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Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
2685 S La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90034 | T 310 838 6000


Jan 30 - Mar 05, 2016

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press release

exhibition statement



January 30 — March 5, 2016
Artists' Reception: Saturday, January 30th, 7–10 pm.

Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to present a collaborative exhibition featuring JOSH REAMES and JOSÉ LERMA, on view from January 30 through March 5, 2016. An artists' reception will take place on Saturday, January 30th, from 7–10 pm.

Using the gallery as their studio during the month of January, Reames and Lerma have created a group of paintings and sculpture whose centerpiece is a pair of monumental paintings (composed of two triptychs) that measure 10 x 24 feet each (over 3 x 7 meters). It started with Josh Reames painting a single palm tree and quickly evolved into a metaphorical landscape inspired by the Cayman Inlands—a Caribbean paradise and tax haven with a history of piracy.

Responding instinctively to each other's mark making and personal choices, this improvisational group portrait mixes the characteristic styles of 18th century political and social satire (James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson) with the artists' bold, individual styles and penchant for visual satire among other iconography that characterizes their personal work.

Populated by the likenesses of persons who visited the artists during their residency—collectors, curators, museum directors, artists, students and the occasional passerby—the paintings employ the grand scale of European history painting, presenting a pseudo history through a chaotic, unorganized battle being waged in a 21st century virtual reality that references the world's most notorious tax shelter.

In addition to these two central paintings, the artists have also collaborated on a sculptural installation featuring a mirrored door–cum–disco ball that plays with notions of access and a shattered reality. They have also contributed their own individual paintings and drawings.

Josh Reames received his MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and lives and works in New York City. José Lerma received his MFA from University of Wisconsin–Madison and lives and works in Chicago and San Juan, PR. This is Josh Reames third solo project with Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. The Gallery has presented Reames' work at EXPO Chicago, Dallas Art Fair, UNTITLED Miami, and VOLTA New York. José Lerma is represented by Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. Both artists have exhibited in the US, Europe and Latin America.



Front Gallery: He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas (I and II)

For his second solo show at the Gallery, Josh Reames chose to invite his friend José Lerma to collaborate on works. Josh arrived in LA in early January 2016 and set about ordering stretchers and canvas with the intent of creating two large triptychs that would fill the walls of the front gallery. The horizontal composition and large scale influenced their decision to create works in the style of European history paintings. A lone palm tree painted by Reames on the right panel of the first triptych, and influenced by being in L.A., dictated a "tropical" theme—which in turn reminded José of his childhood home in Puerto Rico. They discussed how paintings of such grand scale are typically acquired by a small group of collectors who have the space for them. These collectors invest in art and some even house their wealth in offshore havens. José noted the current financial problems of Puerto Rico and the discussions in the territory about becoming a tax haven for the rich like the Cayman Islands. As a result, the paintings took on their own fantastical narrative.

Central to the first triptych, titled "He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas, I", is the British Imperial lion, three starfish, a turtle and pineapple. These objects and the title (Psalm 24: 2) are all included on the official crest of the Cayman Islands. Sitting at the table below these emblems are local L.A. art aficionados, including Elsa Longhauser, Edward Goldman, Leslie Jones, Rita Gonzales, Edward Hayes, Veronica Fernandez, Adam Gross, Danny First, Brenda Williams, and others who dropped in on the artists while they were creating the works. Further above, a giant hand coming down from the heavens is anointing the system. Flanking the central panel are citizens dressed as pirates, canons and cannonballs, musket balls, musical notes, exclamation marks, cigarettes and lighters, and beer bottles—all familiar emojis in Reames' repertoire. What at first glance appears to be a battle scene is actually a celebration of history. "Pirate Week" in the Caymans is much akin to Mardi Gras and is a time when all levels of society integrate.

On the opposite wall, "He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas, II" includes likenesses of Jack Rose and Godfry, the legislative and intellectual architects of the Cayman Islands tax haven. (Other personalities depicted include Dan Cameron and Christopher Knight, as well as Reames and Lerma and the two Gallery owners.) The administrative center of the tax haven is the Ugland House, which sits at the intersection of Maples and Calder. On the other side of the island, the locals enjoy Devil's Hangout. The two sides rarely intermingle and the great wealth never trickles down to the local economy. Nearby, Big–Nosed fish swim around (an allusion to the cocaine traffickers and criminal activity that fueled a lot of the tax haven's rise). A giant beachcomber's leg and foot strides across the landscape and functions as a kind of (Monty) Pythonesque element, underlining the whole surreal quality of this "sketch" and its stream–of–consciousness approach. The "He Hath Founded It Upon the Seas" collaboration blends the narrative approach of Lerma with the nonnarrative style of Reames, The works combine aspects of history painting and institutional and cultural critique within a massive post–digital "scroll". The lighter comedic style and historical pastiche in these paintings counterbalances the more weighty and timely socio–political commentary on offshore tax havens, colonialism, and class and economic divisions—and by extension, the art world.

Back Gallery: Monument to Wilson and Kelling

This sculpture is based on the "Broken Windows Theory" that Wilson and Kelling introduced in 1982 and Rudolph Guiliani used to clean up New York, and Lerma's recollection of his younger sister breaking their home's sliding glass door with a brick whenever she was locked out. The theory states that focusing on and eliminating small crimes will result in a decrease in more serious crimes. In this work, the artists have replaced the broken window with a standard metal and glass gallery door. Hanging from the ceiling and spinning like a mirrored disco ball, the door references the gentrification of cheap (and sometimes crime ridden) neighborhoods by art galleries—in effect the same type of "trickle up" effect employed in the Broken Windows Theory. The blue Windex bottles attached to the four spotlights act as color gels and reference the act of cleaning.

Project Space (behind reflective curtain):

This space features several paintings and drawings created individually by each artist.