasus logo to an antique market where objects are mashed up into one mad jumble, devoid of origin or context.

"See 7 States," (2020) by Evan Jones.
Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art
Caption
"See 7 States," (2020) by Evan Jones. Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

His paintings mimic the style of folk art, homemade signage or the kind of hand-painted banners you’d once find at carnival sideshows. The way Jones invokes the painterly conventions of “amateur” seen in those forms with their wackadoodle lack of perspective and hyperbolic visual language is clever and spot on. The Savannah College of Art and Design grad has a very firm grip on how we “read” painting.

But more than that, Jones’ paintings are phantasmagoric fever dreams of alternative history that hilariously collide military and sports heroics and the romance of masculine adventuring in a tipped hat to European history painting. Jones then blends that painting tradition with the lowbrow American iconography of Nascar heroes Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, tattoo art, Black Cat firecrackers and cheap Olympia beer. Hilarity ensues.

Like an oh-so-subtle evocation of Édouard Manet’s portrait of a seductive odalisque, Jones’ “Olympia” is an homage to ‘70s stunt driver Evel Knievel, depicted here with his hands hitched into an enormous belt buckle and his jumpsuit seductively unzipped to his breastbone.

"Ice Gold," (2020), acrylic on panel by Evan Jones is one of the paintings by the Atlanta artist featured at Buckhead's Thomas Deans Fine Art.
Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art
Caption
"Ice Gold," (2020), acrylic on panel by Evan Jones is one of the paintings by the Atlanta artist featured at Buckhead's Thomas Deans Fine Art. Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Did you cat nap in seventh-grade American history? Then maybe you missed learning about the famous battle documented in Jones’ uproarious painting “American History T-REX.” Like the Trapper Keeper doodle of a bored preadolescent boy, the painting depicts a snarling T-Rex and soldiers in Napoleonic uniforms in a fierce and bloody battle. The flatness, which Jones renders the action along with the ludicrous derring-do of the toy-like soldiers who fly through the air like Superman, is a nod to how painting cements imagination into ideology. And yet Jones’ crazy fantasies like a Prussian soldier in “See 7 States” cajoling visitors to “See Rock City” is not too far off from our crazy hodgepodge reality where images of Native Americans have been employed to sell cigarettes and Black women to hawk pancake syrup.

"I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair," (2020), acrylic on canvas by Evan Jones.
Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art
Caption
"I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair," (2020), acrylic on canvas by Evan Jones. Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Bricolage is the name of the game for Jones, from the Afghan prayer rug sporting assault weapons and grenades that pops up in one painting, to the luchador and George Washington set against a wallpaper of fighter planes in another. It’s comic gold but also commentary on willful ignorance and an American present that enjoys creating its own alternative facts, fantastic yarns and half-baked conspiracy theories.

"El Ranchero, Sunrise," (2019), acrylic on canvas by Evan Jones.
Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art
Caption
"El Ranchero, Sunrise," (2019), acrylic on canvas by Evan Jones. Courtesy of Thomas Deans Fine Art

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

There’s a self-aware sentimentality in many of Jones’ paintings that points to a strain of masculine pathos seen in country music, performative patriotism and the outsize mourning of fallen sports and music heroes. There is not a woman to be found in his work. Instead, a rose occasionally pops up in his proscenium paintings, a kind of shorthand for commemoration and love for the soldiers and Nascar drivers and fighting spirit Jones depicts. In “Broken Heart America” a portrait of a sad-eyed cowpoke with a dangly earring is accompanied by a grid below featuring Dale Earnhardt’s number 3, a bleeding broken Valentine heart and an upside-down American flag. It’s a tragedy quilt of manly heartbreak.

I haven’t had this much fun in an art gallery in ages.

EXHIBIT

“Evan Jones: Country Store”

Through March 6. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Masks and social distancing required. Free. 690 Miami Circle NE #905, Atlanta. 404-814-1811, thomasdeansfineart.com.