“My colours are bold and saturated, like the laser lights found in nightclubs.…I’ve always found these intense colours to be highly evocative and transformative, signalling that you are entering a space removed from the everyday. And, much like those laser lights, I want the colours to lure the viewer into the work.”
James Bartolacci (b. 1988, Easton PA, USA) uses personal experiences of queer nightlife in New York City as the basis of their artistic exploration and portrayal of longing, desire, self-styling and sociability. Their nightclub, bar, and bedroom scenes employ an eye-catching palette of neon colours to recreate atmospheres resonant with revelry and escapism, and advocate for the freedom of self-expression and the act of making human connections within safe spaces.
The series Light Without Night celebrates the “production of a night out”; from getting ready in the bedroom, to entering the abstraction of flashing beams of light at the club, to shared moments of figures and faces bathed in incandescent glow. For the subjects of Bartolacci’s paintings, the dancefloor presents a communal space which has the power to become as familiar and intimate as the bedroom, where the night begins and ends, blurring the lines between private and public. In contrast to the fleeting moments of revelry depicted, the painting process is slow and gradual. Oil paint is applied in thin layers to build up a lush, saturated colour palette of phosphorescent greens, pinks, blues, and reds, evoking the otherworldly luminescence of modern nightlife which dazzles the viewer, drawing them in too.
Whilst the work celebrates contemporary nightlife at large - without being tied to a specific place or story - Bartolacci’s portraits of friends in bedrooms, on the other hand, were made during the recent pandemic in response to the closure of all social spaces. During this time, Bartolacci turned private bedrooms into public stages as an alternative way of making connections, through the portrayal of personal rituals performed in anticipation of a night out. Bartolacci adjusted the lighting conditions to recreate club-like atmospheres, and encouraged their subjects to put on music and outfits they would typically wear, before regaling them with stories of notable night outs whilst they painted. The result is a proud and joyous coming together of individual voices and memories in the spirit of sharing experiences.
James Bartolacci lives and works in Queens, New York. They received a BA in Art History from Brandeis University in 2012, and an MFA in Painting from the Yale School of Art in 2020. Shortly after graduating, Bartolacci was invited to exhibit online with Galerie Perrotin, followed by online and physical group and solo shows with Taymour Grahne Projects (London), and group shows at WorkPlace Gallery (London), The Hole (NYC) and Westbeth Gallery (NYC). Their work has featured in articles and interviews by Artsy, the Observer, the New York Times, and Something Curated.