The Golden State of California is getting a reimagining in a wave of blue hues thanks to denim artist Ian Berry. The London-based artist was in sunny San Francisco putting up a large installation, when a trip down to LA made him recognize and truly appreciate the atmosphere and energy of his surroundings. “There is something about the brightness there, the ambition, the positive vibes,” Berry tells My Modern Met, “and in some ways it was a break from Brexit Britain for me.” This is where his concept for his next artistic series, aptly titled Hotel California, began.
“As an ‘80s child I also love California, and LA,” Berry admits. “You think of the films, the positivity for the future. It was upbeat. I started there but then declined, so, a little like Hotel California…” This dichotomy of feelings about a single location is perfectly exemplified by the cobalt, sapphire, navy tones of his art, made entirely of jeans. It’s as though you’re looking at hotels with pools and resort lounge chairs, palm trees in the distance—all under a blue filter. They’re quintessential images of that proverbial “Cali life”…but completely submerged.
Much like the Eagles song “Hotel California,” there is a duality to these seemingly relaxing scenes. As the song states, “This could be heaven or this could be Hell,” such is the case for Berry’s blue locales. Is it a silent oasis or a lonely abyss?
Regardless of how one interprets each piece, there’s one common conclusion: Berry is a master of his craft. It’s hard to believe that every inch of each creation is made entirely of jeans. Having sourced his denim from various people, places, brands, and mills all around the world, he manages to manipulate the sturdy fabric to mimic depth, shadow, light, shape, tone, texture, and everything in between.
“With my work I'm always challenging myself with the way light hits things,” Berry tells us, “and I try to be like a photorealistic painter, just with denim not paint.” We’ve seen this gifted artist recreate the sheen of metal on a train, the intricate patterns of parquet flooring, and the typography of a traditional diner’s fluorescent signage, but his latest challenge may be the most impressive of all—water reflections.
When asked about this new aspect of his series, Berry gushes, “The ripples of the water and the reflections were actually really enjoyable to make, labor intensive and slow, but I love the way I can get the denim to work for me with the gradients.” The biggest challenge, he laments, is when he takes creative liberties with his images (for which he uses photographic references). “For instance, if you put something in, you should have a reflection, or even worse, ripples connected to it, so that is a big challenge.” In the end, his skill, patience, and keen eye for all shades of blue have resulted in a remarkable series.
Hotel California is currently on view in London at Catto Gallery through July 28, 2019.