Artists: Elmer Guevara and Robert Nehemiah
Media: Oil, Canvas, Wood, Tarp, Metal, Cardboard
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
Instagram: Robert – @wookieewarrior, Elmer – @3lmski1
For this week’s artist conversation, I got to meet Elmer Guevara and Robert Nehemiah. They are both students in the School of Art’s Drawing and Painting program. The two did not work together before; however, they found a similar foundation to collaborate and build the exhibit, “Immaterial”. Elmer grew up and resides in South LA, which is where his inspiration for his art work comes from. Growing up, he was influenced by his older cousins and friends to do graffiti and thus took an interest in street art at an early age. On the other hand, Robert grew up drawing and writing music. However, before choosing Drawing and Painting as his major, Robert was studying to become a firefighter after high school. Nevertheless, Robert left that career route and switched to fine art.
In the exhibit, Elmer and Robert both use oil to paint their portraits, but Elmer uses a canvas while Robert uses cardboard, wood, tarp, or metal for his. Elmer’s portraits present to be smooth, but the subjects and the environment of the portraits are jagged and uneven. There are fine lines to distinguish certain items like the street signs, but for the most part, the portraits presents wavy and curvy lines and drawings. In his portrait “Greg”, you can clearly see his arms, but there are multiple other arms that unorganized or all over the upper portion of his body. Moreover, Robert utilizes most dark colors such as black, brown, and grey onto his portraits. For his piece “Portrait of a Grandmother”, the portrait appears smooth, but the use of cardboard as his canvas appears rough on the edges.
Elmer’s work consists of portraits of individuals from the streets of LA. His portraits are visual interview based. Hence, Elmer finds his subject, interviews him or her, and takes multiple pictures during the interview. Then, he creates a photo collage and picks out important parts from the pictures. For his portraits, he wanted to depict the way that the subject was moving. For example, in the portrait “Greg”, Greg was constantly moving during the interview. Elmer adds a violin in the portrait to show that Greg used to play that instrument. Alongside, Elmer includes the street names of where the individual lives. Furthermore, Robert’s portraits are of individuals that he knows. For his philosophy, Robert aims to send his message of detachment from materialism. He wants to explore items or subjects that are overlooked, such as people we pass by or pieces of trash on the ground, and then highlighting them. For his portrait of the grandmother, he uses an unprimed cardboard to paint the portrait. Unfortunately, with an unprimed cardboard, Robert used a lot of paint, which he does not have enough money for. Inevitably, Robert had to purchase more paint and thus showing how it is hard to break from materialism.
The exhibit “Immaterial” caught my eye as soon as I walked into the gallery. I instantly thought of LA street art when I saw Elmer’s work, but I was also drawn to the various self portraits made by Robert that were painted on different mediums. After the interview with Elmer and Robert, it was eye opening to realize that their subjects are all of real people that they have met. They know who the subject is whether it is getting to know them by an interview or by actually having a personal relationship with them. Elmer and Robert portraits showcase the exploration of character and nature of the individual subjects and their environments. In addition, their philosophy of detachment from materialism is emphasized throughout the exhibit. For Elmer, he interviews individuals on the streets of LA who do not have much. He brings to light what their environment is like and what their story is. For Robert, he tries to be resourceful in the materials he uses as he tries to break away from materialism. Overall, I enjoyed the “Immaterial” exhibit, and I wish the best for Elmer and Robert in the future.