The Artist’s struggle is something beholden to our society. We love to hear people’s sob story of how they made something brilliant. Everyone who goes through it carries this memory as a trophy for the rest of their lives. Whether those hard knocks come ‘on the road’ in music, getting a movie off the ground, writing until you bleed, or painting in that dingy studio, it all amounts to overcoming the odds.
In Reynolds & Griffin’s most recent autobiographical art book “My Name is Jason. Mine Too.” the struggle is ever present as a backdrop to their dreams of grandeur. Reynolds’ deceivingly simple poetry is painted by Griffin’s skillful hand. The self-referential nature of the piece is not braggadocio – it reads more like an Artist’s Survival Guide. The Jason’s reiterate in paintings and words, “If you’ve never been here it’s okay. Don’t worry so much – we’ve all been here. It sucks but things get better”.
It begins, as most of our careers do, with graduation. A poem titled ‘Room to Grow’ captures the fear artist’s have when they choose to pursue “the dream”. Shiny new diplomas in hand (or not in Griffin’s case) the duo heads for Bedstuy. All they want to do is be creative and successful. The words come so easily, and yet they are going hungry. In my experience that had to be one of the hardest facts about reality. There were so many goals that I was supposed to have completed, and yet no one was handing out success when I left school. A few pages later ‘No Money’ playfully relates continuing to live with empty pockets, and ‘No Name’ describes dressing famously for the world to see. A filmmaker I know said a few years back, “Have people catch up to your delusion”. In New York City I think this faux fame culture of nobodies is ever present. People watching people trying desperately to be what others are looking at.
“My Name is Jason. Mine Too.” is really about our most recent buzz word for the post graduate blues, the Quarter-Life crisis. For some reason our generation seems to be one of the first to have it. Maybe it’s the way career paths work in modern society, or maybe it’s something we haven’t accounted for. At the moment there are a lot of overbearing self help guides that lack the simplicity to be memorable. This collection might just have the stuff young artist’s need to keep those razors at bay.
Reynold’s style is melodic, and his voice is akin to that of a wise man who does not like to waste words. The usage of alliterations in his poetry are like markers for the mind so one can easily remember these simple rhymes. Griffin’s art compliments the words as he places serious graphical elements against childlike scribbles. Sometimes words are crossed out, and things are pasted over with other more relevant drawings. The effect that is created is one of growth and energy.
One important nuance they do not shy away from is that one is black and the other white. In the poem “Brother” they discuss this discrepancy that is never voiced by them but rather their environment. It’s a refreshing take on a sensitive topic, and serves to portray the societal evolution we continue to embrace. The struggle to survive surrounds the art they create, and they’re inspired by it. Their success is a self fulfilling prophecy. Their book, their artistic endeavor, their friendship, their fame are all contingent on one another. If most of what they have already done is true than when will we catch up to their delusion?
Their New York City book signing happens at the Leo Kesting Gallery in the Meat Packing district this Friday ~ May 15th from 7 – 10pm. Facebook it here.