Pace Prints is pleased to announce a presentation of trial proofs by José Lerma, on view December 1–22, 2023, at 536 West 22nd Street. This presentation will focus on unique trial proofs made of cast paper pulp at the Pace Prints paper shop in Gowanus, Brooklyn. An opening reception will be held Thursday, November 30, 6–8pm.
José Lerma was first inspired to make thick paintings of portraits many years ago, when he saw a painting of a crowd by Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. He observed that the further away from the foreground the figures were, the less information about their features was depicted. The furthest appeared with no face at all, composed of a few limited brushstrokes, diluted to only the suggestion of a person.
Lerma extrapolated this technique in his own work but focused on the composition of a single subject. He scaled everything up, including the size of the canvas, the tools he used, and the figure. The effect distorts the perception of space making one feel miniature in comparison to the large daubs of paint, recalling sensations of childhood when one explores a world of objects they have not yet grown into.
At the Pace Prints Paper shop, a mold of Lerma’s painting was constructed to pick up the minute details of the contours of his brushwork. This was used to cast pigmented pulp into many layers which hardened into sculptural components of varying colors. They were arranged and mounted on a thick backing sheet of handmade paper, re-creating the composition of the source painting. The result exudes tactility with soft, matte textures and even softer hues. With a penchant for what he calls “slower colors,” Lerma pulled from the Rococo style palette and muted pastels to create a sense of balance with the playful antagonism of the form.
Rather than portraits, José Lerma refers to his works as “people-shaped abstractions” that allow him to push the potential of material; paper components that take on the attributes of sculpture, for example. By subverting expectations of how a medium should behave or appear, Lerma creates a sense of playful exploration, prompting constant engagement with the environment in new and surprising ways.