For once this article is in english. I'll make a french version available later this week.
//Pour une fois, j'ose poster un article en anglais. J'en posterais une version française plus tard dans la semaine. EDIT:: Done
As an art lover and enthusiast, there are a few book opportunities you know you don’t want to miss. Ever. Moebius doing his last big retrospective at the Fondation Cartier was one of them. Same goes for a book with a compendium of Vania Zouravliov’s work or James Jean editing a new Process Recess. And it doesn’t matter how much those cost, because A/ the book will sell out so fast it’ll make your head spin and B/ If you witness it showing its head back the sunlight again, you’ll wish it won’t cost 10 times as much as when you could buy it -unfortunately, it most certainly will-.
But first and foremost, you’ll regret too often not being able to gaze into that great and chilling art that made you want to buy it in the first place,. And learn from it.
So when I heard the marvelous Jeremy Mann’s Volume One book was in the works, I didn’t even want to think about hesitating.
I mean, there are artists that are good. Some other that are really astounding. And then, there are artists you don’t need to know anything about art to enjoy. Because their work speaks volumes to your very core. Jeremy Mann’s work is of that cloth. It has the ability to amaze. Watching the paintings, you see the work, the obvious strokes of paint. But the genius is, here, the process doesn’t take anything away from the final piece. Au contraire, it gives you that precise edge between what’s real and what’s fantasy. That precise frontier between present enjoyment and fading nostalgia. Like you just remember the details without being able to remember the full picture clearly. This is what Jeremy Mann does to you soul.
With a staggering 384 pages, this book embraces the first seven years of the artist’s body of work, spawning on a ten year exhibit run from a first group exhibition in 2005 (« 50/50 show » at the 1300 Gallery in Cleveland Ohio) to his latest « Solo Exhibition » this July at the Pence Gallery in San Francisco, where he is a resident artist.
Showcasing the wonderful oil paintings or the artist in crisp and precise detail, this book is a phantasm come true. I’ve only dreamt of witnessing this art in person, living so far outside the US and all, but this book gives us the next best thing. After intros from John Pence and Justin ‘Coro’ Kaufman, The show starts.
Being a living soul of San Francisco and travelling all over, Jeremy Mann draws what he sees everyday, and boy do those cities and landscapes look like perfect theaters for any kind of story. Drama, Romance, Film Noir, you name it. And what a perfect great act to set the score. In the first 150 pages, Jeremy Mann lets us roam through the gravity of those wet, foggy, mostly nocturne or dusky moods. It’s crowded without faces, agitated but from afar, saturated with cars but without that suffocation feeling streets. Because the empty spaces always give you a full breath of that fresh after-the-rain atmosphere. That morning dew without a drop in sight. That stroke of gentle heat before nightfall, where the subtle magic hour seems to last forever (and here, it will). You can FEEL that space and dive in. You’re there. You feel that pause, like you have all the time in the world. With that eye level point of view from the street or from a window, you’re offered that experience of living through the artists’ eye. And wouldn’t you just want to stay there...
Same goes with his female portraits. But that’s wrong. Portraits doesn’t feel like an appropriate term for the next 142 pages. Impressions doesn’t cut it either, by a long shot. Snaps wouldn’t be true either, even if we are offered two pages of Polaroids that give us a glimpse of the magic that went on between the models and the artist.
Again, I’m not an art critic. Or should I say, I’m not a scholar or a professional one. Maybe my definition of the word is wrong and it fits spot on with what's going on there. Me, I just know what I like and know what I feel. And, as I’m sure I’m not the only one, I feel the focus of Mann's POV. Of course because the portraits -I really have a problem with that word here because it feels like so much more- really are explicit in what they want to convey. We’ve all heard that saying stating the eyes as being windows to the soul. And I’ve personally always thought it to be the only way you can know who you have in front of you -I’ve once even been told that’s one of my characteristics, staring people straight into the eyes-.
Jeremy Mann paintings seem to emphasize that very same law. The soul of his models are where they look. Whether it be down, straight or away, you feel you have in front of you someone that is baring her very being, shy but never shameful. Proud but filled with doubt, often at the crossroad of the path taken and the one dreamt or passed. The often blue and white almost monochromatic bias underline that snapshot feel into the soul, that gone forever breath that seemed to last eternally, that moment you’ll always go back to in your mind. Of course, the models being beautiful helps. But they’re beautiful because they feel real. As if you’re meeting someone, escaping from the after-party of a metal concert taking place in a gothic house or a rock themed wedding in a Victorian home. And here she is, away from it all in that special place, pondering on what’s happening and wanting to take a pause. This is just before the magic happens, and isn't it the most beautiful part of it…
As I said before, I mainly knew Jeremy Mann’s work from his Cityscapes and his female Portraits, so I quite enjoyed the last two parts of the book.
In 'Still Life', we seem to dive this time not into what the artist gives us, but in what he feels. Even if most of this chapter is composed of studies, a few of those paintings divulge a part of his preferences in subjects and interests. I especially find ‘Kitten’ -where we see a cat skull nailed into a brick wall- or ‘The rabbit foot series’ compelling but I’ll refrain from any type of conclusion as to what it means -or should mean- to anyone. I'll just say it speaks volume to my core and I like it.
Last but not least, ‘Compositions’ give us another side of the Cityscapes story. Being monochromatic, those pieces are really quite different from the ones in the first part of the book, in the way they seem more unidimensional. They feel like beautiful old snapshots. majestic colossus you could find in the attic of a recently deceased millionaire, vibrant memories of a Citizen Kane.
I wanted to do that review before reading the 4 pages of Jeremy Mann’s statement at the end of that MASSIVE book because that’s a conversation that I want to keep to myself, and I didn’t want it to influence what his work meant to me and the reasons I bought this art piece. But that statement is there for everybody to enjoy, putting that wondrous masterpiece to a close.
There it is, a little modest review and tribute to a majestic book and to an artist that’s a gift to this earth. I hope you enjoyed it and will give a thought in buying this masterpiece before it’s gone, if not want to buy one of the original pieces of art them selves.
MANN VOLUME 1 is on sale on the 827INK website. As you’ve guessed, it’s well worth the 95$ it costs, even if you add shipping (weights 9 Lbs/ 4,5 Kgs, cost me 60$ more to have it shipped to France and i don’t regret one cent of it. Dimensions are 12,2 x 12,6 x 1,6 inches / 31.5 x 32 x 4 cm).
For more, you can have a look at Jeremy Mann’s Website or go to his page on the John Pence Gallery Website, browse art and see what pieces are still available for sale.
On a final note, please be aware that Jeremy Mann is the subject of a 40 minutes documentary by the talented filmmaker Loic Zimmermann.
The film is called A Solitary Mann and was premiered last week on July 23rd at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
If like me you're sad you couldn't make it, take solace in the fact that an online released is scheduled for this December.
In the meanwhile, you can feast your eyes the trailer down below.
A journey into the world of Oakland based painter Jeremy MANN.