Exhibit | José Lerma & Josh Reames at Luis De Jesus Gallery

José Lerma and Josh Reames, “He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas (1)”, 2016.

Culver City is buzzing about two monumental paintings created in collaboration between internationally exhibited artists José Lerma and Josh Reames, on display at Luis De Jesus gallery through March 6, 2016. Both contemporary pop-style artists are known for their spatial and sequential interplay, but this collaboration synthesizes Lerma’s allegorical portrayals with Reame’s digital-like renditions and pacing, together attaining a new kind of two-dimensional adventure for viewers.  

In 2009, during the first year of his graduate program at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lerma had been Reames’s adviser. For this collaboration, the artists have come together to create a group of paintings and sculpture whose centerpiece is a pair of monumental paintings (composed of two triptychs) entitled “He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas (1 and II)”.

José Lerma and Josh Reames, Installation view of “He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas (1)”, 2016.

“The more illusionistic elements of the painting (cannons, eyeballs, cannonballs, cigarettes, smoke, drop shadows, etc.) were mine,” said Reames, “I’m really into a variety of mark-making being present in a painting, so I wanted to add things that would contrast with Jose’s drawing-based style of painting. By adding a drop shadow or objects that don’t adhere to the gravity in the depicted landscape, the work is more self referential as a painting. It gives it two kinds of space, the one in the picture (the beach scene, receding into the horizon) and the actual surface of the canvas.”   

Also: Exhibit | Amy Yao : Bay Of Smokes

From the two fabulous historical-pop paintings emerges a dichotomy between beach holiday life and political caricature. The Cayman Islands are present here, with symbolism that ranges from the British Imperial lion to the three starfish and a pineapple. Layered within the bucolic seaside are battle scenes that represent Pirate Week, a Grand Cayman celebration replete with swordfights, cannons, explosions and a mock invasion in full costume, which ends up with the arrest and trial of the governor. In the other painting, the tax haven administration building known as Ugland House is positioned far from Devil’s Hangout, where locals meet.  

José Lerma and Josh Reames, “Monument to Wilson and Kelling”, 2016.

“The painting is a caricature of a re-enactment done in the scale of history painting,” explains Lerma. “The anachronistic elements such as Teva sandals and beer bottles are perfectly reasonable within this scenario.  The monument sign for the infamous “Ugland House” building a depiction of the wreck of the Ten Sail, an Image of George III and a bust of Sir Vassel Johnson are some of the scattered elements that point to the role of the islands as major tax haven. I suppose a third layer would be the art personalities that populate the paintings. They are all portraits in period clothing of prominent L.A. critics, curators and artists who stopped by during the creation of the work.”  

The socio-political satirizing continues throughout the exhibition. “Monument to Wilson and Kelling” consists of a white door frame hanging from the ceiling, it’s glass inset cracked and riddled with what appears bullets, spotlit by overhead lights shining through half empty Windex bottles. The piece is a reference to James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling’s notorious “”Broken Windows Theory”, which argues that preventing small crimes such as vandalism and public drinking prevents more serious crimes from occurring. It is also a commentary on the type of gentrification that clears much of the character out of those neighborhoods in which art galleries and districts tend to arise. 

Inspired by and proud of their teamwork, Lerma and Reames nevertheless plan on moving from their collaboration back to their own respective studios to create new individual works. The paintings will exist as monumental structures of layered narrative, created in unison from the unique histories, struggles, and styles of two very compelling artists. 



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