Jonny Negron's Parisian Painting Debut at Crèvecœur
Advisory Perspective

Jonny Negron's Parisian Painting Debut at Crèvecœur

By Annabel Downes | Paris, 20 June 2024 | Exhibitions

Today I learned that 'heartbreak' translates to 'crève-cœur' in French. Crèvecœur, the Parisian gallery established in 2009 by Axel Dibie and Alix Dionot-Morani, was named after such sweet sorrow. For his debut exhibition La Vision Del Pan (5 June–20 July 2024) at Crèvecœur in Paris, it seems that Los Angeles-based artist Jonny Negron has also been doing some linguistic research.

Ocula met with Negron a few days before the opening at the gallery's Cascades space, tucked away on a leafy side street in the city's 20th arrondissement. Surrounded by his new works propped up around the space waiting to be hung, Negron introduced his latest body of work, the painterly influences of Ed Ruscha, and finding peace in organ music at an L.A. church.

Exhibition view: Jonny Negron, La Vision del Pan, Crèvecœur, Paris (5 June–20 July 2024).

Exhibition view: Jonny Negron, La Vision del Pan, Crèvecœur, Paris (5 June–20 July 2024). Courtesy the artist, Château Shatto and Crèvecœur, Paris. Photo: Martin Argyroglo.

I wanted to ask you about music and the inclusion of the video work Vehiculum Streaming (2024), accompanied by an ambient soundtrack, in the show. I read that you have a very well-curated vinyl collection in your studio in L.A.

Music is a great passion of mine. For those of us who have a creative drive, we'll often find ways to express ourselves in an array of mediums. When I was growing up in New York, I began with drawing—I was influenced by comics and storytelling. But I started to outgrow it and gravitate more towards fine art.

In this show, I felt it was important to incorporate my interest in music. I produced all the music in the video myself—I play keys and there's improvisational flute thrown in there as well. It's essentially ambient music, electronic music. There's something so immediate about music that brings people together which I love.

It feels more democratic than art at times.

Jonny Negron, Vehiculum Streaming (2024). Digital video. 22 min 1 sec (Video still).

Jonny Negron, Vehiculum Streaming (2024). Digital video. 22 min 1 sec (Video still). Courtesy the artist, Château Shatto and Crèvecœur, Paris.

Essentially, yes. As much as the art world is a beautiful place, it's not as inclusive as some might think. It's important to communicate with people in different ways; in ways that can bring peace in our fellowship.

What are you drawn to in the L.A. music scene?

It's quite vast, but lately I've been gravitating towards religious experiences. Lately I've found myself visiting the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, a gorgeous church down in Koreatown. It has one of the largest organs in the world with over 18,000 speaking pipes, and the organist there is incredible; the music is incredibly moving.

It's a modest congregation—at best about 100 people on a Sunday—and I often look around and think to myself, why is everyone at Coachella? It's so peaceful here.

Jonny Negron, Por Ti Volare (2024). Acrylic on linen. 162.6 x 142.2 cm

Jonny Negron, Por Ti Volare (2024). Acrylic on linen. 162.6 x 142.2 cm Courtesy the artist, Château Shatto and Crèvecœur, Paris. Photo: Martin Argyroglo.

You moved to L.A. from New York just before the Covid-19 lockdown. A number of your paintings seem to harness Ed Ruscha's use of gradients and text. Is he an influence?

Certainly living in L.A., artists like Ruscha bear much influence on your work. Over the past few years, a number of my paintings have incorporated text, but it's also the colour gradients that he employs that I thought fitting for this exhibition.

When thinking about gradients, I'm considering the time of day when the light spectrum is visible: dusk and dawn. In works such as Ich Ruf Zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ (2024), I'm thinking about dawn as a period of dreaming—that passage between sleeping and waking when your subconscious is active and your mind runs away into unknown worlds.

With the early signs of sunrise behind him, the figure gazes outwardly, with small windows into his subconscious activity relating to the heart: romance or companionship, and an image of a sphinx upon his forehead representing a higher consciousness.

How does a work like this play into the wider theme of the exhibition and its title, La Vision Del Pan?

I arrived at La Vision Del Pan or 'vision of bread' through examining the etymological relationship between various words. 'Pan' means 'bread' in Spanish, similar to the French translation 'pain', which brings to mind the English term 'pain'. I began drawing connections between 'pain' and 'bread', particularly the symbolic connections you find between the two in Christianity—the pain of existence, the pain of human suffering.

The circular painting Draft Day (2024), which depicts a man burning on a star-shaped stake, seems the clearest example of such suffering in the show.

Jonny Negron, Draft Day (2024). Acrylic on linen. 152.4 x 152.4 cm.

Jonny Negron, Draft Day (2024). Acrylic on linen. 152.4 x 152.4 cm. Courtesy the artist Château Shatto and Crèvecœur, Paris. Photo: Martin Argyroglo.

On 30 May 2019, a man set himself on fire near the White House. I started to research other events that coincided with this date and found that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on this day in 1431.

But it's the smaller motifs superimposed on the paintings that relate to more personal traumas on this date. My grandmother was killed in the Lod Airport massacre, a terrorist attack at Israel's main international airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) on 30 May 1972. Three members of the Japanese Red Army recruited by the Palestinian Liberation Front smuggled guns in violin cases—referenced in this painting on the man's left foot—onto an Air France plane from Rome and opened fire in a waiting room of the airport.

Upon the man's chest sits an image reminiscent of a flag with the Lion of Judah, while the aeroplane over the sex of the man is in reference to the Air France flight. The right hand foot bears a loaf of Puerto Rican bread in a casing adorned with the country's flag in reference to my grandmother's heritage. And across from it, a violin case bears the blood of the victims who lost their lives that day.

The star-shaped stake appears in various forms across the show.

Jonny Negron, The Vision of Pain (2024) (detail). Acrylic on linen. 162.6 x 142.2 cm.

Jonny Negron, The Vision of Pain (2024) (detail). Acrylic on linen. 162.6 x 142.2 cm. Courtesy the artist, Château Shatto and Crèvecœur, Paris. Photo: Ed Mumford.

The five-pointed star relates to the five senses of the human. I didn't want to choose imagery too overtly relating to these conflicts. I see the Lion of Judah as an image related to religious sovereignty, but it's a sovereignty that doesn't belong to a particular nation. I think the tragedy lies in when groups are trying to claim sovereignty over another, which is virtually impossible. There'll never be peace and it will only lead to suffering.

These cryptic messages and beliefs seem to shine through your figures as well as leitmotivs.

The woman sustaining a yoga position in The Vision of Pain (2024) was chosen as a symbol relating to the transmutation of pain. In yoga, through mastering the body, you're sustaining painful techniques while also transmitting that pain into control. The figure is breaking perceptions and turning her back on ego, represented on the zodiac-etched shards of mirror that are exploding before her.

Do you find painting meditative?

Absolutely. I've been drawing since two years old, I've been a creative person my whole life. All that time and that concentration while standing in front of the canvas—it's an all-absorbing practice.

Main image: Jonny Negron, Ich Ruf Zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ (2024) (detail). Acrylic on linen. 162.6 x 142.2 cm. Courtesy the artist, Château Shatto and Crèvecœur, Paris. Photo: Ed Mumford.


Selected Artworks

Just Like a Baby by Jonny Negron contemporary artwork painting
Jonny Negron Just Like a Baby, 2024 Acrylic on linen
30.5 x 30.5 cm
Crèvecoeur
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Come on baby Light My Fire by Jonny Negron contemporary artwork painting
Jonny Negron Come on baby Light My Fire, 2024 Acrylic on linen
48.3 x 33 cm
Crèvecoeur
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Ich Ruf Zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ by Jonny Negron contemporary artwork painting
Jonny Negron Ich Ruf Zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ, 2024 Acrylic on linen
162.6 x 142.2 cm
Crèvecoeur
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