Like a Faberge egg smuggled into the gulag, Jon Todd’s series of paintings evoke the symbolic, coded illustrative aspects of seemingly dark and dreary prison tattoos and cast them in a colorful and buoyant reworking.
Todd’s works explore diverse pictorial traditions ranging from Japanese ancestral markings, golden-age American tattoos, and Mexican wrestling imagery. His multimedia collages draw on the gravitas of these steeped traditions in order to tell personal, contemporary stories.
The particular power of Russian prison tattoos to stand as a form of positive self identity and individualization in the face of festering institutionalization and marginalization lends itself as a rich source upon which to explore more personal narratives of friends and acquaintances, some caught in a web of institutional health and correction. Todd’s works are hopeful and optimistic, almost precious, testaments to life and the living.
Starkly colored, like some piece of freshly smeared urban graffiti, Todd’s work is presented often in refined Victorian picture frames, itself an indicator of the sort of delicate balance that he brings to each of his compositions.
Todd is a Toronto-based artist. He has recently exhibited in Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Toronto.