James Jarvis Presents Latest Collages at 3110NZ
By Sophie Arni
Published on October 22, 2020
James Jarvis (b. 1970, London), a famed artist and illustrator, is presenting his latest works at 3110NZ by LDH Kitchen, a newly-opened gallery and restaurant space operated by Nanzuka Gallery, Tokyo. Jarvis also held a concurrent show at 2G, a gallery-store operated by NANZUKA at Shibuya Parco.
Nanzuka is one of Tokyo’s foremost contemporary art galleries. Founded by Shinji Nanzuka in 2005, the gallery has focused on representing post-war artists who were left out of the Japanese art historical discourse. Today, it represents some of the most internationally-coveted Japanese artists including illustrator Toshio Saeki and Hajime Sorayama. In the last two years alone, Nanzuka’s exhibition line-up seemed to mirror the global fashion industry lust over contemporary art-fashion collaborations. In the same year, both Sorayama and Daniel Arsham — who Nanzuka represents in Japan — had solo exhibitions at the gallery and collaborated with Dior Mens under Kim Jones’ creative vision. The Pre-Fall 2019 Dior menswear fashion show opened in Tokyo with under the watch of a giant Sorayama metal sculpture, and I suspect Nanzuka was a key facilitator of that collaboration.
After years in a basement gallery tucked away in the rare quiet zones of Shibuya, Nanzuka expanded their spaces. In November 2019, the gallery joined the ranks of the busy Shibuya shopping district with a space in the new Shibuya Parco department store. With the opening of 2G, NANZUKA has again tapped into the fashion-meets-contemporary art arena and expanded its access to visitors of a trendy shopping mall. At 2G, “you’ll encounter new essentials” reads its Instagram bio. The gallery/store functions as an alternate gallery space for Nanzuka, while selling art toys by MEDICOM TOY and apparel from P-ROOM THE WORLD by POGGY. From limited editions sneakers to collectible figurines, and countless other coveted artist-collaboration items, Nanzuka is at the forefront of the innovative gallery business model: diversify, collaborate, democratize.
Nanzuka is at the forefront of the innovative gallery business model: diversify, collaborate, democratize.
In July 2020, Nanzuka opened another alternative gallery and sushi restaurant called 3110NZ by LDH Kitchen. Located in neighboring Nakameguro, the space was designed to function as an art gallery by day and hide-out sushi restaurant by night. The menu was done in collaboration with renowned sushi chef Takashi Saito, and the kitchen is operated by Ikuya Kobayashi, a Michelin-star disciple of Saito.
Designed by Snarkitecture, a New York-based architectural studio ran by Arsham and Alex Mastonen, the building is a conceptual break from the traditional white cube. From the door frame to the floor, from the inlaid gallery walls to the chair design, every detail has been thoughtfully executed in rounded lines. Together with its logo, designed by Sorayama, 3110NZ brings an effect of purity and unison.
Since its opening, 3110NZ has been rotating exhibitions every four to six weeks. In their opening Instagram announcement, the gallery said “we hope that you will enjoy this store, which combines the ultimate in Japanese food culture with the world's most advanced architectural space and contemporary artworks.” While 3110NZ might not have opened its doors at the best of times, minding Covid-19 precautions, the space has still been functioning at limited capacity.
As a prime example, James Jarvis’ Transcendental Idealism is a welcomed breath of fresh air in these distressing times. Jarvis is known for his cartoon-style illustration and original figurine toys, earning him many accolades in the fashion, design, and art world. Amongst other brands, he has previously collaborated with Nike, IKEA, Uniqlo, and Amos. Jarvis is also an artist who has deep ties to the Japanese public. He already visited Japan in 2000 for a solo exhibition at the Parco galleries in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagoya. While his more commercially successful and colorful sculptures were exhibited concurrently at 2G as part of PARCO Art Week, Jarvis’ monochromatic drawings and collages works have been adorning the walls of 3110NZ since September 23rd, 2020.
James Jarvis’ Transcendental Idealism is a welcomed breath of fresh air in these distressing times.
Jarvis is an artist concerned with expanding the confines of contemporary art with comics, graphic design, cartoons, and street art. Raised in England, he studied at the University of Brighton and the Royal College of Arts. His first commissioned work was for a skateboarding shop in London, Slam City Skates. Street culture is embedded in his works and vernacular language, as evidenced in his latest works.
His 2D works exhibited at 3110NZ show everyday scenes of imagined characters, having random encounters in the streets. In a non-linear fashion, Jarvis scribbles away, as if he was writing on a wall. The result is a collection of stories encapsulated in square compositions. Like a comic book, Jarvis shares stories of characters. Oftentimes, he superimposes drawings on top of one another, leaving the overall narrative blank for viewers to fill out. Jarvis only mostly black ink on white paper, or when he reaches for color, only used one main hue at the time. This overall color choice brings minimalism to his otherwise busy collages.
Oftentimes, Jarvis superimposes drawings on top of one another, leaving the overall narrative blank for viewers to fill out.
Jarvis’ works require viewers to stop and think, and to look at the fine details. I particularly enjoyed Signs (2020). Some half-thoughts are visible, like untransmitted messages from the artist to the audience: “thinker, not a doer,” “ideas,” “thoughts,” “smile now, cry later.” In the busy composition, I can also see his cartoon character in varied situations: behind a camera, on a skateboard, reaching to the top of a store-front, or in front of his canvases murmuring in French “Zut alors!” At the end of the contemplation, I am left amazed at the artist’s ability to transport me into his many worlds.
At the end of the contemplation, I am left amazed at the artist’s ability to transport me into his many worlds.
Nanzuka explains Jarvis’ drawings as “being extremely simple in nature” yet “eloquent, comical, and ironical reflections of ourselves.” Looking at the collages on 3110NZ’s walls felt like a detective exercise of deciphering Jarvis’ stories piece by piece. Whether the artist witnessed these scenes, or whether they come from his own personal narrative remains a mystery. What is for certain are the reflective moments and faint smiles that his drawings evoke in our imaginations.
James Jarvis, Transcendental Idealism, is open at 3110NZ by LDH Kitchen until October 25th, 2020.
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All images are courtesy of NANZUKA Gallery.