Frédéric Lère having lived and worked in Hell’s Kitchen and the Garment District for many years, his neighborhood, which includes Hudson Yards and the Vessel, had become an endless painting ground. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Lère explored the impact of the pandemic on his now strangely deserted and silent (apart from the wailing sirens) neighborhood, and on himself. Between “sheltering in place” and quarantine periods, his indoors voyages led to a From My Window series of oils and watercolors, as well as a number of COVID Portraits, including a self-portrait. Together, these works span a two-year period and paint an evolving narrative of solitude and urban resilience: a portrait of New York City in its new normal.
Forced isolation gave the artist a good opportunity to focus on a long-term project. 2024 will mark the 500th anniversary of the entrance of Giovanni da Verrazzano in the Bay of New York. It is also in 1524 that Pierre de Ronsard, the famous French Renaissance poet, was born. Intrigued by the coincidence, Lère started investigating the extent to which Ronsard was aware of the Americas. That took him down a rabbit hole of research… and the discovery that 16th century issues are very similar to the ones we face now, as shown in Ronsard: 1524, a route to the Americas. This exploration of the past follows in the tracks of another extensive project, De Salomon à Soliman, a commission of over 50 watercolors by the Musée du Protestantisme in Ferrières, Tarn, France.
In early 2020, Lère started working with photographer Olivier Dupont Delestraint on a joint project devoted to the issue of migration. Both shared a major concern over the tragic plight of uprooted populations, facing tall walls and closed borders. When the pandemic was declared, they realized the ever-expanding leisure and business travel had facilitated the worldwide spread of viruses, which hitch-hiked a ride from voyagers across borders. Lère chose the 18th century Toile de Jouy technique, with its infinite repetition of motifs to illustrate the issue of migration and massive population flows.