Dear James

A mediation about writing and specifically on James Joyce, Dear James, brings together different works and media, all of which comprise the Méndez Blake universe: libraries, books, poetry, and architecture. The title takes its name from one of the works in the exhibition, a fictional letter that JMB writes to James Joyce, in which the artist talks to Joyce as an old friend, discussing his writing, explaining some of the pieces in the exhibition and meditating about literature in general. James Joyce had an important presence in Zurich in the first half of the twentieth century, occupying seven different buildings between 1915 and 1919. He was first visiting Zurich before and then also during World War II, ultimately dying in the city in 1941. Joyce and his family are buried in the Fluntern cemetery, next to the zoo. 

For the exhibition at Mai 36 Galerie Méndez Blake focuses his attention on two aspects of James Joyes’s oeuvre which are not at the center of his known writing: his poetry and children’s books. The poem Chamber Music was Joyce’s first work, written in 1907 when he was 25, while not very well received by critics and written a full 15 years before Joyce would change the face of literature with Ulysses. The poem Chamber Music is possessed of a certain musicality, if not particularly remarkable in structure. Joyce also wrote two children books, The Cat and the Devil and The Cats of Copenhagen, which were unpublished in his lifetime and written very quickly as postcards to his beloved grandson, Stephen. Joyce’s poem and the two children’s books are present in the exhibition - translated as paintings, drawings, calligrams and a wall painting. Méndez Blakes approach to texts is mediated by precise strategies: he counts words and measures letters as well as looks for shapes in stanzas and pages of books. Nevertheless, this obsessive process of production are balanced by simple gestures, as writing small brackets on a page, pointing to a corner of the space or the surreal appearance of a lemon in a model.

(text: Jorge Méndez Blake & Andrea Hinteregger De Mayo)