One of the iconic paintings of the Impressionist movement, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte in Paris by Georges Seurat, is often shown as the quintessential example of the “Pointillism” style, which is compromised of using small painted dots.
We recently went to check out the scene of Seurat’s painting, and discovered that L’île de la Jatte, an island in the Seine between Neuilly-sur-Seine and Courbevoie, was a source of inspiration for more than Seurat. Monet, Van Gogh, Sisley, Nozal and Gleizes all have paintings from vantage points on the island. (more…)
Ghost of a Dream is an art duo comprised of Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom. Their “Price of Happiness” piece was recently featured in No Longer Empty’s “How Much Do I Owe You?” Exhibition. Untapped Cities sat down with Was and Eckstrom to learn about the inspirations behind Ghost of a Dream’s pieces and the thought process behind documenting society’s hopes and dreams. (more…)
In the winter of 1888, Vincent Van Gogh came to the conclusion that he could no longer live and paint in Paris. Writing to his brother, he lamented:
It seems to me almost impossible to be able to work in Paris, unless you have a refuge in which to recover and regain your peace of mind and self-composure.
In search of a quieter, quainter life, Van Gogh headed for Arles, a small city in Provence.
The winding streets of Arles
The city had not always been so quaint. In 40 BC, Arles (then called Arelate) provided military assistance to Julius Caesar in a key battle against Pompey. It fell into the Roman Empire’s good graces as a result and grew into a significant military, cultural, and religious center. Today, these influences are hard to miss: the quiet residential streets of Arles wind around a giant amphitheatre, among other impressive Roman monuments.
The large Roman amphitheatre in Arles
This grand Roman legacy was far from Van Gogh’s mind when he chose to settle in what was then a somewhat faded town. This faded quality, however, was exactly what he was looking for as he sought a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris. He wrote to his brother:
I believe that the town of Arles was once infinitely more glorious for the beauty of its women, for the beauty of its traditional dress. Now it all looks sickly and faded as far as character goes. But if you look at it for a long time, the old charm reveals itself.
Perhaps above all, Van Gogh enjoyed the beautiful light and weather of Provence, “where outdoor work is possible almost all the year round.” He continued to work outdoors long after the sun set, famously capturing scenes like the “Starry Night Over the Rhone.” Legend has it that the increasingly eccentric painter was seen balancing candles on his wide-brimmed straw hat so he could continue to work through the evenings.
“Starry Night Over the Rhone”
Today’s view of the Rhone from near where Van Gogh sat, pictured here on a foggy Arles day.
Despite only living there for a little more than a year, Van Gogh created many of his greatest paintings in Arles. He originally hoped to found an artists’ colony in the city, thinking that his friends would find Arles just as inspiring as he did. Van Gogh repeatedly urged his friend Paul Gauguin to join him in the South, telling him:
[E]ven while working I never cease to think about this enterprise of setting up a studio with yourself and me as permanent residents,…which we’d both wish to make into a shelter and a refuge for our pals[.]
When Gauguin arrived in October 1888, he stayed in a room in Van Gogh’s rented yellow house (no longer standing in Arles, but immortalized by the artist inside and out).
“Bedroom in Arles”
The artists’ colony never got off the ground. Van Gogh became ever more unstable, getting into fights with his friend and ultimately threatening Gauguin with the razor blade later used to cut off his own earlobe. Van Gogh spent the rest of his life in and out of hospitals but continued to paint up until his death in 1890.
Today, visitors in Arles can walk in Van Gogh’s footsteps, connecting contemporary sights with the artist’s interpretations. The city has set up easels to mark some of Van Gogh’s more famous subjects, allowing for direct comparisons.
The public garden in Arles, with a Van Gogh “easel” showing the artist’s depiction.
“Entrance to the Public Garden”
The “Café de Nuit” (Night Cafe) was not originally yellow. It was later painted to match the colors used by Van Gogh in his painting.
“Café de Nuit”
The courtyard of the historic hospital in Arles, where Van Gogh recovered after chopping off his earlobe. Today, the courtyard is called L’Espace Van Gogh.
The Biennale des Antiquaires of Paris is perhaps the most renowned event of its kind, and this year, the 26th edition is the conclusion of an international, 13-city tour of an assembly of the most eminent dealers of fine arts, archaeological treasures, jewels, furniture, and other such luxurious and collectible items. What better venue than the nave of the Grand Palais?
French people sometimes say that Parisians go to museums as frequently as they go to the bathroom. And with good reason. Museums are as ubiquitous in Paris as taxis are in New York. And not just the big ones like the Louvre and the Musée D’Orsay. Paris has been home to some of the greatest artists in history: Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Pisarro–and those are just the Impressionists. Then there are the Post-Impressionists, the Cubists, the Fauvists, the Abstract Expressionists, not to mention the sculptors, photographers and conceptual artists. Many of their studios have been converted into museums for the benefit of Parisians and visitors alike. Here’s the Untapped guide to the Top 5 Museums that Used to Be Artist’s Studios.
No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Musée Rodin. Though it’s not exactly off the beaten path, it’s definitely worth a visit, just to see the incredible gardens where Rodin’s most famous sculpture Le Penseur sits eternally with his head resting on his closed fist. Built as a hôtel particulier between 1727-1737, the Hôtel Biron was home to many aristocrats and artists before Rodin moved in in 1908. In addition to Rodin’s sculptures, you can also see works by his mistress Camille Claudel. Read what Untapped founder Michelle Young has to say about the Musée Rodin.
Pepe Vives, Untitled #12, 2012. All Images Courtesy of Cole Harrell at Joy Wai Gallery.
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.
Untitled #8 (2012)
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.
Untitled #4 (2012)
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.
Untitled #10 (2012)
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.