Striking a Chord with Portraiture: José Lerma at Andrea Rosen

José Lerma, The Glib Decade, 2010 | Acrylic and silicon caulk on canvas, oil, acrylic, urethane, pen and graphite on linen, two synthesizers, speakers, 94.5 x 140 x 22.75 inches. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

It might be the coolest conceptual application to the exhibition of paintings that I can remember. For his current solo show of paintings in New York, José Lerma has placed a few works directly on electronic keyboards, with the paintings themselves playing the haunting synthesizer chords that echo throughout the space.

Lerma's exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery, I am Sorry I am Perry, is a portraiture show, but not in any recognizable sense. The bureaucrats loosely depicted in each painting take a backseat to the qualities of paint itself, and applications such as the keyboard paintings point to the individual personality of each work rather than their subjects. It's a smart move, and the show is full of them. More after the jump! —Evan J. Garza

Above: José Lerma, Samuel Bernard, 2010| Acrylic on canvas, synthesizer, speakers, 74.5 x 60 x 17 inches. Below: detail, Samuel Bernard, 2010. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

Each day, the paintings are propped up, and with each new setup, a new set of chords. Saying of the keyboard works, Lerma tells me:

"In this context, I thought there was something beautiful about these bureaucratic elements to the work, and this much more—I guess you could say—new agey, textural sound that would move around the gallery. And [the sound] would always be changing because there would be another keyboard making a different sound. So, it’s a kind of soundtrack. It gives the paintings a kind of cinematic feeling... I subconsciously did it because of the experience of watching certain documentaries that would scan the surface of paintings and have this drone noise for cinematic effect… I like the idea of the paintings themselves playing the notes."

Like many of his contemporaries, Lerma, who was featured in the 2000 MFA Annual edition of New American Paintings, is entirely unconcerned with likeness—he lets the paint do the actual painting. Through the inclusion of his keyboards, however, Lerma adds yet another layer of personal meaning to his works, expanding the definition of both painting and portraiture in the process.

OLL KORRECT, 2010| Acrylic on canvas, 49.5 x 43.5 x 1.5 inches. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

John Law, 2010 | Acrylic, silicone caulk on canvas, 102 x 78 x 1 1/2 inches. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

Installation view, José Lerma: I am Sorry I am Perry at Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

José Lerma was featured in the 2000 MFA Annual edition of New American Paintings. His exhibition, I am Sorry I am Perry, is on view at Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York through January 22, 2011. A Person of Color/A Mostly Orange Exhibition, a group show curated by Lerma, opens at Green Gallery, Milwaukee, WI, on January 22, 2011.


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