Your Receipt?

Carlos Vega at James Harris Gallery.

This gorgeous acrylic-and-paper collage incorporates a hotel receipt dated July 5, 1931. A monochromatic portrait of a young woman overlays a bill written out to Mrs. Eleanor Ward and Miss Paula Jones, for a stay at the Pera Palace Hotel-Constantinople. Artist Carlos Vega is a Spanish-born New York City resident whose work has been shown in New York, Madrid, and Zurich. As gallery owner James Harris recounted, the artist visits flea markets and antique shops on his travels, collecting objects like the aged document here. The hotel bill is printed in both Arabic and Latin lettering, with individual charges listed in French, a tangible record of a cross-cultural transaction. Washes of purple pigment overlap the ledger of expenses: Tasse Café Turc, .30; Eau, .05; Téléphone, .30; Omnibus arriveé, 2.-. One handwritten addition, Gateau, .80, appears in slanted cursive, while the half-cup of Turkish coffee, water, and phone use are printed on the ledger. An intimate 13 7/8 inches high by 9 7/8 inches wide, this small collage is crowded with detail: new paint layered over old ink and text printed and handwritten, with the paper centered to leave a margin of canvas framing the page. As Harris pointed out, these two women traveling together in a Muslim country in 1931 were most likely Westerners. Despite the two names inked on the bill, the painting depicts three female figures: a minimally detailed central portrait edged between two subtly outlined female silhouettes. A loose purple wash pools at the top and right side of the canvas, its color repeated in a stamp affixed atop the bill, but beneath the overpainting. Amid all this detail, the starkly drawn central figure—her one visible eye deep in shadow—appears pensive, staring off into the distance. 

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