Brand New Gallery is pleased to present “The Last Upper”, José Lerma’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. The show will feature a group of paintings from Lerma’s most recent body of work.
Born in Spain in 1971 and raised in Puerto Rico, José Lerma draws inspiration from his personal history, as well as historical figures and events, claiming that “all art is about other art and about your parents”.
Lerma explores conceptually and materially the medium of painting, recognizing it as a medium that, historically, has often been a vehicle for commemorating status and power.
“Portraiture has traditionally been a way to depicting status… The portraits were idealized, even theatrical… They were instruments. Images serve that function”
Power remains a recurrent theme for Lerma, who had a background in social science and he studied law before taking a hard left turn to pursue contemporary high-concept art. Neither critical nor celebratory, Lerma’s approach to his subject matter exposes paradoxes ranging from the site and context to his projects to the medium of painting itself.
Using varying methods and alternative materials, Lerma’s gestures and depictions continue to unfold upon investigation, his compositions are at one abstract and figurative, humorous and dark, chaotic and controlled, encouraging a deeper engagement with the content and narrative embedded in the work.
“The gallery’s exhibition is a continuation of themes that I have worked on in the past few years. What has interested me has been the nexus between finance, economics and history all expressed with an somewhat infantile aesthetic. The title is an rather obvious pun that makes allusions to drug use, and of course to Milan’s most celebrated work of art. The two versions presented here are cartoonish depictions of works by Lucas Cranach and the Master of the Housebook. The apostoles are jumbled and exist in a severely compressed but frantic, speedy and paranoid state. The Royal Family underwater is based on Jean Nocret’s famous group portrait of the Bourbons depicted as Greek gods and is a nod to the fortunes of Americas current first family. The Money Changers are loosely based on versions by Jan Sanders van Hemessen and Jacob Jordaens. Another portrait is an image of the banker Roberto Calvi of Banco Ambrosiano which is done using bank security envelope patterns. A similar technique is used on the portraits of Madoff’s right hand man Frank DiPascali and his secretary Annette Bongiorno. The paintings are full of contradictions. They are detailed and direct, idiotic and philosophical, historical and topical. They are disarming and distracting like a skilled confidence man”.
Brand New Gallery (press release)