Joie de vivre
Zeit Contemporary Art is pleased to present Joie de vivre, an online viewing room that brings together work by modern, post-war and contemporary artists who, in times of crisis, have found visual means to enlighten and transform people’s lives with strength and optimism.
Joie de vivre gathers works whose uplifting compositions capture dynamic forms and figures set in spaces of possibility. These works do not proceed by limitation or elimination to actualize themselves, but rather they repeat, combine, pile up, douse, duplicate, interlock, extend and propel lines, stripes, patterns, forms and figures. These works in conversation, at the intersection of abstraction and figuration, composed from the 1960s through the present, are bound with ardor, intimacy, sensuous modes, and a predominantly warm primary palette.
The title Joie de vivre is drawn from the philosophical concept of Elan Vital (vital impulse), a term coined by French philosopher Henri Bergson to designate the creative tendency of life, which develops through intuition and generates the evolution of beings. In Creative Evolution, Bergson states that when the vital impulse is sublimated, it can spark creative progressions that are at the origin of great creations, spiritual, moral, and mystic.
Joie de vivre gathers these works together, united by the concept herein, to ask the question of how can we as a culture aspire to joy, to rise to be the best of ourselves, when we are so bereft of these qualities in the midst of this current moment. To think about joy right now is to acknowledge our current situation. In the depths of despair, considering joy is a way to find our way back to ourselves and to each other, to honor life.
“What we want is to make something that fills utterly the sight and can’t be used to make life only bearable.”
“Making art, good art, is always a struggle. It can make you happy when you pull it off. There’s no better feeling. It’s beauteous. But it’s always about hard work and inspiration and sweat and good ideas.”
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Your Beauty, 2015
Your Feel, 2015
“I’m grateful and awed by people’s willingness to reveal something of themselves, both physically and psychically, in the process of making photos together. Celebratory expressions of queer desire, history, and care are acts of joy that I try to capture in my work.”
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Jordan Dancing, 2020
Jordan Kneeling on Chair, 2020
Alexander Calder is widely known for his innovative approach to kinetic sculpture. His invention of the Mobile and Stabile radically shifted the medium of sculpture by removing the plinth, bringing movement to the form by allowing polychromatic light elements to swirl and catch the air or hang in perfect balance from wires.
Dolmens, 1971 is an exemplary gouache that transcribes Calder’s sculptural vocabulary of flat geometric forms painted in black, white, or bright primary colors. Gouache allowed Calder to work more immediately than large scale sculpture and offered him the possibility to explore certain aspects of his work while depicting more earthly subjects.
The title, Dolmens, alludes itself to a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, which dates from the early Neolithic, where large prehistoric stones were erected vertically to form a monument.
“There is joy in the quotidian―those everyday objects that occupy our hours, accompany our routines and become worn through our touch―clothing, tools, maps, newspapers. I am drawn to the personal and political histories these objects may come to tell through years of use. I find joy in an object’s potential to continue generating new meaning, whether that comes through archiving, studying, or most radically, repurposing it.”
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paper (blue), 2018
paper (red), 2018-19
American Indian Theme VI, 1980
Roy Lichtenstein was one of the most influential Post-war artists of the twentieth century, helping to originate the Pop Art movement. His unique imagery based on comic strips and advertisements bursts with a distinct palette of bold primary colors of reds, yellows and blues.
In the late 1950s Lichtenstein started exploring the root of American Mythology, but it wasn’t until 1970, when he and his wife moved to Southampton, NY, residing near a Shinnecock Indian reservation that his “Amerindian” Pop-style works from 1979-1981 emerged. This series combines Lichtenstein’s Cubist abstractions with Native American imagery drawn from American popular iconography.
American Indian Theme VI from 1980 is an exceptional piece that combines Lichtenstein’s signature style with Native American motifs and traditional symbols into a stunningly vibrant composition.
“When it is working, you completely go into another place, you’re tapping into things that are totally universal, completely beyond your ego and your own self. That’s what it’s all about.” (Keith Haring)
Keith Haring was a Neo-Pop and Graffiti artist whose prolific career centered on a vision to unite “high art,” urban aesthetics, and public spaces using humorous, irreverent, and moving works.
“Growing” by Keith Haring is a stunning and elevated example of Haring’s legacy of a seemingly universal visual language. This piece was produced in 1988, the year Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. The figure appears in flux and unstable, while seeming to oppose this state with a complex lightness.
White Impatiens, 2016
Yellow Flags, 2013
Untitled (Sleeping Striped Cat and Golden-Backed Woodpecker), 2018
Iman Raad’s work Untitled (Sleeping Striped Cat and Golden-Backed Woodpecker) 2018, presents an antipodal combination of beauty and disquiet. This work, inspired by Persian painting and traditional ornamental elements, stages a serenic and unsettling scene of disturbance. Through meticulous repetition, a technique drawn from the digital realm, Raad disrupts the peace conferred by the cat’s figure with a militaristic line of birds, implying the attendant carnage of conflict. The painting reverberates with a rendered hint of psychedelia, as if a frozen dimension of time has captured and displays degrees of motion, the momentary between history’s moments, the fragility of joy.
“What counts in a work of art is not what intellectuals want to discover, but the fact that it includes, in its ascending movement, the lived life, the truth about being human; the plastic findings do not have any importance in themselves.”