Jake Troyli moved to Chicago in September 2020, the same month “Don’t Forget to Pack a Lunch!,” his first-ever solo exhibition in Chicago, opened at Monique Meloche Gallery.
In the exhibition’s titular work, Troyli puppeteers a small army of cloned characters through siloed loops of never-ending labor—physical, emotional, and otherwise. Small firefighters ascend a burning building while a group of mourners attends a funeral for a construction worker below. The deceased’s colleagues carry on at a project site immediately adjacent to the service. The weather seems fair as nude workers paint clouds in a blue sky from which small propeller planes hang from visible tethers.
Much has been written about Troyli’s consistent use of his own likeness in his work, which is as identifiable by its self-portraiture as it is by the intensity of his palette, a chroma swath of oil paint in primary colors and flesh tones. Troyli’s consistent appraisal of his own corporeality, both as a creator and a self-referential commodity, struck a chord in the art world—especially in Chicago, where the contemporary art scene exists thanks to artists of color.