Jose Lerma at the MCA

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It was a treat to finally view Jose Lerma’s monumental paper portraits in the flesh after seeing so many reproductions in catalogues. From a distance the busts appear to be made of chunks of plasticine but his use of monochromatic photography backdrop paper as sculpting material is naïve yet incredibly sophisticated.  I wonder what the patrons think of their portraits created in this less-than-flattering light.

This show is in the space sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and Lerma acknowledges this by taking the two founders and first presidents of the bank’s amalgamation as subject matter for his huge carpet portrait (which you can walk on if you are willing to don a pair of classy white ‘over-booties’). This attention to the relationship between patrons, artists and the public is pure genius.

I usually find sound pieces to be fairly obnoxious in public gallery spaces, but the dull tone echoing throughout the space is actually the sound of the physical weight of his huge airbrushed portrait painting sitting on two keyboards. The fact that we can visually trace the source of the sound makes this aspect important, justifiable and just a little bit cheeky.

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