Lush, wet and stormy, Jonny Negron’s voluptuous drawings inhabit a proto-paradise where tropical flora comingles unbothered with manmade detritus. There, bodies swell and surge, plumped by a preternatural plenitude as well as the anxiousness of desire. Case in point: the curvaceous Venus-Doms, who stomped through his early comics and illustrations, asserting the power of their contours over nerdy, sweaty subs; or more recently, cis male dons, ripped and sinewy, brandishing the salty pathos squeezed out by all those gains. In one composition from his recent solo “Small Map of Heaven” (Château Shatto), we glimpse a morose bodybuilder through a foggy window, shedding a single tear whilst woefully injecting a perfectly swole and veiny bicep. This is no Men’s Fitness centerfold, but rather the suffering of the eternal redeemer reimagined within the confines of the home gym.
It is in scenes such as this that one encounters the allegorical work animating the Puerto Rican-born, New York-based artist. Rather than caricatures, his expressive lines and saturated gouache tones conjure latter-day passion plays that harness the elasticity of the figure for its symbolic resonance. It is a tradition as indebted to the extravagant flourishes of Chuck Jones, Namio Hurakawa and John Kricfalusi as to the weighty volumes of Bottero, Henri Rousseau and Hieronymus Bosch. As Negron notes: “My initial figures were rooted in imagery of maternal deities and fertility goddesses. On the other hand, I find an awareness of a contradiction as much of my work also has a strong influence from the lowbrow comics and anime illustrations I was exposed to when I was a kid in the ‘90s.