Jake Troyli: SKIN + MASKS, Kavi Gupta | Elizabeth St.

  • Jake Troyli (b. 1990, USA) is a narrative painter whose vividly colored, meticulously rendered portraits tackle contemporary social issues and...

    Jake Troyli (b. 1990, USA) is a narrative painter whose vividly colored, meticulously rendered portraits tackle contemporary social issues and controversies through a humane, yet satirical lens. 


    Troyli was influenced at an early age by the world of comic art. He had a particular admiration for the artists who drew for MAD Magazine. Their advanced technique and talent as artists combined with their ability to satirically address the most pressing social issues of the time had a profound impact on Troyli’s own development as a contemporary painter. 


    Troyli’s process is deeply rooted in method and planning. He has an extensive drawing practice. All of his paintings start out as ideas, and progress through stages of sketching and drawing. Finally, the best concepts become paintings. 


    Troyli was also heavily influenced by the time he spent acting in amateur theater productions as a student. Though he reports that he had little talent on stage, the aesthetic sensibilities of a theatrical setting impacted the way he saw his painting practice. Many of Troyli’s paintings convey the sense that the figures are on stage—handling props, and placed within a completely artificial environment where they are on display eternally for the amusement and entertainment of viewers. 


    Troyli frequently works in the genre of self-portraiture. Rather than specifically focusing on himself as subject matter, he mobilizes his image as a sort of avatar, set within scenes and situations that confront some larger societal, political, or community circumstance. For example, in the painting The Demonstration, a group of older, White men are pictures mourning the death of a Black man. One of the men has one eye open, revealing that the display of sadness is entirely performative. Troyli is the body in the casket. Another painting, titled Super fan, portrays Troyli naked, being desperately latched onto by a screaming older white man in a suit—a sardonic commentary on the commodification of young Black artists by an art market dominated by generational White wealth. 


    Troyli also specializes in large-scale paintings that feature sweeping views of complicated social scenarios, in which society is portrayed as a circus-like spectacle of consumerism, superficiality, and absurdity.