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Installation Magazine Interview with Jonathan LeVine

The monolithic sculptures of Kumkum Fernando look to the future in their design language but pay homage to the past in their handmade construction and collaboration with Southeast Asian artisans.  The forms revel in their celebration of ritual as they are born from a labor intensive and secretive process that transforms robots into idols.

Kumkum’s sculptures are mixed media, however, the main material is wood. The blueprint for each piece is rendered into individual building blocks, which are subsequently hand-sanded and constructed. Color and silk screen designs are added to bring vibrancy and depth to the blocks. The pieces are then finished with a high-gloss lacquer by southeast Asian artisans. The lacquering process is quite secretive; Kumkum has been working with the artisans for years, but they have never completely revealed their techniques.

How does the philosophy of your gallery align with the vision of VOLTA?

Jonathan Levine Projects is committed to cutting edge art, which is something I’ve always found VOLTA to celebrate. I also appreciate how VOLTA, similar to my gallery, provides exhibition opportunities for emerging artists.

Is this your first year exhibiting with VOLTA?

This is the third time Jonathan LeVine Projects is exhibiting at VOLTA NY. Our first time was in 2011 with an exhibition of work by Jim Houser. We returned in 2014 with work by Pose. This is not our first time exhibiting at VOLTA NY, however, it’s exciting to return after eight years. I look forward to being back in New York and seeing many familiar faces.

In what ways are your exhibiting artists engaging with VOLTA’s messaging of “Connect,” “Collect,” and “Discover?”

Our booth is a solo presentation of work by Kumkum Fernando and his process is the epitome of VOLTA’s messaging – “Connect. Collect. Discover.” He was born in Sri Lanka and is the son of an antiques and curiosities collector. As far back as he can remember, Kumkum has been a collector as well: of stones, spoons, statues, masks, and other ancient marvels and treasures. From his home base in Vietnam, he scours the streets for found materials and uses them as a source of inspiration. By repurposing their aesthetic, he creates monolith sculptures that connect to the past, yet present fantastical visions of the future: mighty robots, flying contraptions and mystical beings. In addition, Kumkum is always discovering and playing with new techniques. For example, all of his paint colors are custom made, sometimes discovering over 70 unique colors before selecting the perfect hue.

The 2022 edition of VOLTA New York is particularly special because it celebrates the fair’s return to the city after an unprecedented season of change. The international restrictions of the pandemic were deeply felt and presented opportunities to develop new programming and methods of engagement that may never have been considered otherwise. In what ways has the programming of your gallery evolved? How did you maintain a connection with your collectors and artists? Will these changes remain a part of your gallery moving forward?

In 2019, Jonathan LeVine Projects transitioned from a brick-and-mortar gallery to a virtual exhibition platform. When the pandemic hit we were luckily already established as a digital space for exhibiting and selling fine art. Over the last two years we’ve refined our ability to recreate a gallery experience solely through virtual interactions. For example, we developed a website dedicated to Kumkum Fernando that includes images, videos and descriptions not only of his work, but of his entire artistic process from inspiration to final creation. The goal is for visitors of the site to develop a connection to the work by getting a first-hand look inside his practice, pulling back the curtain so to speak. This is something that will continue to be part of our programming moving forward. It will make our in-person exhibitions, like VOLTA NY, a sought after opportunity.

How did you determine which artists to exhibit at VOLTA?

I began working with Kumkum Fernando in early 2021 when we started planning his first solo exhibition at the gallery. Then the pandemic happened and everything went on pause. Choosing to exhibit his work at VOLTA NY was a no brainer because he had these amazing pieces that had waited years to be shown, in addition to new works.Also, following the success of his March 2022 online exhibition Temples, Gods and Robots, I had to take this opportunity for his work to be seen in-person by art enthusiasts and collectors from around the world.

What dialogue does the work of Kumkum Fernando engage in? How does it fit within the greater narrative of the other artists in your roster?

Kumkum’s sculptures are vibrant deities that evoke a unique spiritualism. They appear as toys from a distance, however, upon closer examination, they transform into idols. I find the narrative of transformation within sculpture to be something I’m drawn to. For example, I gave Haroshi his first solo show in New York City back in 2011 and exhibited his work many times after that. At first glance, his sculptures appear like everyday objects. Upon closer inspection it’s revealed that each piece is composed of layered skateboard decks. More recently, I’ve exhibited work by the New York based artist Ronald Gonzalez. His sculptures transform found objects into human busts in an attempt to capture the darker workings of the human soul. Both Haroshi and Gonzalez literally transform their materials to create something new. Kumkum transforms the aesthetics of his source of inspiration. The traditional objects that inspire him, such as window patterns from ancient temples, are given new life within his cosmic monoliths.

How do their choices of material reflect those themes?

Kumkum’s sculptures are mixed media, however, the main material is wood. The blueprint for each piece is rendered into individual building blocks, which are subsequently hand-sanded and constructed. Color and silk screen designs are added to bring vibrancy and depth to the blocks. The pieces are then finished with a high-gloss lacquer by southeast Asian artisans. The lacquering process is quite secretive; Kumkum has been working with the artisans for years, but they have never completely revealed their techniques. The creation of one piece is a very labor intensive process and each phase is like its own ritual. I think this ties back to the feeling of spiritualism his work evokes. It’s also a nod to the indigenous peoples who created his sources of inspiration – jewelry, rugs, ornate doors, etc. – all of which were made in a ceremonial manner.

What curatorial considerations were made in preparation for VOLTA?

Kumkum played a vital role in curating this booth. Everything from the size of the sculptures, the pedestal placement, down to the lighting is very intentional. We’re exhibiting ten sculptures, all of which are two to three feet tall, in a 200 square foot booth. At first I thought it was too much work for that small of a space. But then Kumkum showed me digital renderings of his intended design and they were impactful. The works unapologetically consume the booth, like a mini robot army preparing for battle.

What message do you hope to leave visitors with (both those who are experiencing the fair in person and our readers who are exploring the work remotely?)

I hope visitors are left knowing more about Kumkum Fernando and eager to see more from him. Aesthetically, his work is amazing and can stand on its own. But a deeper appreciation is revealed when you learn about his background and process as a true artisan.

Source: Installation Magazine

Hype Art – Kumkum Fernando Transports His Mystical Robots to VOLTA Art Fair

Frieze is not the only art fair kicking off in New York this week. Along with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Harlem and AIPAD’s The Photography ShowVOLTA opened doors to mark its 14th edition.

Founded in Basel back in 2005, VOLTA has grown from being a dialogue between art dealers and friends, to become an international event showcasing a range of upcoming galleries spanning an array of artistic disciplines.

Located at booth 204, Jonathan LeVine Projects presents the fantastical sculptures of Kumkum Fernando. Largely inspired by the objects he’s collected in his travels, the Sri Lankan artist references everything from ancient temples in South Asia, along with jewelry, rugs and masks that are given new life as cosmic monoliths. Part action figure, part mythic relic, the sculptures on view are part of a new body of work that is based on the artist’s personal memories and made from Vietnamese lacquering techniques on wood.

 

Source: Hype Art

VOLTA New York Recap

VOLTA New York returned to NYC from May 18th through 22nd featuring galleries from around the world.  The fair took over the former Dia Building and Hauser & Wirth gallery space on West 22nd Street with the mantra Discover – Connect – Collect.  This focused approach resulted in compelling visual statements by up-and-coming and established artists, creating a vibrant and approachable environment of discovery for the engaged collector.

Our booth featured a solo presentation of new work by Vietnam-based artist Kumkum Fernando.  Following the success of his online exhibition Temples, Gods and Robots, fair goers had the opportunity to finally see his sculptures in person.

In addition to sculptures, our booth featured six limited edition prints on wood and the first 50 visitors received a giveaway of a limited-run posters.

Click here to view all the pieces exhibited at VOLTA New York.  Continue reading to view installation images of our booth and feel free to email us regarding availability of work by Kumkum Fernando.  There are still beautiful pieces still available!

 

No Bone – Documentary Film by March Schiller

ReelAbilities Film Festival Presents:

No Bone: Scars of Survival
Documentary Film by Marc Schiller, Founder of Wooster Collective

If you’re a fan of street art, you have Marc Schiller to thank for being a pioneer of making it a mainstream genre.  We’re excited to announce his documentary film, No Bone: Scars of Survival, is making its NYC debut next week at the ReelAbilities Film Festival.

In 2001, after witnessing the rise of ephemeral art on the streets of New York City, Marc and his wife, Sara Schiller, founded Wooster Collective to document the ever-changing face of their downtown Manhattan neighborhood. In 2003, they started the website woostercollective.com out of a genuine desire to share these images with the world. Their site was ahead of its time and is a voluminous archive you can still search today.

In 2006, Wooster Collective organized 11 Spring, one of the most significant exhibitions of street art at an abandoned building in downtown New York. The exhibition was chosen by the The New York Times as one of the top art exhibitions of the year.

In 2013, Jonathan LeVine Gallery exhibited 10 Years of Wooster Collective, a group exhibition curated by the Schiller’s that celebrated urban art and the diversity of creativity that exploded internationally during the first decade of the 21st century.

Two years after the Wooster Collective exhibition, Marc Schiller’s life drastically changed when two major strokes left with him with aphasia and cognitive deficits. From day one in the intensive care unit, his family and Marc himself, have been documenting his arduous recovery. No Bone: Scars of Survival is the culmination of Marc’s chronicles of his battle towards recovery, as well as interviews with close friends, family, and colleagues.

No Bone: Scars of Survival is available to stream through April 13th through the ReelAbilities Film Festival. Click here to purchase and here to watch the trailer.

The Artistic Process of Kumkum Fernando

The response to Temples, Gods and Robots by Kumkum Fernando has been overwhelming and we appreciate all your amazing feedback.

As we reach the midway mark of the exhibition, we wanted to highlight the exhibition website just in case you’ve missed it.  Not only does the site include images and videos of the artwork, but it delves into Fernando’s process, which is a labor-intensive undertaking he describes as the Reborn universe.  From the initial line drawing, to cutting wood block components, to creating custom paint colors, to high gloss lacquering by Southeast Asian artisans, it takes months to produce one sculpture.

Follow this link to step inside the Reborn universe and learn about each step in Fernando’s artistic process.

Kumkum Fernando in HypeArt

Kumkum Fernando Turns Found Materials Into Mystical Sculptures

Check his latest online exhibition, “Temples, Gods and Robots.”

Kumkum Fernando is a Sri Lanka-born, Vietnam-based artist with a penchant for breathing life back into found objects. Using quite possibly anything he discovers in the open, the Design by Reborn founder is set to showcase a new online solo exhibition of work at Jonathan LeVine Projects in New Jersey.

“Temples, Gods and Robots” feature nine new intergalactic sculptures that draw reference to designs from Asian tribes and minorities — from jewelry, rugs and masks, to ornate doors. These traditional objects, such as window patterns from ancient temples found in Tibet and Southeast Asia, are transformed and given new life as cosmic monoliths. The characters that emerge are equal parts action figures and idols and are lovingly created with exceptional craftsmanship.

The series is part of Fernando’s ongoing project, Reborn, which re-imagines found materials into contemporary art objects. Each sculpture takes months to construct — from early illustrations which are then rendered into individual building blocks, to a labor-intensive sanding process, followed by silk-screen designs that are added to bring vibrancy and finished with high-gloss lacquer, using traditional Vietnamese techniques.

Fernando also injects a bit of storytelling by adding a lyrical tale to each limited-edition sculpture. “Temples, Gods and Robots” will be virtually on view at Jonathan LeVine Projects from February 16 to March 20, 2022.

Source: HypeArt

 

Essay by Mark Doox

The N-word of God: Envisioning the image of Christ

In the New Testament’s Letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood” — or race? — “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Could these things that Paul opposes be ideas and systems of human oppression that deny the knowledge of a God of justice and love?

Read the article here

DYLAN EGON IN WHITE HOT MAGAZINE

Dylan Egon’s Great American Dream Machine

Family Portrait, 2019

 

By JAMES SALOMON November, 2019

“How the fuck did I wind up in New Jersey?”

It’s a question that I ask myself every now and then. And I can explain, with confidence, some other time.  But as I’ve been pondering this since my recent visit to the NJDMV, I may as well get it out in the open. Let me continue by saying that I have no intention to offend anyone, and I am very happy where I live. But as I tell my wife, Jersey City will not be my final resting place.

Until then, here I am.

And honestly, it’s pretty great here. You just have to get over the stigma of saying “Jersey City”, because, frankly, it doesn’t sound as sexy as “Brooklyn” as a Manhattan alternative (though I’ve dubbed it Brooklyn West, the way it’s been blowing up).

“I liked it better when it had the stigma. Unfortunately it doesn’t anymore,” says my friend Dylan Egon, street artist extraordinaire, amongst other things. If you don’t know Dylan, chances are you’ve seen his larger than life images wheat pasted along the streets of Downtown Jersey City and Lower Manhattan. His graphic imagery is impossible to miss. His abode, an 1870s engine house, is 200 yards from my place by crow, I just have to cross Van Vorst Park to borrow a vice grip, have a beer, or snoop in on what he’s up to.

There’s a lot to see in this Bat Cave. It’s hard to know where to begin, but I can mention that Asian enthusiasts of Americana have traveled the globe to document his belongings. Dylan surrounds himself with enough pop cultural relics to make your head spin. For example, he has an impressive professional motorcycle jacket and helmet collection, worn by the likes of Jay Springsteen, Dave Aldana, Jim Rice, the list goes on and on. I have no idea who these people are but somehow I’m convinced. Can’t have jackets and helmets without the actual bikes, right? There’s a Ducati “Neo” Crotch Rocket (same model used in The Matrix), a 1982 Husquavarna, a 1970 Triumph Bonneville, a 1950s Dick Mann BSA in the kitchen. I could go on and on all day about the eclectic artifacts that nest within his walls. “Where does he get all those wonderful toys?” as the Joker would say.

Scattered among them are Dylan’s own artworks, bearing images of racehorses, assault rifles, Mickey Mouse, Pegasus, The Virgin Mary, and the lot. Why do I rattle off all of these belongings and symbols? Because they give some insight into the curious mind behind the works that will be on exhibit on Allen Street later this month. It’s a Jonathan LeVine popup project; they needed a storefront they could fit a 1929 Ford Model A into.  Jonathan—a pioneer in developing the Street Art market—is another character. He has a tattoo of Trenton Bridge across his back that says “Trenton Makes, The World Takes”. The boys will be offering up plenty of Egon merch: hats, tee shirts, stickers, patches, blankets, Billykirk collaboration bags, booze, and other stuff readily available for mass consumption. The artworks: paintings, assemblages, prints, and objects, all of which comprise Dylan’s Great American Dream Machine—a commentary on our current value system and consumerist appetite in this One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All.

The exhibition will be in New York City’s Lower East Side at 198 Allen Street, with an opening reception on Thursday 21 November, 7-11pm, and lasting through Sunday the 24th. Four days only, so get over there if curious. You may not even have to pay a toll. WM

Mickey Target, 2014, Chez Momo, Jersey City
American Ark, 2016, Monmouth & 13th, Jersey City
Sony Mathilda, 2019. Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park.
Quanah,  2011, Bowery, NYC
Butter Knife, 2013, Montgomery & Grove, Jersey City
A New Religion, 2014., Crosby & Grand, NYC.
Egon Engine House with 1929 Ford Model A.
Igni Ferroque, 2014, in Egon Studio
Dick Mann’s 1959 BSA flat track racing bike with Edward Samuels painting.
Pegasus Target, 2014
Finis Temporis, 2012
Totem, (in progress).

 

Wheel of  Fate, 2007
The artist with Saint America

Artifacts

Jonathan LeVine visits Shag on the hunt for mid century cool, desert modernism, punk legends, Hollywood graveyard parties, secret tiki lairs, and the ultimate 1934 zombie! This is the trailer for a television show Jonathan created with his collaborators Mike Hatchet and Steve Barilotti. They’re on the hunt for a network to pick it up. Do you know someone? We’d love to hear from you.

HeliumTalk Episode 6 with Jonathan LeVine

The sixth installment of the podcast with Alex Diamond is out today. More frank conversations about the art world. For this new episode, they decided to focus on one topic, and keep it short and sweet. They speak about the pricing of artwork because that is a question that comes up very often.

Tune in and take a listen!

http://www.heliumtalk.com⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
iTunes / Apple Podcast
Spotify
https://heliumtalk.podigee.io/52-jonathan-levine-6