AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO BOHEMIAN PARIS

Dominican Artist Jaime Colson- Self-Portrait- Matthews Gallery Blog

Jaime Colson (1901-1975) was a teenager when he left his homeland of the Dominican Republic to study art in Spain. The talented young painter landed smack in the middle of the Spanish avant-garde, rubbing elbows with Salvador Dali and befriending Rafael Barradas and other artists. Colson lived there for six years and developed a surrealist style. His next move was to perhaps the only place that could be stranger than España surrealisto: 1920’s bohemian Paris.

Colson arrived in the City of Lights in 1924, at the height of Gertrude Stein‘s reign as a powerful salonnière and premiere champion of modernism. In Paris, Colson met Picasso and Braque, Juan Gris and Fernand Leger. He soaked up modernist innovations—and quite a lot of absinthe—like a sponge. Four years later, as a full-fledged Parisian, Colson painted the latest addition to our collection:

Jaime Colson- Cubist Still Life- Matthews Gallery Blog

 

Colson’s Cubist Still Life offers an essential review of the original vie bohème, a painted guide to the colorful, booze-soaked existence of the Lost Generation. Its skewed lines and wild patterns capture all the dynamism of a moveable feast, and the pall of the “green fairy” hangs over its heart. Without further ado, here are seven details that set the roaring scene…

Jaime Colson- Detail of Cubist Still Life- Matthews Gallery Blog

Colson painted Cubist Still Life in 1928, the same year Rene Magritte made his famous Ceci n’est pas une pipeThe pipe that appears near the center of the composition is at once an homage to Magritte’s French surrealism and a nod to Colson’s Spanish surrealist past.

Jaime Colson- Cubist Still Life Details- Matthews Gallery Blog

Pernod Fils was the reigning brand of absinthe in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The anise-flavored, bright green spirit was formulated in Switzerland, and its distillery in Pontarlier, France churned out as much as 30,000 liters of absinthe per day. Knock-offs abounded (Pernot, Perriot and Parrot among them), some of which contained toxic substances and were cheap enough to appeal to many a town drunk. In 1910, the French consumed 36 million liters of absinthe in a year, but by 1915 the drink had been demonized and banned.

After World War I, Pernod Fils introduced a new, lower-proof liqueur d’anise, which is the drink Colson would’ve encountered during his Paris years. However, the famous absinthe pictures by Picasso, Lautrec, van Gogh and the like hail from the golden age of the beverage, before the ban. Perhaps the ghostly bottle of Pernod Fils and the empty glass below it are Colson’s tribute to a madcap age that his contemporaries remembered with longing.

Jaime Colson- Cubist Still Life Details- Matthews Gallery Blog

A cubistic guitar and a trompe-l’œil glimpse at the French newspaper Le Journal refer to modernist art forms Colson was exposed to in Paris. In 1912, Picasso began experimenting with collage, incorporating scraps of fabric and other materials into his oil paintings. Picasso’s Still Life with Chair-Caning, one of the first fine art collages ever made, is on an oval canvas and features a scrap of furniture material. Picasso’s close collaborator Braque soon followed suite, using glue to attach wood-grain papers to his cubist canvases. Colson replicates similar patterns and textures using oil paint in Cubist Still Life.

In late 1912, Picasso made artworks using clippings from Le Journaland also created three dimensional collages called art assemblages, including a cardboard guitar. These are Colson’s strongest references to his modernist contemporaries in the painting, directly addressing Picasso’s tendency to weave real-world events into his works and distort objects in groundbreaking ways.

Colson lived in Paris until 1934. After a short stint in Cuba and another stay in Europe, he returned to the Dominican Republic with a head full of revolutionary ideas. He began blending his European influences with Dominican subject matter, creating images of the rich central American culture the likes of which had never been seen before. Along with Yoryi Morel and Dario Suro, Colson is known as one of the founders of the modernist school of Dominican painting, and is considered one of the great Latin American masters of the 20th century.

Learn more about Jaime Colson on our homepage, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for daily gallery news.

 

 

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ACID JAZZ AND WABI-SABI: Michelle Y Williams

Artist Michelle Y Williams- Matthews Gallery- Santa Fe, New Mexico
Michelle Y Williams

Being “cloistered in” may be key to Michelle Y Williams’ process, but that doesn’t mean she’s a recluse. Solitude is what the Houston, Texas artist needs to focus her mind and  tune in to her subconscious. Her mixed media works are equally inspired by measured decisions and the pure emptiness of the blank surfaces before her. They’re conglomerations of the figurative and the abstract, and boast a subdued palette that echoes the artist’s fascination with rust, crumbling concrete and peeling paint.

When Williams isn’t in her studio, she’s not afraid to step into the spotlight. In September she’ll be featured in Luxe Magazine, and last week she granted an interview to the Matthews Gallery. Michelle told us about everything from her many materials to the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi, a worldview that has taught her to accept her flaws and create with abandon. Here’s what she had to say:

Michelle Y Williams- Petit 28- Matthews Gallery
Petit 28, Michelle Y Williams

You write in your artist statement, “Inspiration for my work is both selective and completely random.” Is the same true for your choice of materials for a particular piece? How do you select a medium? 

The primary medium in my work is acrylic (very quickly after I began as a painter using oils, I realized I have an aversion to cleaning brushes). Pigmented inks have also proven to be an often used medium for me (applied with a dropper, then floated across the canvas using my palette knife).

The choice for other materials, indeed, comes more randomly. Whether I incorporate sand or oil bar or even attaching a piece of torched metal with wax string to the canvas happens naturally & intuitively as the work progresses.

You also talk about a “relationship that develops” between you and your work. Does this change your notion of when a work is completed? Is it sad to say goodbye?  

I suppose it’s more of a short-term relationship…shall we call it a fling.  I invest energy into a piece which is then reciprocated upon completion, but the real gratification comes when someone has made a connection with my work, which couldn’t happen unless I surrendered it readily.

Michelle Y Williams- Cut 12-532- Matthews Gallery
Cut 12-532, Michelle Y Williams

You prefer to work in solitude. What are some other important parts of your process? Do you listen to music? Do you work on multiple pieces at a time, or just one?

My preference for sequestration is actually paramount – in order to maintain the integrity and authenticity of my work, I eliminate most outside influences that could dull my own creative process. Diverse genres of music can be heard in my studio – from acid jazz to classic rock to classical – while I move between several pieces in various stages of completion.

You mention the importance of seeking a balance in your work. How does that connect with the tenets of wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic that embraces the transient self?

Rather than trying to exert control over a painting, my pursuit of aesthetic balance, (while maintaining my penchant for asymmetry), transpires more instinctively. The absence of obsessing over that quest for balance and the capacity to “let go”, relates to the principles of wabi-sabi.

Michelle Y Williams- Petit 18- Matthews Gallery
Petit 18, Michelle Y Williams

I found this part of your bio particularly beautiful: “In a stain, we find understanding; in a dent, our ability to heal; in a blemish, an unchained beauty.” Embracing your flaws can be a difficult process. How does your work help you do this? 

Quite simply, the alternative to embracing flaws requires far too much negative energy. For me, perfection is boring and I truly find immense beauty in flaws – chips & cracks in tea bowls used in Japanese tea ceremonies or uncut & unpolished rough just-mined diamonds – these things excite and inspire me.

I hear you’re quite the humanitarian. What projects are you involved with? 

I am an “equal opportunity donator”, giving my work with abandon to many different charitable organizations throughout the year.

Click here to see more of Michelle’s art, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for updates on her latest work.