“Immaterial is a series of portrait paintings that presents subjects both personally familiar and unfamiliar to the artists. In essence, the works become an exploration of character and nature; whether that be in the context of the subject’s environment, or the exploration of materials and the philosophies endowed by those depicted. “Immaterial” refers to our socialized notions of irrelevance; bringing to light the individuals and materials that surround us- challenging our perception of their value.”
Immaterial is a series of portraits created by artists Elmer Guevara and Robert Nehemiah. The above quote was written by the artists themselves and give gallery visitors context before viewing the paintings.
Artist: Robert Nehemiah
Media: Found materials (such as abandoned wood), and paint
Gallery: CSULB School of Art: Gatov Gallery West
About the Artist:
Robert Nehemiah was originally going to be a firefighter. Coming out of high school, he was stuck in the notion that you had to get a job immediately. However he eventually returned to the arts, something he had been doing his entire life. Nehemiah is currently in the Drawing and Painting BFA Program at California State University Long Beach.
Robert Nehemiah is responsible for the portraits done on found materials. One of the main materials that acted as a foundation for the portrait was wood. These large pieces of wood were jagged and asymmetrical. The materials that Nehemiah found and reused greatly contrast his painting style. The detailed, hyper-realistic portraits layered over the reused, misshapen materials has a bold effect. Nehemiah also seems to use a lot of shadow in his paintings in order to create dimension on the flat wood surfaces.
Nehemiah’s paintings are of people who have influenced his life, as well as his views on materialism. For example, his mentor, a man who has influenced Nehemiah greatly, can be seen at the bottom right. Nehemiah explained that these paintings explore materialism and materialistic values. Nehemiah uses found materials in his paintings to challenge the traditional ideas of materialism, and is able to show that “irrelevant” objects can easily be given purpose.
I thought it was really powerful how he selected found materials, materials that aren’t made to last, and items one would think have little significance. To use these items as a foundation for such personal portraits was incredibly creative. Looking at Nehemiah’s work I thought of how wasteful we are as a society. The United States is noted as one of the largest producers of waste. Living in a consumer-based culture, we are led to believe that we need to constantly repurchase better models, and shinier objects. Nehemiah’s work made me stop and realize that this societal norm is not challenged enough.
Artist: Elmer Guevara
Media: Canvas, paint
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
About the Artist:
Guevara was exposed to painting through growing up around his older cousins doing graffiti in Los Angeles. Guevara transferred from East Los Angeles City College, and is also a student in the Drawing and Painting BFA at California State University Long Beach.
Guevara’s style has a very distinct look. His portraits appear distorted, as if the corners of certain images overlap each other. Guevara adds texture to the paintings, and sticks to a similar color palette through out the exhibit. The colors are realistic, and blend together well, reflecting the actual streets of Los Angeles. His paintings have an abstract style to them while still keeping the original images of his subjects intact.
Guevara’s portraits are of people he met on the streets of Los Angeles. Guevara would get to know them the first day, and conduct what he called a “visual interview.” My favorite piece by Guevara was “Greg” (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo), but I did get a chance to ask Guevara about the process behind it. Guevara had met Greg a few times before and eventually conducted a visual interview. He took photos of Greg and his surroundings, and then tried to recreate the anxious impression he got from Greg through movement, and his personal painting style. While I don’t have a photo of “Greg” you can see that the same process was used for Guevara’s other pieces. Through the distortion of the original images, Guevara brings depth to the portraits, and is able to give viewers an idea of the people in them and their personalities.
I really enjoyed Guevara’s work. As stated before, “Greg” was my favorite piece, and learning about the process behind it was fascinating. Even though I have never meant Greg, there is a lot I learned about him just by looking at his portrait.The last photo I attached is a Gallery sheet of all the paintings.The titles of the paintings are the names of the subjects. Both artists stressed the importance of the names of the paintings, and therefore the names of the people of the paintings. Guevara and Nehemiah stated that the names of these paintings/people are so important because they are often overlooked. The people living on the streets that Guevara encountered are often overlooked, and to acknowledge their names and presence was essential to the artist. After speaking to the artists I found myself wondering about the people in the paintings. What was their interaction with Guevara like? Have they seen the portraits? Where are they now? The portraits bring attention to the people often ignored. Guevara forces you to acknowledge them as unique individuals, and by doing so opens up a dialogue about how we as a society exclude the “out of the ordinary” labeling them things such as “irrelevant.”