INTERVIEW WITH HANDIEDAN + THE FOURTH DIMENSION: TIME @ JONATHAN LEVINE PROJECTS By Kylie Dexter Complex and detailed collages with pop culture vintage beauties, fiercely independent and submerged in earthy colours, are the best way for me to describe Handiedan’s works. Tiny fragments that create a visual narrative that is nostalgic, with touches of dark... read more
Delusional – 1st Annual Juried Group Exhibition Winners Words by Nicole Gordon and Photos by @just_a_spectator and Penn Eastburn August 9th was a great night for all, especially the 42 artists selected as winners of Delusional: Jonathan LeVine’s Search for the Next Great Artist. It was the gallery’s first annual juried exhibition. We know there... read more
JEREMY FISH TALKS ART, SAN FRANCISCO, AND HIS NEW COLLABORATION WITH ABSOLUTEXTRACTS Jeremy Fish and AbsoluteXtracts have teamed up for a new cannabis vape pen, which features Fish’s artwork and a particular strain and flavor of oil curated by Fish as well. Check out the video to hear Fish talk about his connection to San... read more
Jonathan LeVine Projects Announced as North Jersey Indie Rock Fest Sponsor N.J. Racket is beyond honored to announce that Jersey City’s own Jonathan LeVine Projects will be a sponsor of Mint 400 Records and Sniffling Indie Kids’ Second Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival. Owner and proprietor Jonathan LeVine is known internationally as one of... read more
JONATHAN LEVINE PROJECTS’ SELECTION FOR URBAN ART FAIR NYC Jonathan LeVine Projects has put on an impressive selection for Urban Art Fair New York in booth 6.02. Their exhibit features work by Augustine Kofie, DALeast, Dan Witz, EVOL, Faith47 and Prefab77. Also on view will be a selection of twenty limited edition prints by an... read more
The unnerving felt heads of sculptor Paolo Del Toro By Jenny Brewer “If I’m going to watch a film, it’ll most likely to be a horror, probably a cheesy 80s horror,” says Paolo Del Toro. Becoming known internationally for his huge and rather unnerving felt heads, the British-born sculptor also references folk art and fairytales... read more
Surreal Paintings of Lost Soldiers and Enchanting Witch Women By Nathaniel Ainley Take a trip inside the head of Brazilian painter Joao Ruas in his new solo exhibition at the Jonathan Levine Projects. Enveloped in shadows, celestial female subjects and lifeless soldiers outline the surreal and enigmatic worlds of Brazilian artist João Ruas. Geist... read more
FINDING THE WORLD’S NEXT GREAT ARTIST WITH JONATHAN LEVINE Since 2001, Jonathan Levine has run a succession of highly successful galleries, culminating with the leading contemporary-alt-gallery in New York City. In 2017 he moved to a million-square-foot art complex in New Jersey where he can bring his cutting-edge aesthetic and punk rock ethos to bigger... read more
Stoney Creek artist Josh Tiessen showcases his creative process in YouTube video for Occidental Babylon
Stoney Creek artist Josh Tiessen is giving art enthusiasts a behind-the-scenes look at his creative process in a new YouTube video.
The video features Photoshop time-lapse and speed painting of Tiessen’s largest oil painting to date, Occidental Babylon.
Featuring spotted hyenas from Sub-Saharan Africa juxtaposed on a Wild West scene, Occidental Babylon was inspired by the California Gold Rush town of Bodie, famous for its saloon brawls, stagecoach robberies and weekly shootouts.
Beginning in 1848, $34 million in gold was extracted from local mines, but by the 1880s, the town was in decline. In 1932, Bodie’s weather-beaten buildings were razed in a catastrophic fire.
Occidental Babylon took Tiessen 1,200 hours over eight months to complete.
Tiessen explains his rationale for Occidental Babylon in a passage on his website.
Spotted hyenas reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, so it’s logical to wonder why a pack of thirteen hyenas are roaming through a western town! Hyenas are carrion scavengers, able to break down bone with their strong teeth and jaws, extracting as much marrow nutrient as possible. Traditionally, the hyena has been a symbol for the unstable or sinister, and in some African cultures it is viewed as a grave robber. The Lion King’s hyena trio: Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, entrenched character traits of savagery and cowardice in pop culture. For me, the concept of hyenas inhabiting an immoral western town came from Isaiah’s prophecy of judgment concerning Babylon, stating that desert creatures such as hyenas would one day inhabit its strongholds, a symbolic picture of how Babylon, the world’s greatest city, would be laid to waste by the Persian Empire.
Kevin Cyr Documents Working-Class Vehicles in ‘Labor Day’
By Andy Smith
In a new collection of paintings and drawings, Kevin Cyr pays tribute to the working class via worn vehicles spotted and documented around New York City. “Labor Day” at Jonathan Levine Projects in New Jersey progresses the artist’s love affair with the concept of what vehicles say about the people who drive them. Cyr first appeared in the pages of this magazine in Hi-Fructose Vol. 10, and he’s part of the “Turn the Page: The First 10 Years of Hi-Fructose” exhibit, currently at Crocker Art Museum.
“In a culture in which people are easily lured by the appeal of status-enhancing symbols, Cyr finds beauty in derelict cars,” a statement says. “With a devoted attention to detail, he paints old vehicles—primarily vans and commercial trucks—covered in graffiti, rust, scratches, scuffs, dents and other marks of distinction. By meticulously illustrating every imperfection and sign of age, Cyr’s work serves as a documentation of time, place and the evolution of the American landscape.”
East Coast Curator Jonathan LeVine Brings an All-Star Lineup to Heron Arts
BY SHAYNA YASUHARA
Heron Arts has invited East Coaster Jonathan LeVine to guest curate their upcoming “East Looks West” art show, opening this Saturday. The show is a celebration of two coasts interconnected stylistically, digitally and by the artists themselves—many who are west coast natives and transplants alike.
The lineup on this show is pretty nuts. Highlighting one or two top artists from this list would be a disservice because pretty much each of these artists could pack a room on their own. So, here is the list in full: AJ Fosik, Anthony Ausgang, Augustine Kofie, Ben Venom, Brett Amory, Camille Rose Garcia, Carlos Ramirez, Christian Clayton, Cryptik, David Choong Lee, Gary Baseman, Isabel Samaras, Jeffrey Gillette, Jeremy Fish, Josh Agle (Shag), Mario Martinez (Mars-1), Seonna Hong, Shepard Fairey, Souther Salazar, Tim Biskup and Tristan Eaton.
Jonathan Levine has taken aesthetic cues from underground music and punk culture, and his selection of celebrated artists has made him a standout contemporary art curator to watch. He officially put himself on the contemporary art map when he opened up Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York City back in 2005.
In 2017, the gallery was relocated to Jersey City and now goes by Jonathan LeVine Projects. The new location is part of Mana Contemporary, an arts organization that LeVine has teamed up with to expand past the gallery walls and out into new territories, including public murals and pop-up exhibitions.
In anticipation of this show, we wanted to find out more for Jonathan LeVine on the accessibility of visual art in the digital age and collaborating with Heron Arts.
How did you get in touch with Heron Arts?
I know Director Tova Lobatz from her days with White Walls Gallery and Noah Antieau from his Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans. We are part of a tight-knit art community that revolves around the type of artwork championed in Hi-Fructose and Juxtapoz Magazine. Late last year, Noah invited me out to curate a show at Heron Arts and thus our conversation began.
Do you plan to do more projects out on the west coast?
I would like to do more projects on the west coast and specifically with Heron Arts in SF. This our first time working together but we have talked about other future projects.
What do you look for when considering new artists to work with?
First and foremost, I have to like the work. It has to speak to me and get me excited. I am typically looking for something new, something that I haven’t seen before. I look for consistency in the work and professionalism on the part of the artist. These days I typically work with mid-career artists but I still pick up some emerging artists as well. I like to keep my program interesting.
Any trends within the art world you are seeing?
It is hard to read trend these days because social media has created this abundance of art to look at, and as a result, you can’t really pinpoint a movement happening. If anything, the trend is art moving from being on walls to being online and being greatly accessible to the general public. As a result, I think the average person is engaged more with the visual arts than they used to be.
Heron Arts & Jonathan LeVine Projects Present: “East Looking West” Opening Reception at Heron Arts Saturday, September 16, 7-10pm
INTERVIEW WITH HANDIEDAN + THE FOURTH DIMENSION: TIME @ JONATHAN LEVINE PROJECTS
By Kylie Dexter
Complex and detailed collages with pop culture vintage beauties, fiercely independent and submerged in earthy colours, are the best way for me to describe Handiedan’s works. Tiny fragments that create a visual narrative that is nostalgic, with touches of dark vestiges. As the viewer, we stand back away from a piece and we don’t see snippets and scraps, these are images made from fractured parts of something that once had another life, on a different page.
I spoke with Handiedan about her incredible upcoming exhibition at Jonathan LeVine Projects opening on October 14, 2017. ‘The fourth dimension: Time’ is Handiedan’s most personal show to date and comprises a selection of new works sharing the artist’s complex experience of passing and evolving through time.
‘The fourth dimension: Time’ is Handiedan’s most personal show to date and comprises a selection of new works sharing the artist’s complex experience of passing and evolving through time. Handiedan’s collaged bas-reliefs give visual form to the wonderings, memories, visions and unconscious associations stemming from it.
Deeply influenced by scientific and spiritual interests – from Quantum Physics, Cosmology and Numerology to Sacred Geometries, Metaphysics and Eastern Philosophies – her art embraces the various forms of vital energy endlessly permeating the universe and mirrors the eternal motion of life in its kaleidoscopic manifestations.
Recently Handiedan has focused on the Fourth dimension of spacetime as a privileged standpoint from where this perpetual and ever changing flow can be deeply perceived as a continuum.
Protagonists of the works are the iconic pin-ups clearly inspired by the burlesque universe. The artist digitally composes their bodies by assembling anatomical parts of different pre-existing pin-up images from the 1920-1940s, transforming them into images reminiscent of the Neo-Classical and Victorian ages, the Parisian Belle Époque, up to the 1940’s and Post-War sexy imagery.
With luscious liveliness their forms bend in and out the background to personify Handiedan’s investigation in femininity. They stand for the Lover and the Mother, embodying sexual freeing and tender love, strength and vulnerability. At once mistresses and goddesses, these creatures are endowed with a symbolic power that can be traced down to the archetype of Mother Earth (or Mother Nature) in which all ancient cultures identified the natural course of the circle of life with its transitory stages of birth, change, decay and renewal. Other recurrent images in the work refer to this: the skull, traditionally a visual reminder of death, and the butterfly, a living example of transformation and evolution.
Handiedan is always inspired by the the Golden Ratio, also known as divine proportion, whose presence in all realms from quantum levels to the eternal motion of planets and galaxies is proof of a universal law connecting everything. The pin-ups inhabit a visual world filled with Fibonacci spirals, fractal patterns, planetary charts and the sacred geometric form of the Flower of Life, all scientifically or symbolically representing the universal harmony ruling nature and life.
The pen drawings and doodles ‘tattooed’ on the bodies and in the background, like her cartoon-like alter ego, Amėlie, stand for Handiedan’s personal involvement in this energy flow. The background also incorporates ornamental details like old currencies, stamps, music sheets, share certificates, science maps, playing cards and cigar bands collected from Handiedan’s travels around the world and filled with hidden personal meanings. The vintage aspect of the items suggests their own hidden stories and the artworks release an evocative power both on a personal level and from a cultural point of view, ideally traveling through real and symbolic places distant in time and space.
Handiedan gathers all those visual fragments that trigger her own personal associations and digitally combines them on the computer following a fast-paced intuitive drive. The creative process shifts into a more meditative slow-paced stage as she assembles the printed layers of paper with refined craftsmanship. Each detail is printed on multiple sheets of paper that are masterfully hand-cut and carefully pasted over to reach a sculpted quality. The found collage material is also weaved and patiently pasted through the layers. While the collage technique naturally lends itself to the combination of the most diverse elements, the multi-layered depth gives material shape to the fourth dimension and enables to fully experience the interconnectedness of everything. As a result, Handiedan’s art carries an organic unity and the visual motifs used by the artist harmonically coexist into a single yet richly complex experience that instantly strikes for its exuberant liveliness while the countless details scattered all over ask for the gaze to slowly wander and linger around it.
Firstly, in the unlikely event our followers may not know your work, can you tell us a little about your process and how you create your amazing pieces?
There are two phases in creating my collages. My creations are a complex layered ‘cut and paste’ mixture of both digitally and hand cut paper collages and found material.
The first phase consists in digitally put together the found imagery. Classic pin-up body parts over a backdrop of baroque and Victorian designs, culled out of international currency, old music sheets, insurance and share certificates, science and solar system maps and my own pen-drawn character and doodles.
This digital design is the basis for a series of hand cut collages.
The second phase entails re-building the basic design through multiple printing and ‘weaving’ original collage material with the printed paper layers. This again could be culled from international currencies and stamps, antique sheet music ornaments, playing cards, cigar bands, Asian newspapers, science maps, share certificates and whatever fits.
I keep collaging till the artwork stands out in a relief of paper layers, almost three-dimensional. Then I add some final touches through sketching and doodling on the piece and finally I mount the collage on a carefully selected ornamental frame “mostly antique” that becomes part of the artwork itself.
I am loving where we are headed in the art/VR movement. I know you recently worked on a VR project titled ‘Handria’. This is whole new way to create, can you tell us more about this project and what was involved to create Handria?
Yes, thank you! I’m super excited about this development and movement and even more excited by being able to explore the possibilities of it. A great inspiration.
Last summer I was invited by RIOSD to be part of their VR project and to create a Handiedan’s collage universe in VR with the Tiltbrush software. I went ‘underground’ for 55 hours into VR, creating a 3D virtual collage art & drawings universe, named Handria.
‘Handria’ has been presented by the RIOSD team at Edinburgh Fringe, Future Play Festival, that started the 3rd of August and runs till the 26th and I can’t wait to show you more in the near future, when I’ll be traveling to the US.
I’m excited for your solo show and to see your new mixed media hand cut collages at Jonathan LeVine Projects, in October. How is the preparation going for that show? Are you able to share any of the pieces or the theme with us yet?
The preparations are going very well and I’m super excited to show you the new art. The theme and show title is ‘The fourth dimension: Time’. It will be my most personal show to date and comprises a selection of new works sharing my complex experience of passing and evolving through time.
It’ll be influenced by my scientific and spiritual interests – from Quantum Physics, Cosmology and Numerology to Sacred Geometries, Metaphysics and Eastern Philosophies.
So many hours are spent creating your works, what’s a day in the studio like for you? How do you keep yourself entertained while creating the collages?
I tend to keep it like a regular work with weekdays and try to keep up a healthy rhythm: 7-9 hours a day, 5 days a week. I listen to music, audio books, documentaries, movies, have a good walk or lunch break on the side of a canal, and watch the boats passing by.
Your vintage pin-ups feature predominantly throughout your work, where did your initial interest start, and what/who are your inspirations?
My strong fascination for all different kinds of old and vintage graphic material inspired me to start collecting and combine this imagery into one strong image. I’m always inspired by the (photo) graphic, collage and cartoon world.
There are so many hidden symbols and meanings in your pieces, you can spend a lot of time viewing those details scattered throughout the background, I would love if you would elaborate on these patterns and symbols and why they are important to you?
Symbols teach you a lot about life, they tell the story of life and elaborate hidden stories that can’t be explained literally. Examples of symbols that are strong subjects in my new work are the skull, the butterfly and the golden ratio. All of them refer to ideas of rebirth, growth, transformation, the eternal motion of life, energy, time, everything is (part of) the same all.
I can’t finish without talking about your large scale murals, which are mind blowing and often in the perfect surroundings, featured on stunning buildings! How do you begin the process for these works? What’s the hardest part about creating these walls?
After I receive the exact wall dimensions, I digitally design the piece for the wall. Bringing my pieces outdoors is not just an enlargement and just pasting paper on a wall, but it feels as an extension of my art. I want to integrate and fuse the image with the building. The building has to suite the image and vice versa. They correspond and become one. It’s like my original collages: every piece has its corresponding frame. A fusion of artwork and frame. It is actually difficult to name the most difficult part, as I see the process as a whole. From getting the design with all the measurements into the exact fit for the building, till getting up in the lift, spending long days in unexpected weather while pasting the paper on the stone walls.
Apart from your upcoming solo show, what can we expect to see from you in the next year?
I will be working on new mural projects, a selection of group shows and I’d like to spend time to develop the VR Handiedan universe. This gives me so much energy and I am super excited to explore the boundaries of this new technique and looking very forward to share more with you!
Delusional – 1st Annual Juried Group Exhibition Winners
Words by Nicole Gordon and Photos by @just_a_spectator and Penn Eastburn
August 9th was a great night for all, especially the 42 artists selected as winners of Delusional: Jonathan LeVine’s Search for the Next Great Artist. It was the gallery’s first annual juried exhibition. We know there was an overwhelming response, with applicants in the thousands, making the selection process an extremely hard and difficult task for the gallery. The work reflected a variety of mediums that showcased current trends in contemporary art. The gallery hopes to bring new talent to their audience and open doors for their future endeavors.
With that being said, the 1st place winner from Canada was Josh Tiessen, the 2nd place winner from United Arab Emirates was Julia Ibbini and the 3rd place winner from New York was Ronald Gonzalez. Honorable Mention went to Diana Carolina Lopez from Mexico, Jim Salvati from California and Jim Woodring from Washington.
First Place: Josh Tiessen
Second Place: Julia Ibbini
Third Place: Ronald Gonzalez
Honorable Mention: Diana Carolina Lopez
Honorable Mention: Jim Salvati
Honorable Mention: Jim Woodring
I certainly had my favorites and loved seeing the work of Risa Tochigi, Trent Taft, Stickman, Julian Clavijo, and Will Kurtz among others.
Once again, congratulations to all of the artist’s that won. I know there was also a special thanks stated to all of the artist’s that submitted their work, too. There was so much talent on the two floors that my heart was actually racing super fast from excitement! That is how I felt about the variety of mediums used and the level of talent displayed at the gallery.
JEREMY FISH TALKS ART, SAN FRANCISCO, AND HIS NEW COLLABORATION WITH ABSOLUTEXTRACTS
Jeremy Fish and AbsoluteXtracts have teamed up for a new cannabis vape pen, which features Fish’s artwork and a particular strain and flavor of oil curated by Fish as well. Check out the video to hear Fish talk about his connection to San Francisco, this collaboration, and his signature style of artwork as well.
Jonathan LeVine Projects Announced as North Jersey Indie Rock Fest Sponsor
N.J. Racket is beyond honored to announce that Jersey City’s own Jonathan LeVine Projects will be a sponsor of Mint 400 Records and Sniffling Indie Kids’Second Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival. Owner and proprietor Jonathan LeVine is known internationally as one of the pioneers of the street art movement in the early 2000s, and his gallery is considered to be one of the premiere galleries in the world for transgressive and subversive pop surrealism.
LeVine has been running his own gallery for sixteen years, having recently relocated to Jersey City from Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, where he had been since 2005 following a move from Philadelphia. Jonathan LeVine Projects is most well-known for bringing street and underground artists to the forefront of art culture and into the focus of elite collectors from around the world. Perhaps most notably was Shepard Fairey, creator of “Andre the Giant has a Posse” and President Obama’s 2008 “Hope” campaign poster, whom LeVine featured in the 2007 exhibition E Pluribus Venom. Yet, almost in spite of his successes, LeVine maintains his “blue-collar,” Jersey punk identity.
LeVine’s passion for the local punk scene is effervescent. Growing up in Trenton, he made a home of the iconic ‘80s nightclub City Gardens, which served as a suburban waystation between Manhattan and Philly for all the up-and-coming bands of the time, as well as a proving ground for local talent. When we spoke, LeVine gave me a veritable history lesson in all things punk rock, recalling every band, every label, every promoter that made up the scene that he loved and would shape his life. In his late twenties, LeVine played drums in a band he started with James Salerno called Drywater. The band would gig throughout New Jersey and New York when VFW shows were becoming a big thing. It was at these types of underground shows that LeVine would become friends with Neil Sabatino, then of Stick Figure Suicide.
In addition to actively performing, LeVine also started hosting art shows at local punk bars, which began when he approached then Maxwell’s owner Steve Fallon about hosting a single show and instead, Fallon allowed him to do all the art shows for a year. LeVine said of this period of his career, “I was learning. I made lots of mistakes and lost lots of money. I barely survived, but that’s what I did, and I learned from that.” LeVine would parlay the opportunity at Maxwell’s into a four-year residency at CBGB’s gallery, owned by fellow New Jersey punk legend Hilly Kristal.
Eventually, however, LeVine would have to walk away from these projects. “I was thirty years old and I was living in downtown Jersey City, and I was working three part-time jobs, I was playing in a band, I was managing my band, I was curating art shows out of bars…I worked in real estate, I worked for the Jersey City as a visual arts coordinator, and I could see ahead that people that were ten to twenty years older than me were stuck in the same thing were they were doing – all the grassroots, D.I.Y. stuff, living in a shitty loft – and I never wanted that for myself. I never wanted to be a poor starving artist, but I was.” LeVine moved back to Trenton where he began to reevaluate and refocus himself. “It was hard for me because I had to give up my rock and roll fantasy.”
This time was a turning point in LeVine’s life, as he would open his first gallery in New Hope, Pennsylvania in 2001; and while he had to let go of his rock and roll fantasy, it was his admiration and appreciation for the underground art style that truly set him and his gallery apart from the rest. To this day, LeVine credits his punk roots for instilling a work ethic and sense of perseverance in him that was crucial for his success.
Now, after running his gallery for a total of sixteen years in four different locations, LeVine has been able to, at least partially, turn his attention back toward music. LeVine says that he hardly played music at all for twelve years, but since moving to a house in New Jersey, he now finds himself playing drums again at least five days a week. LeVine has also since reconnected with former bandmate James Salerno, and the two formed a new band called Cyclone Static.
“Playing drums regularly is a way to meditate,” LeVine says. “There’s no pressure. I feel like I’ve had enough success in my life that I feel satisfied, whereas when I was younger I took everything more seriously and I would beat myself up. But now I’m pushing fifty and playing in this band. It’s just kind of fucking hilarious to me. It’s just been fun. It’s been really fuckin’ fun.”
Still, it’s not in LeVine’s nature to half-ass anything he does. Cyclone Static began recording demos and, following the 2016 inaugural North Jersey Indie Rock Festival, LeVine reconnected with Mint 400 owner Neil Sabatino, who signed the band to his label. In that time, Cyclone Static has been very active, opening for such notable bands as Piebald, Local H, Red Aunts, The Vibrators, and Scream. The band is currently working on recording an album, of which LeVine says he “dreams big, but is realistic” and also is “excited to see what Neil and I can accomplish together.”
Speaking as the other sponsor of the Second Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival, there is nobody better to sponsor this event than Jonathan LeVine. He has been active in this community for thirty years, watching trends, people, places come and go, and he has reached a level of success that many would think, coming from a working-class Trenton suburb, is unobtainable. But LeVine stands now as an example of the great achievements that can be borne from this community with enough of a work ethic, enough perseverance, and a willingness to never quit on your dreams.
Thank you, Jonathan, for your support, and best of luck to you on all your future projects.
JONATHAN LEVINE PROJECTS’ SELECTION FOR URBAN ART FAIR NYC
Jonathan LeVine Projects has put on an impressive selection for Urban Art Fair New York in booth 6.02. Their exhibit features work by Augustine Kofie, DALeast, Dan Witz, EVOL, Faith47 and Prefab77. Also on view will be a selection of twenty limited edition prints by an array of artists. Check out a small selection of these artists’ work below
The unnerving felt heads of sculptor Paolo Del Toro
By Jenny Brewer
“If I’m going to watch a film, it’ll most likely to be a horror, probably a cheesy 80s horror,” says Paolo Del Toro. Becoming known internationally for his huge and rather unnerving felt heads, the British-born sculptor also references folk art and fairytales as his inspiration.
“I love outsider art and sci-fi novels, and I’m a big fan of Tove Jansson, Terry Pratchett and Haruki Murakami. Also Forteana, Jungian ideas, as well as aspects of Gnosticism. Ideas for new pieces come at any time, usually when I’m trying to do something else and I start to daydream.”
Paolo originally studied illustration but spent most of his 20s working on farms. “I was often tasked with various construction jobs: repairing barns, mending stone walls, that sort of thing. I always loved working with my hands so I don’t know why it took me so long to combine that with my creative interests in the form of sculpture.”
Six years ago he began to try his hand at 3D creative work, starting off by making a series of carved wooden boxes shaped as heads, which – due to his nomadic lifestyle at the time – were small, lightweight and hollow, for storing things in. When he finally settled in Pennsylvania in the US, he felt the need to expand his practice. “After working on such a small scale for so long, I decided I’d really like to make some huge sculptures. Large-scale woodworking was too expensive, but I’d discovered needle felting after making brooches for a local craft fair. The pins were a flop, but I had a lot of leftover wool, so I started to make experimental sculptures.”
The heads he’s making now are sculpted foam with needle felt features, “a painstaking process” that can take months to complete. He recently exhibited a collection at Jonathan LeVine gallery in New York, as part of group show The Shape of Things to Come, but otherwise the sculptures live in Paolo and his wife’s apartment, “which is pretty small so it gets a little crazy”.
Next he’s working on his biggest piece so far: the head of a woman wearing a crown of flowers covered in insects, with a toad in her mouth. “It’s a goddess figure of life and death, inspired by religious sculptures from traditionally patriarchal religions, but subverts that imagery to address matriarchal themes found in witchcraft and paganism.”
Surreal Paintings of Lost Soldiers and Enchanting Witch Women
By Nathaniel Ainley
Take a trip inside the head of Brazilian painter Joao Ruas in his new solo exhibition at the Jonathan Levine Projects.
Enveloped in shadows, celestial female subjects and lifeless soldiers outline the surreal and enigmatic worlds of Brazilian artist João Ruas. Geist is Ruas’s debut solo exhibition at Jonathan LeVine Projects and features 11 new paintings into which the artist incorporates themes surrounding mythology, warfare, and nature. The concept for the show was inspired by The Phenomenology of the Spirit, a philosophy book published by German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in 1807.
It’s hard to pin Ruas’s work down to a particular time period or cultural history, however. The sources of the artist’s influences are vast in his attempts to focus on the absolute truths present in our consciousness and spiritual existence. The artist writes, “This new body of work uses modern and ancient metaphorical allegories, religious scenes, and historical characters to address attempts to change the inexorable universal pendulum of creation and destruction through endless ages.” Check out some more works from the show:
Geist is up at the Jonathan Levine Gallery from May 13th to June 30th. Learn more about the show, here, and check out more work by João Ruas on his website.
FINDING THE WORLD’S NEXT GREAT ARTIST WITH JONATHAN LEVINE
Since 2001, Jonathan Levine has run a succession of highly successful galleries, culminating with the leading contemporary-alt-gallery in New York City. In 2017 he moved to a million-square-foot art complex in New Jersey where he can bring his cutting-edge aesthetic and punk rock ethos to bigger projects.
WALT MORTON: Your latest idea is a 2017 art competition titled DELUSIONAL where artists can submit work with the top prize being a solo show at your gallery. Winning would be a huge opportunity for any artist. Where did this idea originate, and what are your expectations if any?
JONATHAN LEVINE: Some friends of mine own a gallery in Asbury Park, NJ called Parlor Gallery. They organized a juried show a few years back and asked me to be the juror. They had great success with it and had many great submissions. I really enjoyed doing it as it was really fun. Artists were very excited and the whole exhibition had great energy. Since then I have thought about doing it, but it wasn’t until this year we are trying it. I typically have high expectations but try to temper them — which is challenging. I hope we get lots of great submissions and I hope to be able to build this into a yearly competition with multiple prizes and opportunities.
WALT MORTON: You are going to personally judge and pick the winner and the finalists for DELUSIONAL. How has your taste changed or evolved over the last twenty years, and what do you hope to see your gallery show in the future?
JONATHAN LEVINE: My tastes have changed slightly but not dramatically. I still have a core aesthetic but try to find new artists who push those ideas to another level at all times.
WALT MORTON: Your DELUSIONAL premise is to find the “world’s next great artist.” I remember 1980, when Andy Warhol discovered the little-known street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Do you think there’s an ignored genius like Basquiat and you have a chance to find them? Maybe nobody remains obscure in 2017, now that we have Instagram.
JONATHAN LEVINE: It’s definitely hard for artists to work in obscurity these days because of the internet but new artists pop up all the time and I am often excited and surprised by what I find.
WALT MORTON: An “open call” competition is something you have not done before. In the past, how did you usually discover an artist’s work, and get interested in showing them?
JONATHAN LEVINE: Back before the days of the internet I would hunt for artists via underground magazines, illustration directories, comic book shops, local galleries and coffee shops. These days it’s obviously much easier to find and track an artist’s career and market.
WALT MORTON: A lot of artists think that finding the perfect gallery will be like a magic fairy godmother and all their problems will be solved. What would you say to that?
JONATHAN LEVINE: Definitely not. It will help greatly but it is a hard career and even successful artists have their ups and downs.
WALT MORTON: A show, especially a solo show still has a lot of gravitas in any career for a variety of reasons (political, financial, personal, etc.) But in 2017 the majority of art sales come online, often from customers around the globe. What do you think a solo show does for an artist and how important is brick-and-mortar showing versus online sales for a gallery?
JONATHAN LEVINE: I still believe in the physical exhibition. Work should be seen in person if possible. For most artists it’s greatly satisfying to have their work hung in a gallery and be able to talk to the audience viewing it during the opening. An artist typically works in solitude for months on end, so this is their moment to come out of their cocoon and shine. Also, clients want to see that a gallery is invested in an artist before they buy the work. Nothing can ever make up for seeing the work in person.
WALT MORTON: Do you feel like your gallery has a certain “brand” or “feel” and you have to show works within that envelope? Many galleries limit themselves to one style/genre of painting or art. Are you free to show whatever you want, or does random variety put off collectors?
JONATHAN LEVINE: My gallery definitely has a brand or feel. We support a certain type of artist and collector base but I feel we have enough room to move around. It never becomes boring or restricting for me. I think if a gallery’s program is too “all over the place” it doesn’t have a clear voice and is confusing to it’s audience.
WALT MORTON: A lot of art galleries fail for one reason or another. What’s one big secret of your success?
JONATHAN LEVINE: Perseverance, passion and being too stubborn or stupid to give up.
WALT MORTON: What are you going to do if you discover two people that are equally good in DELUSIONAL? Do you think it’s possible that there are two unknown, miraculously talented artists operating in secret at remote corners of the globe?
JONATHAN LEVINE: I imagine it’s possible and I hope I have that problem. It’s a good problem to have.