The Jazz Age is undeniably an enduring époque in literature, with author F. Scott Fitzgerald successfully chronicling a now iconic period of lush festivity and overall excess. He traveled often, but his most glorious years were arguably spent in Paris, where he lived with his wife Zelda from 1924 to 1931.
Though Fitzgerald’s antics have become synonymous with his lifetime, copious drinking, strolling, and intellectual hobnobbing can easily be implemented in Paris today—the good, the bad, and the over-the-top! Let’s take a step back and look at exactly how to recreate the lifestyle and mindset of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
1. Hotel Saint James & Albany 202, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, + 33 (0)1 44 58 43 21.
The Fitzgeralds first visited Paris in the spring of 1921 and stayed at Hotel Saint James & Albany. The couple decided to travel when they learned Zelda was pregnant that May, but they were not typical homemakers by any means. In her piece, F. Scott Fitzergerald: American Expatriate of the Lost Generation, Sarah Krauss reports that the Scott and Zelda were kicked out of the hotel for eccentric misbehavior, ultimately finding Paris very lonely with no friends in the city. Despite their antics (or perhaps due to them), the hotel still functions today, so you too could visit a hotel in a friendless city. Maybe don’t leave what Krauss calls a “pungent goatskin” in the room though, or tie the elevator to the floor so you don’t have to wait for it—unless you want to be thrown out, and maybe arrested, as only a truly fearless Jazz Age enthusiast would do.
A stone’s throw from The Armory Show at Piers 92 & 94, THE(UN)FAIR showcased close to 100 artists at a warehouse in Hell’s Kitchen. Spearheaded by nAscent Art and curated by nAscent’s founder Jennifer Wallace alongside artist Mikel Glass, the event included sponsorship by Ben & Jerry’s. That’s right: free art, free ice cream, and a five-minute walk from the Armory. (more…)
Walking past the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation at 526 LaGuardia Place, you just might miss it. There are no clear demarcations that an amazing museum lurks past the unique planters, save a 2012 sign by Brooklyn-based artist Mike Levy. This conscientious discretion suits the longtime role of familial privacy the house continues to preserve.
Joy Wai Gallery’s latest exhibition of Pepe Vives New Paintings continues to address the theme of communicative self-expression that began in the gallery’s previous showcase of Carmina Figurata, in this instance shifting from a sense of otherness in travel to one in religion. Vives transitioned to his current career in portraiture from his initial Jesuit education in Valencia, Spain, as is evidenced in the positioning of the exclusively male subjects staged in Christ-like gestures. The show opened July 5th, and will be on view through August 10th.
The Pepe Vives exhibition provides a striking aesthetic contrast to the previous exhibition. Dark walls have been replaced by the white cube gallery presentation, and the delving, unexpected images in Saana Wang’s photography are now replaced by the metaphorically probing albeit technically cohesive religious portraiture. Although the works have trademark characteristics unique to the artist — similar rippling effects, facial features and positions — there is much room for questioning in terms of both history and abstract metaphor.
New gallery director Cole Harrell intentionally overhauled the exhibition space to suit the religious work. Harrell had many of the portraits (the most striking of which are photographs soaked in varnish on tracing paper) set in frames, backed wooden paintings so they popped against the wall, and reconceptualized the space’s surfaces and pillars in black and white to consciously mimic a church space. A central piece, Untitled #11, a long graying gradient portrait reminiscent of Jesus lying in the cave before his Resurrection, is set parallel on a large wall facing three smaller faces, fashioned as a pew. The result is a clean, arid space, that does successfully allow for artistic and even spiritual deliberation.
The clear religious iconography in the works, all made this year, is enhanced by a comparably intended sense of mystery: while the Christian messages are clear-cut, the real histories of people in the portraits and the artist himself are both undefined. There are allusions to broken relationships in context, most notably in the musing press release by art critic and curator David Rimanelli. Rimanelli interjects ‘Jesus Christ’ and expletives between tales of love and family, as introduced by a French quote from the opera Carmen, translated in English as ‘love is a rebellious bird.’ However, the artist and the messages within the works themselves are both relatively taciturn. The aesthetic is also reticent, with literally vague colors fading slowly as blurring shapes sink into the crumpling tracing paper, thus leaving room for personal as well as linear interpretation.
Despite the intrigue associated with mysterious writings and shadowy figures on display, there is a level of curiosity that almost feels lacking. Who exactly are the figures in the portraits? What prompted Pepe Vives to leave the Catholic church? How dominant, or accurate, is a homosexual reading of the work? What made David Rimanelli so passionate about writing the introduction? Why are the artist and the work both so laconic?
The lack of personal information in lieu of religious feeling allows the viewer to impart one’s own sense of humanity, nonsecular or otherwise. Cole Harrell pontificated on the challenges of questioning, “Where do you fit, and how we can pull the humanity out of the divine of the sacred. In terms of religion we need the human element, and we need to feel connected: Buddhists to Buddha, Christians to Jesus; we need to feel a part of it all.”
The emotive capability of Vives’ religious iconography is evidenced in his depictions of the Ecce Homo as styled from the Shroud of Turin in Untitled #12 (scenes of the life, flagellation, and mocking of Christ, found in Turin, Italy, believed to be from the trecento) as well as the agonizing man in Untitled #6. The latter work was painted on wood, and the grains of the surface complement the pained expression of the figure. The tension and agony are literally tactile in the effort to reach out to the viewer. Pepe Vives left Jesuit Valencia in 1984 for the East Village, and still lives and paints in the Lower East Side today. His background as a painter of oil on canvas has lately given way to painted-on photography, as evidenced in the current exhibition. Outside of a variety of New York galleries, his work has been shown in Provincetown, Miami and Milan. Gallery director Cole Harrell, 23, has worked in both African art and private contemporary advisory. This is Harrell’s first curation at Joy Wai Gallery.
Pepe Vives: New Paintings will be on view until August 10, 2012.
Joy Wai Gallery
122 W 18th Street
On Thursday, May 3rd, Joy Wai Gallery held the first of its Carmina Figurata series, Vitrio by Saana Wang. The Helsinki-born photographer has traveled extensively in China since 2007, and her work reflects the sense of otherness associated with both experience abroad and self-expression altogether.
In a word, the Vitrio showcase is characterized by curiosity. The recently opened Joy Wai Gallery space on 18th street is basement-level, thus allowing a preliminary physical discovery of the space. Descending into the dark, well-heated gallery necessitates discerning the shadows and spatial quadrants, even before reflecting on the artwork. The exhibition series of Carmina Figurata qualifies this sense of physicality and questioning, seeking to convey the poetry of portraiture and conceptual art overall.
The exhibition is curated by Carmen Molina, a Colombian-born, Paris-educated fine art photographer. In her own artist’s statement online, she explains, “I am an ever changing soul, and as such, trying to represent myself can become as outdated as the news of yesterday. My quest is nothing else than a quest for truth, for truth is beauty and it keeps me in touch with all that which the present moment has to offer.” The name Carmina Figurata stems from the Latin format of poetry in which patterns create independent phrases within the form. Both these concepts overlap in terms of constant regeneration of identity and message, just as Saana Wang seeks to accomplish in her own interpretations.
Continuing on the initial semantic course, Marketing Assistant Michoel Jones elaborated that the exhibition name Vitrio has no official meaning. Technically, the word is close to the spanish word vitrina, but was deliberately differentiated to indicate a lack of definition. Windows are reflective as much as they are transparent, suggesting the search for understanding in Wang’s exhibition, but the use of a non-existent word suggests that meaning should not be so easily decoded.
Instead, Saana Wang’s photography confirms the continued quest for identity in artistry, with phantasmagoric renderings of the figure through photography. Her work predominately features female heroines, with faces painted in the style of the traditional Peking Opera, with the pink painted faces and pronounced gestures looking at once emphatic and inscrutable. Instances of Wang’s own experience are evidenced, whether with in the literal adaptations of a blonde figure, or in the overall sense of wandering and uncertainty that reflect her own meandering and ultimately self-reflective journey. The images are intensely personal, dispelling stereotypical hype surrounding the mystique of Asia’s recent commercial boom. Instead, Wang works almost exclusively with film, choosing to rely on her own critical eye rather than digitization, which she feels can cloud observation with its possibility of constantly deleting and manipulating images onscreen. Wang experiments with both color and black and white film, slowly and carefully allowing the image to unfold.
Saana Wang is married to Steve Wang, a local Chinese man she met during one of her trips, who helped her coordinate and process some of her art abroad. She has been published in the Helsinki School Catalogues, and shown at North by New York, Scandinavia House, NYC, and the Helsinki and City Art Museum. In her current resident city of New York, Saana Wang’s work has shown at New York Public Library and the Aperture Foundation among others. Her work has been further recognized in France, Copenhagen, and Korea.
All images courtesy of Saana Wang.
Joy Wai Gallery
122 West 18th Street
May 3rd to June 4th