In the rooftop apartment at 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, 21c founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson showcase a rotating selection of artworks from their collection, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper by artists from all over the world.
In the entryway, figurative works by Pierre Gonnard, Tyrone Lebon, Jean-Luc Moerman, Conrad Botes, and Sullivan Giles explore dynamics of power, celebrity, consumerism, ideology, and ritual. Pierre Gonnord’s photographs of members of the Yakuza in Japan are evidence of the artist’s commitment to developing relationships with socially marginalized communities; normally, Yakuza members only reveal their tattoos to each other and photographs of them revealing their bodies are rare. In contrast, the celebrity subjects of Lebon and Moerman live public lives. Created for a Calvin Klein advertising campaign, Tyrone Lebon’s portrait Justin Bieber Sunset provides commentary on the relationship between celebrity worship and commercialism. Jean-Luc Moerman applies his signature drawing method to a well-known photograph of Sophia Loren by photographer Sante d’Orazio, covering the actor’s body with patterns inspired by sources ranging from Islamic and Japanese calligraphy to the history of tattoo art and contemporary graffiti art.
In his Roundel series, Conrad Botes creates oil paintings on glass that depict figures covered in text and symbols that also resemble tattoos and are derived from religion and popular culture. Influenced by his personal history of coming of age in South Africa during apartheid, the artist describes these marks as “representations of the ideology and hatred that inevitably contaminate the human condition.” The Yellow Wallpaper by Sullivan Giles is based on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story from 1892, a criticism of the mistreatment of women’s mental health. “This artwork is personal:” says the artist “it is about mental health, the emotional tension of relationships, psychic armor, and body modification… It is about turning away from the past and heading towards the future.”
Photographic portraits by Valérie Belin and Matt Gatton that explore the history and future of image making anchor the living space. Belin depicts anonymous women as “China girls,” a movie industry term for images of young women next to greyscales that are inserted into the beginning of films for image correction, while Gatton uses a personal subject, his brother, to explore the relationship between 2D and 3D imagery. “Emotionally, the work is about redemption,” says Gatton. “Life will knock you down and break you to pieces. The art of life is picking yourself back up and putting the pieces back together. The work is about triumph (but the seams remain).”
Humor, irony, and fantasy are frequently present in contemporary art, as in Red Grooms’s circus-like collage, Bob tries to sneak out of the ballet early and filmmaker John Waters’s interactive Hardy Har. Playfulness continues on the rooftop terrace, where 21c’s signature Red Penguins keep watch over Main Street, and California-based artist L.C. Shank’s bronze sculpture transforms an outdoor meal into an ever-flowing fountain. Brown and Wilson’s love of the land is evident indoors as well, in lyrical images of nature by artists like Lynn Geesaman, Karen Gunderson, and Laurie Hogan. Regional artists are also prominent in the collection. The bedroom features Three Onions, a still life by noted late Louisville painter Mary Ann Currier, which showcases her remarkable ability to capture realism from direct observation, along with two works from Russel Hulsey’s series Verses, the artist’s homage to some of the most renowned and infamous American poets, which he paints with immediacy, capturing his personal impression of each author.