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


July 21, 2018


Dennis Koch & Nathan Gluck: Gobsmacked By Collaging

Although many artists and non-artists alike engage with the process of collaging, a successful collage is not that easy to achieve. For the merger of unrelated images and/or texts to resonate beyond the obvious, there is much to take into consideration— point of view, message, cohesion of elements, formal arrangement, etc. Juxtaposing disparate elements from various sources does not necessarily construe art.   more

Collage has a broad history and those who venture into collaging must take into consideration their historical precedents.

Popular and influential early collage artists include Max Ernst, Joseph Cornell, Hannah Hoch, John Heartfield and Kurt Schwitters — whose materials ranged from text and photographs to historical reproductions. Many artists have used collage to communicate their social and political views via the mass media. With the proliferation of digital technologies, collaging has become more commonplace as cutting and pasting is now easily achieved with software.

Though not necessarily a household name, artist and former Andy Warhol studio assistant, Nathan Gluck (1918-2008) was a dedicated collagist. For over 70 years, he created works on paper that combined original and found materials that spanned numerous genres of collage from Dada and Surrealism to Postmodernism. [ READ MORE ]

July 13, 2018

Lynching in the US: Even the mob kills systematically

A new memorial in the US focuses on the lynchings committed on African Americans. Looking more closely at the subject, another, largely unknown, history of mob violence against Mexicans comes to light.

"The worst thing we've ever done," was the reportage that an American radio station dedicated to the recently opened National Memorial for Peace and Justice. In addition to racist violence and slavery, the memorial site in Montgomery, Alabama, brings lynchings to America's collective memory. The numbers cited by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and driving force behind the Memorial since 1989, are impressive. More than 4,400 African Americans have been extrajudicially and often brutally killed in southern states like Alabama.   more

They are now reminiscent of 800 free-floating steel steles in the museum. [ READ MORE ]

July 03, 2018



Lovers of local queer culture have a fantastic opportunity to experience it throughout July with “Dirty Looks: On Location,” an arts festival which focuses on “celebrating L.A. queer history in the streets that wrote it.”

According to the festival’s planners:

“On Location began in 2012 in the bars and community centers that fill New York City. Putting screenings or performances in everyday spaces brought new life to the works, focusing on the social nature of art making in the city.   more

But there were other stories to tell. On Location 2018 was organized in Los Angeles by 13 local curators, artists and promoters, playing with venues and meeting places that defined queer life in Los Angeles – 31 spaces across the 31 days of July, charting a progression of culture(s) using one month’s time.”

“Dirty Looks” is a widespread program of events and “happenings” featuring local musicians, artists, cultural icons and community leaders. It aims to capture the creative and historic queer pulse of Los Angeles by “animating and activating historic sites of queer cultural exchange.” [ READ MORE ]

July 02, 2018



Dirty Looks: On Location is an exciting, alternative arts festival offering an event every night in July. The festival engages with historic queer locations across Los Angeles and brings new life and meaning to them by screening films and offering performances by artists including Zackary Drucker, Maya Deren, and Gregg Araki. The Advocate spoke with Bradford Nordeen, the founder and creative director of the event, about what makes this festival so playful, provocative, and intriguing.  [ READ MORE ]

June 26, 2018



Last year, I was commissioned by the Skirball Cultural Center to make an exhibition considering the relationship between the Mexican Muralists and Los Angeles. This was to be part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, as was a second exhibit the Skirball was planning: an examination of the work of writer Anita Brenner, whose 1929 volume, Idols behind Altars: Modern Mexican Art and Its Cultural Roots, helped promote Mexican art and muralism to American audiences.   more

Thinking of Brenner’s work alongside the six months David Alfaro Siqueiros spent in Los Angeles in 1932, teaching at the Chouinard Art Institute and creating murals there and on Olvera Street, framed my thinking about the exhibition. The result was Surface Tension: Murals, Signs, and Mark-Making in Los Angeles, a photographic journey to map out the city through its murals, signs, and mark-making, in the hopes of making visible the larger cultural, socio-economic, and political forces that have shaped the place we have come to call Los Angeles. [ READ MORE ]

June 25, 2018


Luis De Jesus Los Angeles presents “SOMETHING ELSE: The Collages of Nathan Gluck,” an exhibition celebrating the artist’s centennial anniversary, 1918-2018, on view from June 23 through July 28. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, June 23, from 4-7 p.m.

“SOMETHING ELSE” represents the first survey exhibition of collages created by Nathan Gluck, who is recognized as Andy Warhol’s pre-pop commercial art assistant. Gluck helped shape and create many of Warhol’s most famous illustrations, ads and designs.   more

He also assisted Warhol with his early transitional pop pieces. [ READ MORE ]

June 25, 2018



The bicoastal art-film nonprofit Dirty Looks today detailed the upcoming edition of its “On Location” festival in Los Angeles, naming the four programs that will form the core of its month-long screening series of queer cinema in queer-oriented spaces.

“On Location” will launch on July 1 with an evening event titled “A Most Unusual Film Festival” that will seek to honor the 50th anniversary of the first homosexual film festival in Los Angeles—possibly the first in the world.   more

That festival took place in the city’s MacArthur Park at the Park Theater, which had until then screened primarily independent cinema. Instead, perhaps with the aim of bolstering its ticket sales, the press release from Dirty Looks explains, it swapped “out its calendar of hetero cheesecake for a boundary-pushing slate of male-only content.”

“Well, it’s l’origine du monde,” Bradford Nordeen, Dirty Look’s founder and creative director, told ARTnews by phone. “It predicated a need for content and was a catalyst for creation. In terms of queer self-representation in film festivals, it starts at the Park Theater. It allowed for people who hadn’t been able to see themselves prior to this to go see homosexual culture on film.”

On Location’s “A Most Unusual Film Festival” will screen two films in 16mm from the 1968 festival and take place close to its original space, which is now a swap meet, at the Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth.

Also on deck for the L.A. edition of “On Location” is a survey of short films and documentation of the life of Zackary Drucker, an influential trans performance artist and filmmaker who has been a producer of the Amazon series Transparent since it premiered in 2014. [ READ MORE ]

June 22, 2018



June 15, 2018

review: Titus Kaphar and Ken Gonzales-Day Reveal the Fictions in Depictions

WASHINGTON, DC — Titus Kaphar’s art career was born from a bad art history class. During a lecture at the National Portrait Gallery, where his two-person show with Ken Gonzales-Day, Unseen: Our Past in a New Light opened in March of this year, Kaphar recalled the art survey class that inspired his practice. When his professor announced that they would be skipping the chapter on African art, he felt insulted. As the only person of color in the room, Kaphar felt an obligation to politely express his displeasure, which was rebuffed.   more

The experience has motivated him for close to two decades of potent art making.

Kaphar adapts classical painting and sculpture to critique the whiteness of art history and create alternate narratives — not just to remember those left out of the cannon, but also to criticize a systemic process of deliberate obfuscation on the part of museums, historians, and institutions. The folded, rolled, cut, and embellished paintings that Kaphar exhibits in Unseen feel oddly prescient here, in Washington, DC. Until recent years, the museum devoted itself mainly to traditional portraiture, featuring grand images of historical leaders and famous Americans with little diversity — in short, white American propaganda.

With the recent addition of official portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald at the National Portrait Gallery and a permanent collection in the Smithsonian American Art Museum section that now includes Kerry James Marshall, Jean-Michael Basquiat, Mickalene Thomas, and Mark Bradford, a rush of inclusive energy has arrived. An exhibition like Unseen is the perfect vehicle to continue to push the boundaries of traditional portraiture at NPG through their Portraiture Now series of exhibitions started in 2006 to showcase and encourage contemporary portraiture. Not only does Unseen elevate and promote diverse narratives, starting to remedy a historic homogeneity in portraiture displayed here, it also critiques the role of art museums in the deliberate omission of those other stories.

As Kaphar noted in his lecture: “All depiction is fiction.” When an artist creates an image, the product is never an unbiased or historically impartial account. However, we cannot deny that the grand representation of America’s founding fathers and other wealthy, white historical figures has impacted our nation’s conception of history. Whether we like it or not, the artwork of today becomes the historical record of tomorrow. If the major stumbling block of American history is the negation of the agency of anyone but white men, it is then no surprise that museums, art history courses, and our collective consciousness includes few women and people of color, despite their numerous contributions. It is heartening to see this omission starting to change through the inclusion of works by artists of color at the NPG.

Rather than creating singular portraits, Titus Kaphar problematizes existing art historical — especially propagandistic — images. The best of his works hit like a sucker punch and make you feel history like a phantom limb: an aching, tingling sense of what we have lost, all the omissions of significance from our history books. This lack is felt directly in the work where images are cut apart and portraits are submerged in tar or covered by shroud-like swaths of raw canvas or shredded fabric clusters.

“Behind the Myth of Benevolence” (2014) is the most direct of Kaphar’s works in Unseen. The large painting layers one image over another, with Thomas Jefferson’s face recognizable but partially obscured in an accordion of folding canvas. Like a curtain, Jefferson’s face is drawn to the side to reveal another classical oil painting underneath. A nude black woman meets your gaze with powerful, yet tired eyes. All you can see is her face, shoulder, and knee, and she appears to be exotically portrayed like other “bather” Neoclassical images from Western art, wearing a gold and blue headdress with a serving pitcher in the background.

Kaphar said that this image wasn’t intended to specifically refer to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, since Hemmings was much lighter-skinned (as the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife, Martha) than the model he chose for this piece. However, he did want to point out how unlikely it was that Jefferson fathered children with Hemmings only, that it was a common practice for plantation owners to rape enslaved women.

The idea of “benevolent” slavery, which is becoming more and more common in revisionist white supremacist history, is handily attacked in this piece, which posits Jefferson as a symbol for all white, slave-owning Americans and the anonymous black woman (whose humanity is palpable) for all enslaved people. Jefferson’s self-satisfied smile and proud comportment, his reputation as an enlightened thinker and co-author of the Declaration of Independence, juxtaposed with this mysterious woman is searing, her namelessness next to Jefferson adding to its power. Her lyrically painted figure, similar to an Ingres bather, places her squarely into an art history that deliberately forgot her and transformed Jefferson into a holy deity.

What is most successful about the works in Unseen is how they question specific historical narratives as well as the general practice of portraiture. This double critique can be seen in the twin portraits of Billy Lee and Ona Judge, where each is painted in a classical style but skin and hair are rendered in a lumpy impasto of tar. By using a traditional visual language and showing that it is not a neutral practice, Kaphar extends his ideas to the entire collection at the National Portrait Gallery, infusing historic works with new questions and energy.

Where Kaphar’s narratives focus on African Americans, the other artist featured in Unseen, Ken Gonzales-Day, creates images which center around Native Americans, Asians, and Latinos, that also expose cultural bias and the inadequacy of current historical narratives.

Although it’s described as one exhibition with one title, Unseen functions more like two solo shows, since the work of the two artists are not placed in proximity, but installed in separate, side-by-side galleries. It’s impossible to view them at the same time, which is fine visually, but does not create an opportunity for much cross-pollination to occur.

Theoretically, Kaphar and Gonzales-Day balance out a vital conversation about America’s underrepresented people — each through expertly designed means. However, Kaphar’s images immediately trigger emotions while Gonzales-Day’s require gradual and intellectual processing. Kaphar’s work is a forest fire, while Gonzales-Day’s is a slow burn. In both cases, the work is strong but the timing seems off; the viewer to forced to process each exhibition through exclusive modes that encourage focusing on just one or the other.

In Gonzales-Day’s half of Unseen, elegant, oversized photos feature white classical marble statues, cropped and positioned against black backgrounds. The images subtly offer a commentary on the history of Western art, in contrast with the dominant narratives they were intended to represent. Some feature photos of statues in symbolic poses, like “America,” printed 2017 which depicts the nude female statue from behind, suggesting that she has turned her back on her people or that she has been distracted from her purpose.
Other works depict historic lynching photos, but the artist has Photoshopped the victim’s body out of the scene, leaving just a crowd of white people milling around a tree. The works are understated, and, next to Kaphar, and inside a marble institution, blend in like camouflage rather than demand your attention. In his talk earlier that evening, Gonzales-Day showed images of his photos displayed on giant billboards. Their power in a public environment, especially outside a museum, was immediate proving that context plays an essential role in the impact of his work.

Even from the structure of this essay, it’s obvious that Kaphar’s work is more direct in its message than Gonzales-Day’s, and thus easier to talk about. It can be immediately consumed, satisfyingly Instagrammed, and his images stay with you after you leave. This is in no way a criticism of Gonzalez-Day’s work, but it is an argument for a more careful consideration of curatorial strategy, especially when working with artists of color who specifically engage with an art history that has purposefully left them out.

Although both artists in Unseen critique omissions in the art historical cannon and offer compelling counter narratives, it is not enough to place their work in neighboring museum galleries and call it a show. Each artist here deserves his own title and his own curatorial materials, in order to make sure that each are considered equally and on their own terms. The goal of any two-person show is to enhance the work of artists by placing them in conversation with another artist who can elevate, expand, or challenge their work, but this is not the case here. Differences in the temperament of each could and should have been more carefully considered in order for each artist to benefit from proximity with the other.

As it is, both exhibits are well worth a visit. I suggest coming back more than once in order to allow Gonzalez-Day’s delicate works to slowly unfold within your consciousness after it’s been jogged awake by Kaphar’s dramatic declarations.

UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light, Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar is up through January 2019 at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. (8th and F Streets NW). This exhibition continues the National Portrait Gallery’s Portraiture Now series.
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June 10, 2018

REVIEW: Deborah Roberts: Fragile but Fixable / Luis De Jesus Gallery, through June 16, 2018

By Shana Nys Dambrot

Mixed media collages by Deborah Roberts give physical expression to an essential psychosocial phase of human development — adolescence. Her works deftly interpret the time in everyone’s life when we really start to consciously figure out who we are becoming. Roberts takes a special focus on young women and in particular what is unique in such moments to the African-American experience. Yet at the same time, these pictures poignantly unpack the structure of what is also a fundamental human experience.   more

Strong in broad strokes and rich in details, both lovely and unsettling, the works have a self-possession and presence that requires attention be paid.

Roberts constructs hybrid portraits, both fractured and holistic, harvesting meaning from her materials through a mix of found and made imagery. By using an assertively aggregating idiom like mixed media photo-based collage, she both shows and tells how the stories of her characters are the very narratives of acquiring the layers and textures of their personalities, in physical, spiritual, intellectual, sartorial, and literary traits. Her work employs a system for organizing elements of composition which mirrors the way the human brain learns and grows, by a sponge-like process of absorption, mimicry, experimentation, and eventually, decision-making. From many parts, one person.

Each young woman is shown to be a mix of aspects culled from several figures, often with extra limbs and adult-sized hands, as if suggesting the scale of what they still have to grow into in their lives, the promise and potential, the pathways of those who’ve gone before. It’s like a high-minded literary analogy to playing dress-up, tracing the acquisition of heroes. The empathy of works like these is universal, as the cusp-of-womanhood age-range is emblematic of adolescence as a time of transformation. But with Roberts’ compositions, the vernacular of the details in the iconography, as well as the race of the actual young women, speaks to a specific set of experiences to consider on its own terms.

The use of abstract patterns as textiles both deviates from and conforms to visual expectations, operating like Op Art but functioning pictorially as an essential part of the portraits, the garments. In fact, every element in Roberts’ pictures does at least two things. For example, the found photographs, painting, text, and drawing, including images of girls, radical and historical figures, and contemporary female role models like Michelle Obama and Gloria Steinem. These source images are both visual elements, often manipulated or obscured or transformed, and also they inhere in themselves content references that frame and move the story of what the work is doing.

The several pieces included that are lists of names rather than figurative portraits evoke 20th-century classics of word-art, but they are not just any names. Within the idea that list-making performs a visual function in the realm of painting and drawing, the thing with these particular names, is that those aren’t the names the nice white lady reads at the end of Romper Room. Susan, Jenny, Amanda…not so much Skarkesha, Shonique, or Latifah. That is but one way in which Roberts’ choices of source materials and augmented imagery interrogate the prevalence of whiteness, in face and name, as an accepted “universal” standard of beauty which leaves everyone else out. Ultimately Roberts’ visually stunning work succeeds by examining what is both unique about her girls, and also what their experiences can teach us all.
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