Thursday night, in Manhattan’s Flatiron district, 30-year-old painter Alexander Charriol welcomed a crowd of 500+ fans, newcomers, curious onlookers, art enthusiasts, and hard-core collectors to view the opening of, “Human Flow”, his solo exhibition of a collection of work that explores notions of personal touch, interconnectedness—and the fear of being alone—and the consequences of such. It was evident that Charriol wears his emotions, and his talent, on his sleeve, and enjoys depicting-and being in-masses of people. His work continues the dialogue between him and his fellow beings, and goes boldly into that vast crowd, with colorful delight.
The exhibition, supported in conjunction with Whitewall magazine and the KiptonART, which facilitates the appreciation and endowment of the visual and musical arts through support of emerging talent, was shown in a pop-up space of Charriol’s own making, a raw one on East 27th Street just off Fifth Avenue. The work will stay up until May 15, a rare opportunity to see a good body of his work in a space unencumbered by masses of art afficionados who tend to traffic the more popular gallery spaces in the city.
As painters go, Charriol is far from emerging but still new enough to be able to embrace with a healthy mix of initial reverance and happy discovery. There are multitudinous talents who fill the schools, the studios, and the streets. Too full is the world of the “up-and-coming” as well as those already firmly situated in the establishment. With the onslaught of even more art fairs and collectors snatching up the latest “name”, standing out from the crowd can be challenging, at best.
When you are fascinated with crowds—obsessed, in fact—perhaps standing out is not as threatening as it may seem. Charriol has been painting most of his life, and the years of work are blatantly evident in his exhibition, one that’s at once notable and accessible, as superbly crafted from someone who says painting is “all he knows”. Thank God for that: it means we’ll be the lucky recipients of his talent for many years to come.
Charriol says that each of his paintings tells the story of an overpowering energy that feeds our desire to connect to each other. Implicit in his message-that we are alone in the world and that it is only through human connection that we become more human, or more completely human, at least in an emotional sense—is vividly displayed on the canvas. There is power in people, Charriol concludes, and especially a persistent power play between men and women, the subject of sexual connection being one of the grand themes of his work. The depth to be gained within the social, as well as the sexual, sphere is indeterminate but well worth exploring.
He has been called complex and quixotic, one who believes in the power of the common man, yet a man himself who is anything but common, having been raised by French parents, with a father who created a luxury accessories company and developed it to great global acclaim, and with a sister, Coralie Charriol, who is herself a successful handbag designer. Charriol, therefore, has seen many crowds of people in his day, having lived in multiple locales the world over; he was born in Hawaii, then moved with his family to Hong Kong, London, and finally on his own to Boston where he attended Northeastern, Tufts University, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. From there, Charriol continued his studies for two years at Parsons. Clearly, his years in the academy have made for a studied eye. Charriol now makes his home in Los Angeles. Previous exhibitions have been held everywhere from the Yoshi Gallery in Paris to Colonia Condesa Gallery in Mexico City to Art Space in Dubai to Ayala Museum, Manila, Philippines, to the National Arts Club and Leila Taghinia-Milani Gallery here in New York. Charriol has also shown in those place he has called home over the years—London, Hong Kong, Boston, and LA.
The classification for Charriol’s work? Narrative expression—one that tells a story. Clearly, Charriol is not afraid to put himself, or what he is feeling, on the canvas. Look instantly and you’ll see that: Sex, bodies, boldness, as in “The Conductor of the Masses”. Look closely and you will see it: Intimacy, delicacy of color, dark humor, as in “Everyone Wants to Touch Me”. The fragile nature of human life though is what continues to compel Charriol, and the drive toward unity that makes us that much more complete.
As part of his guerilla marketing to promote his work, Charriol took a painting along with five friends and marched it around Union Square to garner people’s comments. Needless to say, it did get noticed. Charriol videotaped their parade and put it on YouTube for even more of the masses to see.
Charriol’s art will continue to other venues after it closes here, all in an effort to promote “art-making” through art-focused events, something that he believes will benefit not only those who actively participate in—i.e., are in the know about—art, and those who do, and are, not. After all, Charriol’s core belief is that art is about connection: “The only way that an audience can connect with the artist is through participation,” he says. Among the art-focused events held in the space will be a 24-hour drawing marathon held on May 8 entitled, “Make Your Mark” with the artist Will Cotton as co-host. It will involve the artists, props, and models, and give all who attend an exclusive opportunity to participate in a Q&A and master class in painting with an established artist; there will also be live jazz and blues jam sessions held during the evening. Many humans gathered in one space doing many things—in other words, human interconnectedness at its best.