Jert says "People Ruined the Internet"

Pop artist organizes group exhibition for a good cause

Jeremy Townsend, otherwise known as Jert, has covered Atlanta's galleries, doorways, and growlers with his definitively cool and borderline absurd illustrations. His warm embrace of popular culture and easy undercurrent of satire have garnered a strong fan base — one look at his portfolio and it's clear why. As weird and parodic as his work is, however, Jert's motivation for his latest project is about as straightforward as they come. Being the creative humanitarian that he is, Jert sent out an invitation to his most talented friends and voila: People Ruined the Internet was born. Held at Hodgepodge Coffeehouse and Gallery, the gallery event will feature both a solo exhibition of Jert's art as well as a group show to benefit Jert's charity of choice: the Center for Children and Young Adults (CCYA). CCYA, which will receive 25 percent of the proceeds from the event, works to provide safe environments for abused, neglected, and at-risk children. The substantial percentage is made possible by the philanthropic involvement of the artists and venue alike, as well as some very intentional planning on the part of Jert.

"So much charity work, especially with the arts, involves getting dressed up in a tuxedo and hanging out and looking at each other and seeing who's cooler for giving more money — and that totally works, totally fine for those organizations," Jert says. "But I know there's a lot of people like me who are regular people, low to medium income, that do want to help, do love art, but just don't have venues and art accessible to [them]. So I wanted to create something that was accessible."

Accessible as the exhibition will be, don't be fooled by the event's down-to-earth presentation — the content of the event is worth more than a passing glance. In addition to Jert's previously unseen art, the group show contains work from Oscar-winning artist Joe Bluhm, MAD magazine artist Tom Richmond, and other nationally recognized talent such as Ed Steckley and Brett W. Thompson, as well as local heroes Catlanta and Aaron Crawford of Cavitycolors.

With some black-and-white drawings starting at only $50, visitors shouldn't worry about how thick their wallets are, either. Some of Jert's most popular prints will be seen in their original, large-scale form for the first time as well. Like his illustrations that showcase the absurdity of pop culture, the theme of the event is a clever nod to the undercurrent of its purpose.

"Domestic violence itself is really hard for people to talk about, and it's really hard for people to wrap their minds around," Jert says. "I myself am actually a survivor of domestic violence from childhood, and that's why it's so important to me. I feel the need for dialogue to open up about how we can all find a solution and how we can all figure out what the resources that people need to escape these situations and become functional members of the world."

Works in the group show vary from woodcuts to black-and-white drawings, all tailored to the theme of the exhibition in a unique way. Showcasing both old and new work, Jert's pieces range in medium and price to attract a wider audience. Purchasers of Jert's work will also receive a live custom drawing of his choice.

"Not to be lame, but it truly is a hodgepodge of work," says Jert, alluding to the site of the event. "It's an unassuming venue. It's a laid back evening. I want to have an event that everyone feels comfortable walking into — you don't have to think about how cool your pants are."