Made In L.A. is coming to the Hammer, Barnsdall Park, LAXART, and billboards around town on June 2 and will showcase sixty emerging, under-recognized Los Angeles artists–one of which will be voted to win a $100,000 prize. In order to help you make an educated vote this summer, we’re counting down to Made In L.A. by showcasing each artist participating in the biennial.
Nery Gabriel Lemus is a Los Angeles painter, installation artist, and video artist. He is a native Angeleno whose work very often copes with Los Angeles, particularly dealing with racial stereotypes and immigration in Southern California.
Nery is an incredibly varied artist, each piece and project showing a different side of his capabilities, almost as if he is able to completely reinvent each time he shares new work. In Black Is Brown And Brown Is Beautiful, he explores the divide between Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles through objects and paintings. Through reappropriated cultural items–an anglicized St. Martin de Porres statue, a Ruth Brown record, a painted pot–and artwork–paintings with commentary about race and pop culture, drawings of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson juxtaposed with Mexican comics–highlight this divide, specifically focusing on Latino prejudice toward African Americans in LA. Similarly, Fallen Nature And The Two Cities is a project that explores the same subject through male hair care, which are nearly mirrored in African American and Latino cultures. Through photos of men’s haircuts, paintings of combs, drawings of disembodied hair, and a video of haircutting practices (seen below) show the similarity in both cultures, tying them together despite conflict.
Other works of his examine problems within the Los Angeles Latino community that are visible to everyone else in the city but not addressed. Friction Of Distance juxtaposes photos of immigration with drawings and photos of birding culture. He draws the line between both migrations and the problems faced by persons crossing the border, needing to migrate out of necessity but stigmatized and harmed as a result. Until The Day Breaks And Shadows Flee sees Nery turning a small house into an exploration of domestic violence through art (art taken from Mexican novellas that commonly depict violence toward women). The artwork painted on the walls is shown in conjunction with t-shirts created from abuse survivors of Five Acres Grace Center in Pasadena, the connection between the home as a warzone and the home as power made very clear.
Nery’s work is really great and, although some other Made In L.A. artists do “LA art,” Nery’s work seems the freshest and most authentic to Los Angeles. You can see the care he has for the communities and the efforts he is making through art to inspire change. His work is accessible and complicated, which is a great area to be in. We’re glad an artist like Nery is included because without someone actually working to change LA through art in the show it wouldn’t be an accurate representation of Los Angeles art right now.