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A Meditation on the Subtle Peace in John Jodzio's Drawings

by Christina Vassallo

John Jodzio's schizophrenic cityscapes are what would pop out if a Salman Rushdie novel had sex with a Henry Darger drawing, minus the wining and dining typically associated with the removal of clothing and entangling of limbs. The crowded scenes are a palimpsest of under drawings that are visible beneath the pre-drawings and re-drawings. Graphite smudges, unfinished vignettes, and a splotchy application of media add to the visual cacophony of Jodzio‚s scenery. His drawings serve as a visual record of neighborhoods whose history has not been erased completely despite the 50-story office buildings and waterfront (over)development plans that are grandfathered into actualization right in front of our very eyes. They show layers upon layers of poverty, urban sprawl, and the dirtiest sociological phenomenon of them all: gentrification.

More apparent in Jodzio's large-scale paper wall murals than in his smaller and more intimate drawings is an encyclopedic explosion of everything your parents feared would steal your soul when you took the bus to the BIG CITY. Perverts, ethnic stereotypes, and creepy catalogue models run rampant in Jodzio‚s swollen neighborhoods. Their bloodlust is palpable. They are coming to get you. Watch out! Another deranged kid in a striped t-shirt will shoot: "hands up motherfucker!" Or worse yet, some weird cat wearing piss-stained pants will slash your face. These cat gang members don color-coordinated jumpers that resemble garbage bags; they are the Crips and the Bloods, the Jets and the Sharks, just itching to take control of your turf. There will be blood, lots of blood all over your business casual button-down shirt.

From whence do these multifarious collections of mom & pop pizzeria logos, bodega advertisements, and mass gravesites for pigeons appear? What has spawned such an annihilated, yet strangely, vital impression of urban affairs? Are there actually people fornicating in the streets? Are the disembodied Lenni-Lenape Indian heads, with their plumes of feathers and noble faces, looking at this melt-down also known as a city wondering, "what have these idiots done?

The visual detritus left behind from the uncontrollable urban growth is Jodzio's tool in illustrating the parallels between the colonization of the United States and the effects of sprawl and uneven distribution of wealth on today's cities. The artist offers no solutions to the madness that ensues when families are displaced from their tenement apartments-cum-condos. Instead, he chronicles the radio-active mixture of indigence and bling. The city is an organism and perhaps all you can do is sit back and watch as it burns and breaths around you.

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