Using colors that look like they used to be brighter, José Lerma pushes broad strokes of paint around making a long nose, a big shirt, messy hair. Self-reflective absurdity, melancholy, and humor are conveyed through his slow but loose painting style as much as through his subject matter.
The first paintings in this particular style were done in 2000. They were a reaction to the "Superflat" high gloss aesthetic and neo color field L.A. abstraction. At that point I was exploring all mediums along with painting to communicate a very basic tone: what I thought of as the tension between the heroic and the pathetic. In late 2002 I abandoned installation, video and photography to concentrate exclusively on painting. It was also the first time I experienced an emotional connection to painting. The main character was originally taken from self-portraits I made as a fourteen year old. Located somewhere between the therapeutic and a desire to shun cleverness, was this messy stuff. I could recall and access past events as I felt them and convey them in a way that seemed not anchored in language but still related the visceral, traumatic and just plain dorky. It was the visual equivalent of stuttering or stumbling and yet it was incredibly eloquent.
It sounds redundant, but I felt painting could not be beat at being painterly... it felt like the most natural manifestation of the medium. That was the kind of reductive thinking that drove me to thick, drippy and impastoed gestural work. It was just an extension of my interest in medium specificity, in directness. I did not want painting to comment but to have autonomy from other mediums.
José Lerma is a resident at the Core Program in Houston, Texas.