Prior to October of last year, we had never even heard the name Serge Gay Jr. Since then, we’ve conducted/published an interview (March ’11) with the artist here on the site and I’ve personally purchased 2 of his works (an original piece and a giclee print). The last year has shown itself to be quite successful for Gay, finding him earning a Grammy nomination -shared with director/frequent collaborator, Matt Stawski– for his work on Cee Lo Green‘s “Fuck You” video. As the Bay Area gallery/publishing house, Spoke Art was launching themselves into the art world with their breakthrough Wes Anderson-themed art show, Bad Dads, Serge was catching our attention with his standout contributions to that exhibit. Since then, Gay and Spoke Art have proven to be mutually beneficial to each others success, as the San Francisco-based painter has continued to submit impressive piece after impressive piece to such Spoke Art events as the multiple round (NYC, SF, LA) “Quentin vs. Coen – An art show tribute to the films of Tarantino and the Brothers,” the Pangaea Seed-curated shark exhibit/benefit “Sink Or Swim,” and “Bad Dads II.” This Saturday, the two of them will work together yet again; this time with Serge Gay Jr‘s work finally taking center stage in a solo exhibit of his own.
Not unlike the Haitian-born artist that paints them, Serge‘s work is multifaceted. His strokes seem as carefree and fluid as flowing water, but the imagery is still incredibly bold an defined. There are clearly political elements and the pieces can be fueled with plenty of social commentary, but, miraculously enough, they never feel heavy handed. Some of the figures possess comic-like characteristics while, simultaneously, displaying a remarkable realism. The subjects pronounce themselves, breaking outward from their framework and accentuating the depth that unfolds in the background. Transparent ghostlike figures, objects, and text provide narration, breathing life and spirit into the work, providing interplay for the more solid and static figures and objects within it. The compositions are undoubtedly engaging, but they still retain a high level of ambiguity in their interpretation. There is nothing flat about the worlds created in Serge‘s paintings. They possess a cinematic quality in relation to the way that they operate within time. Sometimes it’s a CSI freeze frame and the aftermath of a grimy hotel room. Maybe it’s a slowly stirring clutter of figures. Other times, it’s an airy surrealistic landscape that’s more cotton candy than concrete. Their motion can be both stone and erosion… dust and wind. The figures don’t always move at the same rate or even seem to appear on the same plain, toying with depth and compartmentalization like a diorama.
The subject matter is extremely personal, but maintains a universality. This is most likely due to the many different defining aspects of Gay Jr‘s personality, as well as in spite of them. He paints imagery relating to his birthplace in Haiti, as well as architecture and life that is clearly influenced by his current home in San Francisco. Gender identity, racial identity, global destruction, personal morality… all of these things are addressed, but they don’t seem to create a conflict with Serge as an artist or seem out of place when grouped together in one singular presentation. As a young artist, he has already managed to avoid the pitfalls that can be faced by the many who choose to limit and define themselves by any one of these particular subjects alone. Serge is a black artist, who isn’t afraid to address some Afro-centric subject matter, but he’s more than that. He’s more than a civil rights activist or a San Franciscan, a Haitian, a music enthusiast, a painter… any of those things. He’s a human being, who’s aware of each of the components that make him a 3-dimensional personality and that’s why his imagery becomes so emotionally soluble. Whether you’re a black artist, or an Asian artist, a gay artist, a female, an environmentalist, or a political activist, it doesn’t matter, because if you continue to define yourself or your art by nothing else beyond that one singular aspect, while never broadening the interpretation of that experience, but expecting others to view you or your subject matter as something more than that, it’s unlikely that you or your art will ever present itself as anything more than the stale one-dimensional caricature that you’re trying to avoid. Serge‘s solo exhibit -titled “Absolute Happiness“- is a great opportunity to finally catch a larger collection of the artists work in one place and to obtain a more well-rounded idea about his voice, what he’s capable of, and why he’s an artist worth watching as he develops throughout the future.
Here’s what Serge Gay Jr. told us, regarding the theme behind Absolute Happiness:
“The theme of the show is called “Absolute Happiness” because I wanted to showcase what the meaning of happiness is to me in all it’s different juxtapositions and trying to search for true happiness. Some people often define happiness as “living a good life” but to me it’s simply defined as an emotion as well as the little things in life when you can’t have it all. Not everyone is born with concept of “mental state of well-being”, but I’ve learned we can learn how to bring more meaning and satisfaction into our lives with what we have, to bring joy. For those, there are no absolute, and for some, it’s a never-ending quest. So I wanted to create a series that invites viewers through my eyes on this quest and most private journey ride to my very surreal, dream-like mind. Similar to a diary, my Art does tell a story of my everyday life of experiencing if it deals with tragic, love, lost, views, politics, travels, friendship, and happiness. As I create this surrealist expression movement that opens philosophical minds and understand my own social theories, I welcome viewers to see a world that I found out to be very unreal in all its complexities. In the end, you still have to go back to the root of it all and find what makes you happy.“
The opening reception for Absolute Happines” will take place at the Spoke Art gallery in SF from 6pm-11pm and will run until the end of the year. Beyond the obvious reasons to attend the art opening in person, we’ve recently received the following information which pertains to an added benefit…
Opening Night Raffle
As an added bonus for attendees at this Saturday night’s opening, Serge Gay Jr. has generously decided to give away the above-featured painting, “Aperitif” during the night.
Spoke Art will be hosting a raffle for the original work, tickets will be $5 each, and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the non-profit organization, Hand in Hand for Haiti. A small selection of signed and numbered prints will also be given away to raffle ticket donors.
More info on the organization here:
ADMISSION IS FREE!
Here’s the lowdown…
“Absolute Happiness”: Solo Show by Serge Gay Jr.
Saturday December 3th: 6pm – 10pm
*Show on view until December 31st*
816 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
The following is a small selection of advanced images from the upcoming exhibit.