Down Bedford Avenue, past all the trendy boutiques, carefully orchestrated "dive" bars and restaurants packed with even more fashionable and fabulous hipsters, Jacques Roch has quietly been living his life and refining his art on the south side of Williamsburg.
The Frenchman, who landed in New York with his American wife, lives and works in the airy loft they found by chance decades ago. "I moved to Williamsburg from Paris in 1984. Back then, It was not wise to look like an artist, because this neighborhood was moderately dangerous. Artists really had to stick together," says the painter commenting on how much the now hip Brooklyn landscape has altered in the last 23 years. Part of that transformation has included the recent influx of young blood and a boundless energy that has slowly creeped its way into Roch's own art form. "The tremendous diversity of humanity on the street—which can be scary even—really has fed my work. There is a tension here, which does not exist in, for example, the center of Paris," he explains. "The way people dress and present themselves, it's a very creative society. I get inspiration from the characters."
Unique characters are, in part, how Roch first made a name for himself. During the 60s, his rebellious comic strips populated Paris' underground newspapers. Today, they pop up on color-saturated canvases to reveal a surreal world that echoes Roch's own dark humor. Roch begins each piece with goopy layers of vivid paint, which he then tops with cartoonish doodles and running text. In the past, these strange and dreamlike worlds have starred everything from a creature in a trash can contemplating life in the city to a drunk Samurai. "I am dealing with 'goofy angst'," says Roch who paints as the moment moves him. "It's not heavy, but it's there. If you go a little beneath the surface of the painting, it's getting personal, it is about you, about life," he continues. "Humor is really kind of a Trojan horse to infiltrate anxiety because if you make people happy with a joke they forget to think about the seriousness behind it, but it's still there."
Not to say that Roch's imaginative projects are all doom and gloom. "Color is really the door to a kind of joy. In the last 10 years, I've been dealing with the light because there is enough darkness around," says Roch. Sounds like there might be a rainbow hiding on the south side, after all.Jacques Roch's upcoming exhibit will be shown at the Kim Foster Gallery this February.
It's a big brasserie, restaurant and café. The beauty of it is that it's open to the sidewalk. …more
I like Sideshow Gallery because it is not a slave of the trends. It's receptive to different sensibilities. …more
This is a small company owned by Monsieur Art Guerra, who is fabricating really wonderful paints, which means a particular pigment and a biner combination. …more
People here have this freedom, this incredible freedom to present themselves in an outrageous way. …more
It's very convivial, very relaxed—almost like being with family—with very funny waiters. It's a lively atmosphere, and has very good, affordable food. …more