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Posts Tagged ‘painting’

Vestie Davis Cyclone

Vestie Davis (1903-1978) oil on canvas painting of the Cyclone roller coaster. Fontaine’s Auction Gallery

We’ve come across paintings of Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel and original Thunderbolt roller coaster but rarely any of the legendary Cyclone. Are its classic twists, turns and drop as much of a dare for a painter as they are for a rider? This one painted in the 1960s by self-taught artist Vestie Davis (1903-1978) will be up for bid at a November 15th auction in Pittsfield, Mass., at Fontaine’s Auction Gallery, and online via Live Auctioneers.

“I use very, very good paints–only the best–guaranteed to last,” Davis told New York Magazine in 1969. His method of painting was to make a sketch with India ink from a photograph and then transfer it to canvas using tracing paper and a light board. He began adding people to his paintings of New York scenes upon an art dealer’s recommendation.

Davis’s paintings of Coney’s beach, boardwalk and amusement rides have appeared on a New Yorker cover and are in the collection of the American Museum of Folk Art.

Measuring 16 inches high by 19.5 inches wide, the oil painting of the Cyclone is signed “Vestie Davis, 1965” and has a pre-sale estimate of $1,500-$2,500.

UPDATE: The painting sold for $3,100.

Related posts on ATZ…

April 20, 2015: Art of the Day: “Greetings from Coney Island” Blends Past & Present

December 13, 2014: Art of the Day: David Levine’s Watercolors of Coney Island

April 3, 2014: Rare & Vintage: 100-Year-Old Coney Island Ride Tickets

January 13, 2012: Rare & Vintage: Reginald Marsh Photos of Coney Island

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David Levine Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, Past and Present, 1993, watercolor on paper, 14 13/16 x 10 inches, Collection of The Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA

For this long-time admirer, seeing one of David Levine’s sublime and instantly recognizable watercolors of Coney Island on the cover of Gallery Guide was a joyful moment, knowing it heralded more. From December 12 through January 17, Forum Gallery presents “David Levine: The World He Saw,” the first major exhibition of paintings and drawings by Levine since his passing in 2009. Fifty works are on view including more than 25 of his watercolors of Coney Island, many loaned by private collectors and museums.

Renowned as a caricaturist whose insightful drawings were on the cover of The New York Review of Books for more than 40 years, Brooklyn-born Levine spent his summers painting the bathers on Coney Island beach and the architecture on the boardwalk and adjacent streets. Many of the structures that he painted–pavilions, booths, bathhouses, and amusement rides, have since vanished or were demolished.

David Levine Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, Stauch’s Baths, 1981, watercolor on paper, 10 7/8 x 14 5/8 inches, Private collection, San Francisco, CA

While photographs of Coney’s past attractions tend to put a “then and now” distance between the viewer and the subject, the immediacy of watercolor and Levine’s mastery of the medium makes us see what he saw. Then is now. The ache in the heart upon viewing his watercolors of Stauch’s Baths, the Bank of Coney Island building and the original Thunderbolt roller coaster is akin to phantom pain for a limb that has been lost.

There are also paintings of rides that are thankfully still with us– the Polar Express, the B&B Carousell–and of elderly women whom Levine affectionately referred to as the “Shmata Queens of Coney.”

David Levine Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, Carousel, 1989, watercolor on paper, 11 3/8 x 14 1/4 inches

“Each year they would say: ‘Ya know, lest veek, dere vuss a men chust like you.’ I would patiently tell them that it was me,” Levine wrote. “The ‘shmata,’ or ‘rag,’ not only refers to the head cloth, but also to the bathing suits – faded and misshapen by molding to aged and deformed bodies that have been out under the sun. They are now comfortable with me sketching in their midst and only occasionally ask to see what I do.”

Walter Bernard, a fellow member of the Painting Group, which Levine co-founded with Aaron Shikler in 1958, wrote this remembrance in the New York Times in 2010: “Watching David work was a revelation. He handled watercolors unlike anybody else. He liked to experiment and, as he put it, ‘play.’ He would draw, redraw, ‘schmeer,’ sponge out and paint again. It was not uncommon to see him rub out a work we’d been marveling over, saying, simply, ‘I didn’t get what I was going after.'”

David Levine, Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, End of Youth, 1984 watercolor on paper 14 x 22 1/2 inches, Private collection, New York, NY

Levine often painted the 1925 Thunderbolt, which was SBNO (Standing But Not Operating, in roller coaster parlance) since the early 1980’s. The titles of the works are telling: End of Youth, End of Joy, Goya at Coney, and after it was demolished in 2000, The Past.

One of the stories Levine told about the people he met while painting in Coney is this poignant anecdote about End of Joy: “I was seated on a side street, painting the Tinturn Abbey of joy rides, the Thunderbolt. Black and looming, it stood abandoned. A group of children surrounded me. They had just left the beach. Their chattering stopped as they watched my performance. Then, silently, they moved off as a group. When they had walked a short distance, the smallest, a little girl, turned and ran back to me. Without a word, she placed a quarter on my watercolor, then returned to her friends.”

A 72-page, fully illustrated catalogue, with foreword by author and journalist Pete Hamill, accompanies the exhibition.

David Levine: The World He Saw. December 12, 2014 to January 17, 2015. Forum Gallery, 730 Fifth Avenue 2nd Fl. (between 56th & 57th Streets), New York, NY 10019. 212-355-4545. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5:30pm

David Levine Forum Gallery

David Levine at Forum Gallery, Untitled (Three Women, Two Umbrellas on beach), 1982, watercolor on paper, 4 1/4 x 13 3/4 inches

Related posts on ATZ…

October 4, 2013: Art of the Day: John Dunivant’s Bizarre Midway

May 22, 2013: Art of the Day: Girl to Gorilla Showfront by Lew Stamm

August 21, 2012: Art of the Day: Out of Disorder (Coney Island) by Takahiro Iwasaki

September 17, 2011: Photography: Floating Above the Coney Island Boardwalk

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The Charmer

The Charmer by Mark Heyer. Oil on panel, framed. Lohin Geduld Gallery

Mark Heyer’s faux-naive snake charmer conjures up memories of cabinet cards of sideshow stars from the late 19th century. Set like a jewel in a gilded frame created by the artist, the painting is one of several circus and carnival-themed works in Heyer’s exhibition at Lohin Geduld Gallery. There’s also a sideshow talker, a circus tent being raised, an unruly circus act and daredevil motorcyclists.

“I have been painting from these types of subjects for quite some time,” Heyer told ATZ. The artist grew up going to the carnival at his hometown fair in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Coney Island’s sideshow and games were a source of fascination during the two decades he lived in Brooklyn. Heyer, who received an MFA from Parsons School of Design, moved to Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, six years ago. “I am particularly interested in slowing down things, so that cool things don’t just get swept into a dumpster. Circuses and Carnivals seem to be some of the first things that go away and don’t come back. They are something that predates us and as the corporate world grows it seems bent on getting rid of these simple, amazing pleasures.”

Mark Heyer

Hey Pretty, Don't You Want to Take a Ride Through My World by Mark Heyer. Oil on panel, framed. Lohin Geduld Gallery

Both Heyer’s paintings and vintage photographs have an enigmatic quality and evoke a sense of wonder. ATZ asked the artist to talk about how vintage photos inform his work and the process by which he selects and translates a photo into a painting

One thing with vintage photographs that I always make an attempt to do is acquire the photo. There is something about me being able to hold it in my hands. Like the blind searching for a different point of view. That’s not always possible, so a print out has to do. Vintage photographs are fascinating, things were slower paced, or they seem so. Often, objects in these weren’t meant to be disposable.

Usually I start my search for either circus photos or sideshow photos. Those words are what I type in. Not to be silly or anything, but I do my best to go inside that photo, as a viewer of what is happening. I come out and bring what I found to my painting. I always intend to put just enough down, so that the viewer of my work has room to add to the story. The story is never wrong, because, most times there is only a date that goes with the picture. I love it if someone adds to the story and the story continues.

Mark Heyer

All in a Day's Work by Mark Heyer. Oil on panel, framed. Lohin Geduld Gallery

The circus tent being raised. To me, it’s the preparation for what is to come. The excitement, whirlwind of imagination will all be in there. This one came from an actual photo too. I thought it was amazing because you don’t usually see this in process. To quote a painting teacher I had. “Surprise and Clarity” This picture has that I think, because it is a surprise to see what they are working on and it’s very clear what they are doing.

The Unruly by Mark Heyer. Oil on panel, framed. Lohin Geduld Gallery

The Unruly is the last of what you ask about. This one in particular I invite the viewer to add to the story, because who is the unruly one? The mule? The clown on the left? Or even someone in the background could have done something to start this event. In the actual photo there is a wagon also, but it wasn’t needed for what I wanted to show. I imagine this photo was staged as part of an act, I don’t really know though. It was a great image from my favorite subject matter and also allows for many different endings to the story. When I first found this photograph, I intended this one to be the image on the card. It was also the first painting that I painted for this show.

Mark Heyer, Recent Work, through December 17, 2011. Lohin Geduld Gallery, 531 West 25 Street, New York, NY, 212-675-2656

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 28, 2011: Rare & Vintage: Auction of French Fairground Art

January 19, 2011: Opens Jan 27: Nickel Empire: Coney Island Photographs 1898-1948

December 19, 2010: Rare & Vintage: Original Coney Island Motordrome Bike

November 16, 2009: Rare & Vintage: Coney Island Sideshow Banner by Dan Casola

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