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
School of Fish Jeremy and Jayde Fish have seen their artistic careers take off nearly in tandem. What’s next? by Stephen Jackson Artist Jeremy Fish owns a Jonathan Adler lamp that appears to be made entirely out of white, ceramic boobs. “That was a birthday gift from a friend during my single-dude days,” he says.... read more
WE WERE ALL TO BE KINGS: A STUDIO VISIT WITH VICTOR CASTILLO Carlos Gonzalez stopped by Victor Castillo‘s studio ahead of his upcoming exhibition opening on April 1st at Jonathan LeVine Projects at MANA Contemporary in Jersey City. The artist has show with LeVine in the past, but will making a debut at the Jersey... read more
Delusional: Jonathan LeVine’s Search for the Next Great Artist Jonathan Levine Projects is committed to new and cutting edge art, exploring the terrain of the high/low and everything in between. As a youth growing up in Trenton, New Jersey during the 1980s, Jonathan LeVine recognized the appeal of countercultural aesthetics including punk flyers, comics, graffiti... read more
David Choong Lee Crafts Lush, Abstract Worlds in New Mixed-Media Works By Andy Smith Korea-born artist David Choong Lee made a notable shift from realism to abstraction in recent years, his new work containing lush, vibrant landscapes and otherworldly figures. An upcoming show at Jonathan Levine Projects, titled “Gravity,” offers new works from the San... read more
Jonathan Levine is a working class punk rock kid from Trenton who was — as the title of the book about him suggests — “Delusional” enough to think he could earn a living selling and curating the art he loves. Call it “lowbrow” or “pop surrealism” or “street art.” Whatever you call it, Levine, with... 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 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.
Jeremy and Jayde Fish have seen their artistic careers take off nearly in tandem. What’s next?
by Stephen Jackson
Artist Jeremy Fish owns a Jonathan Adler lamp that appears to be made entirely out of white, ceramic boobs.
“That was a birthday gift from a friend during my single-dude days,” he says.
It’s the first thing I notice when I enter the massive studio Fish shares with his wife, Jayde, in their North Beach apartment, which lies at the end of a short winding staircase from the street entrance.
Jeremy’s salt-and-pepper beard is approaching ZZ Top status, and he’s wearing a custom-embroidered, brown monochrome Ben Davis jumpsuit. The lighting is dim like the opening sequence of Masterpiece Theatre, and there’s stuff everywhere, but not in a messy way. Everything seems to have its place, like the organized chaos of a professor’s study.
One wall is home to a grid of paintings that depict hybrids of animals and automobiles. It’s a body of work he’s preparing for a show called “Spirit Animals” this summer at Jonathan LeVine Projects in Jersey City, N.J. I notice originals by California legends like Mike Giant and Todd Francis — who created the eagle logo for Antihero Skateboards — casually hung near workspaces about 15 feet apart from one another.
The whole place teems with art, as well it should: I’m standing in the shared studio of one of the most prolific artistic couples living within the city limits. The Fishes are still in love with San Francisco, reaffirming their vows to the municipality with each piece they create. Jeremy might be best-known for the large, pink bunny statue that used to greet those who entered the eastern edge of Lower Haight, and Jayde’s intricate illustrations have been featured in galleries across the city.
But the past two years have been a watershed period for each of them. In summer 2015, Jeremy was selected to be the San Francisco Arts Commission Galleries Artist-in-Residence at City Hall — the first residency of its kind. He was awarded an office for roughly 100 days and tasked with producing 100 drawings to commemorate City Hall’s 100th anniversary. When the show opened, Mayor Ed Lee proclaimed Nov. 4 as “Jeremy Fish Day” in San Francisco.
And in December 2016, Jayde suddenly entered the world of international fashion when Gucci picked up a series of drawings from her first solo show, “In Dreams,” which creative director Alessandro Michele will use in the fashion house’s Spring/Summer 2017 line.
Jayde greets me with a friendly hug. While she’s known for her fashion sense — she often dons custom pieces by Al’s Attire in North Beach, or combinations of vintage and high-end brands — her around-the-house garb is notably less off-the-wall than her husband’s, whose crisp, baby-shit-brown jumpsuit is on the conservative side for a guy often seen around town wearing matching tops and bottoms plastered with photorealistic images of animals. Jayde’s cat, Mrs. Brown, clocks me from atop a space heater with a faux-vintage facade that keeps the perfect temperature for the wet, chilly weather.
Both Jeremy and Jayde have achieved celebrity status within the fringes of the established art community for some time, and Jeremy has become a cult figure in the skating industry for his tripped-out line work, often depicting tiny, somewhat morbid, pink bunnies. The image originated from the calling card of a skateboarding crew he created in the ’90s: The Silly Pink Bunnies.
Jeremy has also become the unofficial Mayor of North Beach, and it’s hard to walk 10 feet in San Francisco’s Little Italy without coming across his work. Much can be found at restaurants such as Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, Golden Boy Pizza, Naked Lunch, Don Pisto’s, and Baonecci — all of which have bartered him free food for life. He also has a series of murals around North Beach that celebrate famous San Francisco personalities like Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane guitarist Paul Kantner, and famed stripper Carol Doda. Jeremy Fish is in many ways a creative steward of San Francisco’s rich history, something he’s spent a great deal of time studying.
“North Beach is the most important neighborhood in San Francisco, culturally speaking,” Jeremy says. “Francis Ford Coppola, Larry Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Frida, and Diego are all connected to North Beach. Also, as we are both Italian as fuck, Jayde and I are trying to maintain the creative traditions and rebuild the cultural legacy of our neighborhood.”
Jeremy and Jayde Fish are storytellers. Each has their own unique narrative behind how they’ve seeped so deeply into the city’s creative groundwater. Jeremy’s begins in 1994, when he first came to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. After growing up skateboarding in Saratoga Springs, N. Y., he made his pilgrimage to what was then the mecca of skating culture.
“I wasn’t skilled or competitive enough to try and pursue it professionally, but it was something I wanted to contribute to — or at least be close to, at that age,” he says.
He landed his dream job in 1997, working as assistant manager for Printime, the skateboard industry screenprint shop owned by Fausto Vitello, who published Thrasher and Slap, and eventually Juxtapoz — and who also owned the now-defunct Think Skateboards.
“I had a background in screenprinting, and had hoped to either work in graphics or printing — or both, which is exactly what happened,” Jeremy explains. “I couldn’t have been luckier. It wasn’t necessarily just that I was qualified — it was a timing thing. I just got super-lucky.”
“I had no graphic-design background at all, and still don’t,” he continues. “My entire graphic-design skill set came from working under illustrators and designers in the skateboard industry that did — like Todd Francis and guys like that. I considered that to be grad school. It was a real learning experience.”
Fish went on to become the art director at Think and a contributor at Juxtapoz, and he published a monthly, two-page illustration in Slap. He was still working full-time at Think in the early 2000s when he began edging his way into the burgeoning powerhouse that was Upper Playground, as well as Fifty24SF, the clothing retailer and contemporary art gallery in the Lower Haight.
“I just kind of wandered in there one day,” he says. “The dudes that were in there already knew who I was from my spread in Slap magazine, and they asked me to make some T-shirts. I think really the reason why I got so involved with them was because right around the time I started making shirts for them, they also opened a gallery.”
“This may sound funny,” he adds, “saying this years later, but it was much more an art opportunity than just a T-shirt gig. I just had a feeling that it was a good group of dudes to invest in.”
Other than The Luggage Store or Fecal Face Dot Gallery, there weren’t many outlets at the time for showing work like his. Upper Playground was arguably the only game in town, since it was already focused on showing work by up-and-coming Bay Area artists like Sam Flores, MARS-1, and David Choe.
“I could tell that if my art scene was ever to become a scene, it would be with those dudes,” Jeremy says.
Matt Revelli, who founded Upper Playground in the late ’90s, says Jeremy might hold the record for having shown the most times in the gallery since it opened.
“He kind of just snuck his way in multiple times and before I knew it, he had embedded himself in what we were doing with Upper Playground, while using the gallery as a launch pad for the fine art he wanted to do,” he says.
“He was essentially a mirror to what I was doing without trying,” Revelli adds, referring to the sort of brand he was developing with Upper Playground. “He wanted to communicate with the skate community using T-shirts and products to speak to massive amounts of people. But at the same time, he was developing a fine art following, which was essentially symmetrical to what we were doing.”
Revelli goes on about Jeremy’s commitment to mastering the art of functional products, and his polished and academic approach to making art, but he landed on a familiar sentiment: “Jeremy has had, and continues to have, a genuine love affair with the city of San Francisco,” Revelli says. “There are a lot of purists who try to get down on tech and change. … But he continues to find ways to fall in love with San Francisco.”
To this day, Jeremy’s presence is still deeply felt around Upper Playground, and while he went on to design countless other products (including shoes, watches, and even bathmats) and show his art in galleries around the world, it’s clear that his origins in the fine-art world began at Revelli’s flagship complex on Fillmore and Haight.
Jade’s San Francisco story began much earlier than her husband’s, although Jeremy, 43, is about 10 years her senior. She grew up in Stockton, raised by a mother who used to perform in plays around San Francisco when Jayde was a little girl. Once, when she was 8 years old, she lived in the city for four months while her mom performed at The Alcazar Theatre.
“They had a really great costume closet at that theater, and I would just go nuts back there during my mom’s shows, trying on all the clothes and putting on makeup,” she recalls.
Jayde moved to San Francisco in 2005 to study graphic design at the Academy of Art, after spending a few years studying biology in Hawaii. Outside of school, she worked a multitude of graphic-design jobs, producing several Facebook Messenger stickers, like “Prickly Pear Cactus,” the “Facebook Fox,” and “First Mate.”
While Jeremy cut his teeth in the world of fine art at Fifty24SF, Jayde’s springboard was Spoke Art in the Tenderloin.
“Jayde first started working with Spoke Art back in 2013, when she was still Jayde Cardinalli,” says Spoke Art owner Ken Harman. “We had seen her work online, fallen in love, and soon after, invited her to participate in an art show we were planning with internet cat celebrity Lil Bub.”
For that show, Jayde created two pieces in tribute to the famous feline, who has more than two million likes on Facebook: “Space Bub” and “Surf Bub.” Later, she began working on Spoke Art’s annual Moleskine Project show, as well as pop-culture exhibitions such as the Wes Anderson Art Show, and an homage to Stanley Kubrick.
“One thing that I love about Jayde’s work is that while there’s a distinctive aesthetic commonality behind everything she does, you still never know what to expect from her,” Harman says. “The S.F. art scene is so lucky to have Jayde, partially because she’s found a way to enrich the art world in so many different ways. From tech to art shows to design to her own personal style, Jayde is really a renaissance woman.”
While doing research for a project in which he wanted to showcase a history of San Francisco’s most eccentric people, Jeremy stumbled upon a series of illustrations that Jayde had already done on the same subject for an article on hyperlocal blog The Bold Italic titled, “The Royal Family: A History of San Francisco’s Eccentrics.”
“So I sent her this email at like four in the morning, like kinda salty,” Jeremy says, “because I thought I had this sick-ass idea, and I had spent 48 hours thinking I was really clever. Then I find out that not only had it been done, but that she killed it. So I was like, ‘We should meet.’ ”
As if two artists meeting over a Bold Italic illustration wasn’t “San Francisco” enough, Jayde suggested drinks at Zeitgeist.
“For her to not only have done something that I could relate to both conceptually and in terms of the way she drew it, and for her to want to meet up at my favorite bar — I sort of had a feeling that there was something magical afoot,” Jeremy says.
That was in 2011, and Jeremy and Jade were married two years later. Appropriately, the service was held in Washington Square Park. Underground hip-hop legend Aesop Rock officiated, skate hero Tommy Guerrero played guitar, and Tony Gemignani hosted the reception at his restaurant, Capo’s.
“It was a very North Beach wedding,” Jeremy says.
The couple describes their experience living and working in the same space as positive, remarking that they push each other forward in their respective endeavors, assisting one another with their complementary skill sets. For Jeremy, there was a bit of an acclimation period, since he’d lived and worked by himself in his North Beach abode for nearly 10 years before Jayde moved in.
“My work has changed since I’ve had someone else here, just because you’re in a different frame of mind,” he says. “When she first moved in, if I was struggling for an idea, I was struggling even harder — because there was someone here to notice. Before, if I was sitting here not having a good idea and no one was here to see me except the pictures on the wall, it really didn’t matter. That’s still a little bit of a struggle for me, but the benefits are still much greater.”
Jayde explains that, while the setup forces them to share the experiences of low points as well as high points, Jeremy’s intense work ethic has ultimately helped her career.
“I think working with him has forced me to take more of a narrative approach,” she says, adding that getting together with Jeremy encouraged her to “get her hands dirty again” after focusing so heavily on digital production.
At the end of 2015, feeling like she’d taken on too many tech-oriented graphic-design jobs, she set a goal to have her first solo show the following Christmas. She approached Upper Playground, and they gave her the opportunity to show in their gallery Fifty24SF in December 2016.
Jayde used pen and ink to create intricate, totemic tarot card designs whose storytelling elements speak to her husband’s influence. However, while Jeremy remarked that his narrative work was less about telling a personal story and more about engaging the viewer to find their own meaning, Jayde’s appeared more personal.
“For the tarot deck pieces, I just started pulling things out of my own life, what I was feeling, what I was going through, putting the characters around me into my work,” she says.
She posted finished drawings on Instagram, hashtagging Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele simply because she was a fan of his design and direction, but thinking nothing would come of it.
But something did. Michele’s team contacted her, saying her drawings were a perfect fit for a Gucci project. One thing led to another, and Gucci bought 17 of the finished pieces before the show was even up.
In September, both Jayde and Jeremy were invited to Gucci’s runway show in Milan for the upcoming Spring/Summer 2017 line. The two were blown away as the models began parading out from the fog, and under chiaroscuro light, Jayde began seeing her designs prominently featured on their clothing.
“I was in heaven,” she says. Suddenly, Jayde was featured in Vogue and other high-profile publications and, on top of that, she sold out her first solo show.
The line has just now started to come out in stores, and last month, Gucci partnered with Colossal Media in New York to create a 2,500-square-foot mural featuring her images across a five-story building on Lafayette and Prince streets.
“It’s badass,” Jeremy says.
A great deal of Jeremy’s work has been exported from San Francisco as well. Over the years, he’s collaborated on products from brands such Nike, Adidas, Absolut Vodka — he designed a bottle — and he’s also made album covers for Aesop Rock and a tour shirts for Paul McCartney and Snoop Dogg. He even created a sign that appeared in Tim Burton’s 2014 film, Big Eyes— and appeared briefly with Jayde in the film, sitting in front of a cafe on Green Street.
Much of the Fishes’ renown has come from their success as commercial artists, but Jeremy doesn’t see that as a negative thing.
“I think it is a healthy balance of the two that keeps my work solid in both arenas,” he says. “If you work with no restrictions for too long, the work can get lost. And if you work with too much restriction, the work can also get lost.
“I have discovered new ideas, styles, and techniques while working on commercial projects, that I was able to import back into my personal artwork and help it to grow. I am equally proud to do both commercial and fine art projects simultaneously,” he adds.
Jeremy espouses a philosophy you might not expect to hear from an artist so deeply in love with a city that’s become increasingly hostile toward the low-budget needs of emerging creatives.
“I don’t resent technology like a lot of other artists,” he says. “A lot of these young cats have kept me in business, buying art from me or commissioning me to do art for their companies. I’m not mad that I chose to make art in a city that invented something else while I was here.
“The internet and all of the things connected to it grew right next to me, and we’ve been running next to each other this whole time. I don’t resent the internet, nor anyone who came here to work in it,” he adds. “I don’t resent the fact that San Francisco has priced out art and artists. Something happened here that’s in-and-of-itself a different type of art that’s affected human beings and our life on Earth. For better or for worse, I’m proud that it came from here.”
Arguably, Jeremy’s most remarkable accomplishment was the 2015 City Hall residency. In addition to his drawings, presented at a solo show that November, Jeremy’s visual odes to city landmarks adorned multiple kiosks and bus stops. He acknowledged both the official and “unofficial” mayors of San Francisco, such as Herb Caen, Robin Williams, and John Coltrane.
“I’m not really political, so I thought I was an odd choice for the project,” Jeremy remarks. “But the face of our city was changing dramatically, and I thought the one thing I could bring to the table was to draw things not just about City Hall, but other aspects of the city relating to our history. I thought a good way to embrace the project was to use it as a vehicle to teach people who had moved here things about our city that were important.”
While Jeremy may have considered himself an unlikely choice, SFAC Galleries Director Meg Schiffler felt that he was precisely the man for the job.
“Jeremy was the first person I thought of,” Shiffler says. “Throughout his career, he’s created hundreds and hundreds of drawings about San Francisco, a city that he clearly loves. He’s also quick to acknowledge what the City of San Francisco has given him, and how it’s shaped who he is at this point in his life. He not only loves the city, he’s devoted to it. I knew that he would represent the best of San Francisco: boundless creativity, singular style, and a passion for both the past and the future.”
If you missed his residency, you’ll have a second chance to get schooled when Jeremy’s seventh published book, O Glorious City: A Love Letter To San Francisco (Chronicle Books) comes out in June. Inside, you’ll find a foreword and interview with Jeremy by Schiffler, plus reproductions of all 100 drawings Jeremy completed during his time at City Hall.
This summer, Jeremy is up to his didactically civic-minded tricks once again, this time in the form of a residency at the former caretaker’s quarters inside Coit Tower. Jeremy plans to occupy the space — currently the gift shop — and pump out a body of work affirming his love for the City by the Bay.
“When I do stuff these days, I kind of want it to be special,” he says. “Not just special for the audience, but special for me. I think this one’s cool, because I don’t think many people even know that there’s a caretaker’s apartment in there.” The details are still being ironed out, but he says he imagines he’ll spend about a month there, most likely in August.
At the moment, Jayde balances a good deal of commercial work with a few upcoming group shows here and there, and she’s looking forward to brainstorming and experimenting with new ideas. Further down the line, in summer 2018, the couple will put on their first show together at Spoke Art NYC.
Despite the deep-seated love they each feel for San Francisco, Jeremy and Jayde lament that it’s been difficult for them to find a house in the city, and they both wonder whether or not they too will be forced to leave one day, as so many of their artist friends have.
“I want to make it clear that neither one of us are mad about the San Francisco we live in today. We’re just trying to generously contribute to it, and hope that those contributions allow us to stay here. And if and when that’s no longer the case, we’ll go gladly and thank her for everything,” Jeremy says. “I owe this place something, and I wish more people looked at the city that way, not the other way around. We aren’t entitled to shit — unless you’re smart enough to own a piece of it.”
Regardless of whether or not leaving becomes a reality, Jeremy has a plan to leave his mark on his town for a long, long time.
After his large pink bunny statue on the corner of Laguna and Haight was torn down in 2013 to make way for the massive residential development Alchemy by Alta, some folks from the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighbors Association and a few others successfully raised $75,000 via Kickstarter to replace the statue with a larger bronze version. In fact, the replacement, which Jeremy made with Berkeley sculptor Brin Berliner, will stand about 11 feet tall and weigh nearly half a ton. Jeremy says he has a 75-year land grant from the city for the spot where it will sit at the forthcoming Haight Street Art Center, so barring a massive uprising in which rebels decide to topple the bunny, it should be there long after Jeremy leaves this world, much less the city.
“I’m proud that the city I chose to live in over 20 years ago is still progressing and isn’t in a slump, and doesn’t allow you to stay here and make shitty art and get by,” Jeremy says. “I’m proud of San Francisco. And when our time comes and we have to move, I’ll go quietly, proudly, and know that I tried to make a difference in a city that changed my life forever. It’d be the least I could do.”
The artist has show with LeVine in the past, but will making a debut at the Jersey space. The LA-based Castillo has long been creating work with an almost sinister surrealism, smiling characters with blacked-out eyes that seem to be on the verge of witnessing a tragedy. The show runs through April 29, 2017.
Jonathan LeVine’s Search for the Next Great Artist
Jonathan Levine Projects is committed to new and cutting edge art, exploring the terrain of the high/low and everything in between. As a youth growing up in Trenton, New Jersey during the 1980s, Jonathan LeVine recognized the appeal of countercultural aesthetics including punk flyers, comics, graffiti and tattoos. In 2001, after years of independently curating at alternative venues, he decided to open a gallery specializing in this nascent art movement. Many people called him and this risky endeavor “delusional”, however, sixteen years later, he’s now the owner of one of the most well know gallery’s in the world and has cultivated the careers of many renowned artists. Jonathan LeVine is now looking for the world’s next great artist and wants to see if YOU have what it takes. Are you delusional enough? Click HERE to submit!
Jonathan LeVine Projects’ first annual art competition is open to artists ages 18 and older of all backgrounds and experience. After the submission deadline, a selection of artworks will be chosen to be exhibited in Delusional, a group show highlighting the finalists, opening on August 9, 2017. Jonathan LeVine will choose first, second and third place winners and will grant the following prizes:
1st Place – Solo Exhibition at Jonathan LeVine Projects
2nd Place – Participation in a group show at Jonathan LeVine Projects
3rd Place – A week of promotion via Jonathan LeVine Projects website and social media platforms
**Additional prizes and awards to be announced! Be sure to keep checking in for updates!
All submitted artworks must be for sale (priced at a reasonable market rate) and available to be exhibited from August 9 – 29, 2017. Upon the sale of an artwork, Jonathan LeVine Projects will earn a commission of fifty percent (50%) of the net proceeds from the sale.
Please include the following with each submission:
-1 image for two dimensional works and 2 images for 3 dimensional works
-Work details (title, year, medium, dimensions, price)
**Size limit: Paintings – 6 x 6 feet; Sculptures – 6 x 4 feet
Pricing: $45 for 3 submissions ($10 for each additional submission)
David Choong Lee Crafts Lush, Abstract Worlds in New Mixed-Media Works
By Andy Smith
Korea-born artist David Choong Lee made a notable shift from realism to abstraction in recent years, his new work containing lush, vibrant landscapes and otherworldly figures. An upcoming show at Jonathan Levine Projects, titled “Gravity,” offers new works from the San Francisco art scene vet. The show kicks off April 1 and runs through April 29.
The gallery says that although he’s been around for decades, he’s just “getting started” in a new chapter of his career. “Unlike his past realistic figurative work, his new imagery stems entirely from his imagination and is the result of laborious studies: painting and rearranging over and over to develop a new visual vocabulary,” the gallery says.
These new works are created with acrylics, latex and aerosol paint. The result is a visual language that moves between the geometric and the seemingly organic. The artist has said this, when reflecting on audience interpretation of these current works: “When someone understands one of these paintings, it’s like they’re hugging me really deep from inside,” he said.
Jonathan Levine is a working class punk rock kid from Trenton who was — as the title of the book about him suggests — “Delusional” enough to think he could earn a living selling and curating the art he loves. Call it “lowbrow” or “pop surrealism” or “street art.” Whatever you call it, Levine, with galleries in New Hope PA, then Philadelphia and finally New York City, rode a wave of popularity that, by the late 1990s, saw him connecting unknown artists across the globe with collectors ranging from corporate CEO’s to rock stars.
But now, Levine is making another off-beat move.
He’s moving his Jonathan Levine Gallery from Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood to the Mana Center for Contemporary Art in Jersey City, New Jersey. It’s a huge move for Levine and a big coup for Jersey City’s exploding art scene. Brian, an old pal of Levine since their days spent in Jersey City and Trenton in the 1990s, paid a visit to Levine on the eve of his great New Jersey grand opening.