Opening Exhibit: Thursday May 24, 2012: 6:00PM
Artist in attendance; Refreshments will be served
Show Duration: May 24 through July 23, 2012
Location: Row House Cafe / 1170 Republican St, Seattle, WA 98109
Historic Cascade Neighborhood • South Lake Union • Seattle
Row House Cafe is pleased to present “Cross Culture” an exhibition from artist Jess Level.
Level’s show will be in two parts. His opening show will feature his work that was inspired by his life in Spain: “Cross Culture: Across the Sea.” The second phase of his show will feature work that is more locally inspired: “Cross Culture: Bringing it Home.” The body of work he intends to show will contain both oil on canvas and pen and ink drawings.
Location, location, location
Level draws his inspiration from where he lives and the spaces in which he occupies. His work is a commentary on the local customs, events and life subjects – or livestock – that inhabit the perimeters of his vision. Whether on the coast of Spain or the coast of Washington, Level’s work captures the light and levity of societies and their history. For Level, it’s all up for interpretation.
Art, in its multitude of forms, has always been one of society’s greatest escapes. Level’s work has an embedded levity, which celebrates life and light and is a welcome respite from the political turbulence of our time. On the surface, Level’s work is whimsical; yet with further study, social, political and economic dysfunction is found cloaked in abstraction. Things are not always what they seem.
A common theme throughout Level’s work is “paintings within paintings.” These multiple layers cause the viewer to dig deeper into the work, yet the deeper you dig, the murkier the waters become. We all are painfully aware of reality and what lurks beneath the surface, yet Level always focuses on the light.
In most of Level’s paintings, there are multiple stories being told in the same space. The paintings often feel like a frozen moment shared by multiple living stories. The mixing of mythologies (and other stories, like the history of modern art in Spain, the story of selling a painting, the story of building a canvas) creates a dialog of divergent planes. It’s conspicuous that it’s Level who gets to decide which ones belong together in this particular moment. The painting becomes an archival annotation of the birth of the new iteration of international or cross-cultural mythology.
When the stapled edges, canvas texture and crossbars of the canvases are exaggerated, it draws attention to the purposeful act of a painting’s construction. Art becomes an object to be handled, evaluated, thrown out the window, making the narrative message conspicuous and unavoidable.
It seems that any of the elements, whether it’s a human figure, an animal, or any object of a portrait, might be just an idea in the moment, remembered from a different time, or headed to a different place than the others. As some elements are grounded, others might run screaming off in different directions or slide from the edge of the painting. Perpetual motion.
Level’s mentor Julian Gomez praised his paintings as “rich and well painted reflections by a different sort of Amerikan whose vision of my country is just and flattering.” His color palates are a story in and of themselves and add to his play on light. As you fall into the paintings within Level’s paintings, it is hard to pull yourself back out with the same understanding at the beginning of your venture. There are worlds within Level’s work, when once you get lost in them, you forget about the larger reality. Level does not paint using source materials rather his work is stream of conscience based on experience and raw emotion. It is joyous, albeit haunting at times. Ultimately, Jess’s work is about space, light and reflection.
It was a long road that led Jess Level back to the Pacific Northwest, where he currently resides “in exile…more or less.” After crashing classes at The Savannah College of Art and Design and The New York School of Art, Jess landed a teaching position at a private college in Arizona. It was in that desert land where he was first introduced to the lovely Pilar, and it wasn’t long before she lured him to Spain in the fall of 1996. “A new life. New language. New rules. The freak show begins.”
“She led him there to paint, and after suffering all the consequences from that choice he became a poor, but famed artist in that weird and beautifully complicated land.” No longer crashing art classes, Jess studied personally with Spanish artists Julian Gomez and Antonio Marquez in Cáceres, from 1997 until 1999. It was during this period when his unique style was fleshed out and he began “painting things as they should be, not as they are.” Level’s name quickly spread across Spain, along with his art, after being commissioned for several murals throughout the region. Tragedy struck in 2006 when 86 of Level’s pieces were stolen from his studio in Oviedo, Spain. Things got worse when after discovering the identity of the perpetrator, Level’s immigrant status rendered him helpless in the foreign courts and a long battle ensued. He left Spain in 2009, without his stolen work, “after many battles with both love and state. From consequences that fell together from choices made, and the loss of many paintings…”
About Row House Café:
Row House Café is a neighborhood euro-bistro in South Lake Union, whose focus is featuring all the arts – culinary, visual and performing. A nod to the 19th century salon. Originally built in 1904 as work force housing, the cottages were rehabilitated and converted into a neighborhood café that opened in September 2010. For more information on Row House Café, please visit http://www.rowhousecafe.com.