Eric Joyner paints robots. And donuts.


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Maybe you already know Eric Joyner’s work; lots of people do. The folks at Spectrum Fantastic Art have given him awards; the San Francisco Chronicle has hired him; he’s collected by technology executives and actor Andy Richter. But I came to him only after picking up ‘Robots & Donuts: The Art of Eric Joyner’ from Dark Horse Books.

Joyner’s robots are often travelers, sometimes through space, sometimes through time, sometimes through discontinuously pastoral landscapes. Modeled, mostly, on old toys from Japan, Joyner’s robots have an out-of-time quality, a vintage vision of a future that will never come to pass. They are rendered with visible brush strokes, transforming them from stamped tin to something more organic. The robots, as above, are sometimes at rest. But often they do battle -- with each other and with classic sci-fi monsters. And with donuts.


‘Glazed’ (after the jump) was the first painting in which Joyner pitted donuts against robots. The donuts are enormous, rolling in like tanks, robots stuck helplessly in the glaze. In other paintings, the donuts are flying saucers or wield lasers. But donuts aren’t always adversarial -- they can also be simple delicious objects of desire. Does it make sense? Not in our the real world. But in Joyner’s it does.

Joyner’s notes in the book reveal that he’s unlike the stereotype of an artist driven by a singular vision. His boxing series, based on Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, is just one that was prompted by a fan’s suggestion. In ‘The Blow,’ Joyner played off the 1924 ‘Dempsey and Firpo’ painting by George Bellows, replacing the sweaty men with matching competitors of blue and red plastic. It’s after the jump.

Above, ‘The Blow,’ Joyner’s first Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots painting. Note, on the far side of the ring, a robot is enjoying a donut along with the fight. But the donuts can be dangerous, as in ‘Glazed,’ below.

Joyner’s openness to suggestion extends to a full-scale embrace of democratic distribution. While I’d love to own one of his paintings, they now run in the thousands. I might, perhaps, be able to get one of his high-end limited edition prints or large-scale vinyl murals -- you can get ‘Glazed’ for your wall in a minimum size of 4 feet high by 6 feet wide -- for a couple hundred dollars. More my speed, though, is this book, or a 2009 calendar with new work, or a Cafe Press mug or magnet, some of which are less than five bucks.

With the original inspiration for his work being mass-produced toys, it makes sense that Joyner’s art is available on a mass scale too.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

All images by Eric Joyner