Somewhere between the clinking of glasses and shuffling of plates at newly-opened Union Bar & Kitchen an added element infuses the space with warmth and spirit. The source of this festivity? Just look up.
Artist Clifford Bailey has been tapped by UBK owner and chef Jonathan Renert to exhibit large scale works at the restaurant’s gallery. With a refreshing take on celebration, the works, without exception, exceed expectations. Drawing from the fin de siecle nightlife scenes of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and adding in the graphic sensibilities of artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bailey’s works conjure up a style purely of his own making. His deft brushwork depict timeless elegance, conjuring a contemporary feel and leaving the viewer flush with pleasure at experiencing Bailey’s sensuous scenes. The works offer different perspectives on life in the City, from its swinging jazz cabarets to sparse street scenes. The overall impression is of a living narration of the past as the artist dynamically depicts vignettes from a bygone era. In these works the subjects transform into narrators, speaking for the vibrancy and everlasting sensibility of the human spirit.
Two works in particular capture the viewer's attention and allow a glimpse of the artist’s range. The first piece, hovering over the bar, depicts a scintillating chanteuse throwing her hands up in jubilation. Crowding around her is the band positioned in contorted poses. The figures are seemingly captured mid-action, allowing them to swagger and sway as they perform various actions. Even the props on display, ranging from pianos to cocktails, all seem to be waiting to burst out from the scene into the dining space. Directly opposite this work and contrasting in tone is an austere street scene from early 1900s New York. Capturing the experience of the City on the building scale, rather than the human scale from the nightlife scene, this outdoor image offers a sober, silent look at life in a modern metropolis. From the pedestrians walking past the cleverly identified UBK restaurant to the horse-drawn carriages darting out of view, the image is suffused with a hazy light. The view is positioned across from an intersection, allowing the visitor to gaze at the scene from street level. Peering down the avenue ahead leads the viewer’s eye, fittingly, to a church steeple. Moving from one work to the other, calm street stroll to rollicking nightlife revelry, one is able to experience opposing views of the beauty of life in the big city through Bailey’s purposeful brushstrokes and evocative imagery.
Bailey has managed to capture the effervescence and energy of City life as it has always held sway, regardless of time period. His style evokes caricature and contemporaneity, portraiture and poignancy simultaneously. These works on view at Union Bar + Kitchen translate the sum of human experience, its joy and reflection, in paintings that are a feast for the senses.
Come and enjoy cocktails, steak and seafood, carefully curated by owner and chef Jonathan Renert and aligned with his vision for fusing international cuisines, particularly from Mexico and Japan, into his fresh, visionary menu. Cliff Bailey is showing at the Union Bar + Kitchen gallery currently and has been on view since the gallery’s opening on May 21, 2014 (for more info check out the gallery website.)