Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A Position on a Map

Yesterday, on January 21st, the doors of Galleria Patricia Armocida opened to the second in Milan solo show of Philadelphia-based self-taught artist Jim Houser

To tell the truth, I have not heard of Houser before, googling brought me to the artist's website that seems to be under construction, so I limited my research to Artsy page in addition to Galleria Patricia Armocida's invitation and pumped up with basic knowledge head to the show.  

By 8 pm, an hour after its official opening, the place was full and noisy. The artist who I have recognized thanks to a photo from his website, was leaning to the wall in the crowded room, looking a bit frustrated probably since he was not understanding the Italian people spoke around him. I managed to exchange only "hi" from a distance as an English speaking Italian involved him into a conversation and I decided to explore the space. 

I have noticed that his cartoon style fits well with the other artists previously shown in the gallery, Steve Powers and Parra whose few works were in the first room. 

Behind flat and brightly colored pieces, lays a story of Jim's own life. Houser picks certain autobiographical objects and repeatedly uses them in his paintings. This recurring meaning a lot to him, yet remains enigmatic to the viewers who just see fun and bright illustrations. So when after exploring the space I found myself next to Jim I decided to take a chance and learn more about these symbols. Below I present you "A BEGINNER'S GUIDE" to Jim Houser's paintings.

If you see birds or leaves, look at their shape with bigger attention: don't they remind you a part of an infinity sign? The full sign is made out of the heads of two birds or two leaves. Thus, any appearance of this shape should direct you to thinking about something infinite. The painting below probably represents Jim's infinite love to his family as he and his second wife has one child so far. 

Arrows we agreed is "up to the point" symbol. This painting, for example, depicting a constellation of arrows creating a circle is about arguments, some words Jim said, should or should not have said. 

I mistakenly thought of the candles as a sign of a romantic love, instead they are more for memories and sadness. 

Cowbow-style hat is a way of "making fun of ignorant American".

Jim has been always keeping journals, where he was making some drawings. From those old days come his fonts and a habit of inserting words almost to every painting. He was surrounded by painters since his friend and a flatmate Ben Woodward was studying fine arts and eventually became an artist himself. 

Old Life, New Life

In a book titled Babel: Jim Houser published few months after Houser's first wife tragic death in a car accident I have found these words in the afterword: "True love is out there. It can change you forever. It can help make the world a new beautiful place." Dec 13, 2004

Jim Houser, GNRS, 2013, Mixed media assemblage on wood panel, 121.9 × 121.9 cm. Source: Jonathan Levine Gallery

The painting above is a dedication to Houser's first wife, a painter herself, who has influenced him and his artistic style a lot (thanks to her he started painting back in 1996). As he confessed in the earlier mentioned book, to commemorate and cherish memories about her he decided to be just like her. He has told me that she liked to paint these shaped leaves, but since she passed away, the background is black. This element represent the Infinite love and infinite sadness from her loss. In his current works he is making a link with his old life and new one appreciating the past and happy for the present in which he is married the second time.

Now, the cartoon stories have obtained a whole new meaning to me and now I can even claim I have my own infinite love representation drawn by Jim Houser in edition of 2 on the gallery invitations made by Fontegrafica: 

If you are interested to see how Jim creates his pieces, check out the first video, the second is about his preparation to the exhibition titled Myself in Black Book Gallery: 

To check out all the photos from the event, please, visit my FB page

The exhibition is on until April 18, 2014. Check Galleria Patricia Armocida for more information.

No comments:

Post a Comment