Wk 4 – Artist Conversation – Elmer Guevara and Robert Nehemiah

Artist: Elmer Guevara and Robert Nehemiah
Exhibition: Immaterial
Media: Paint, canvas, scrap metal, cardboard, wood, tarp
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov  West Gallery

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Elmer Guevara and Robert Nehemiah are the two talented Fine Arts students behind the “Immaterial” exhibit in the Gatov West Gallery. Elmer and Robert are both from the Gateway Cities of Los Angeles, where Elmer was originally attending East LA College and Robert was attending Rio Hondo College. There was a time when Robert  attended a fire academy to become a firefighter, but decided to pursue his true passion in the Arts. On the other hand, Elmer has always grown up drawing and had no doubts about becoming an artist. They have since transferred to CSULB to earn their BFA in Drawing and Painting. After realizing the similarities between their paintings, specifically the immaterialism present in Robert’s medium and Elmer’s subjects, the two artists decided to collaborate.

“Immaterial” is an exhibit that showcases contemporary portrait and collage paintings. Elmer painted on large canvases, while Robert painted on unconventional scrap materials such as wood, cardboard, metal, and tarp. A common trait of both the artists’ work is the use of dark, dramatic colors and uneven shadows. Robert’s portrait paintings are more traditional in the sense that it is symmetrical and consists of dimly backlit subjects in formal poses as the focal point.  Elmer’s collage paintings involve more movement – a myriad of objects that melt and distort into other objects to create an atmosphere of street life. Despite the innovative materials (in Robert’s case) or diversity of subjects (in Elmer’s case) , the painting style itself is concrete and classically executed.

The conceptual idea behind “Immaterial” is to pay homage to all the people or objects deemed irrelevant in our materialistic society. Robert’s paintings focused on all the scrap materials that were just thrown away and considered trash, which discourages the mentality of reusing and recycling and increases our waste problem. While painting his mentor, mother, grandmother, and best friend on the scrap materials, Robert realized that those people were just as temporary as the objects he was painting them on. This influenced him further to become unattached to materialistic matters in life. Likewise, by painting the homeless on the streets of Los Angeles, Elmer focused on bringing light to the growing homeless problem that has been disregarded due to our self-centeredness and our money-oriented society. Elmer took the time to interview the homeless and photographed their environment, before trying to accurately convey their emotions and stories. The intimacy of his collage paintings made him a stronger advocate for the cause in the process.

The first time I walked through the gallery, I was struck by the pure aesthetic talent of the two artists, as figure drawing and paintings are my main interests in art. What was special about this exhibit and drove me to stay was both the mystery and familiarity of the paintings. Robert’s work made me curious as to what materials he used, who he painted, and why he chose to paint them. As for Elmer, his paintings were a disarray of objects – familiar street signs, the recognizable Los Angeles sky, and the all-too familiar scene of trash covered streets. I initially mistook their concept as a tribute to the unusual beauty urban-life, but after reading about their idea and speaking to them, I realized I was a victim of materialism. Walking through the gallery from then on was an eye-opening experience that made me realize how easy it is for us to ignore the problems of reality and focus instead on our social medias and personal lives.We already have so much of what we need but are constantly throwing it away to make room for more temporary items. We are always trying to improve ourselves in order to earn the next best thing or achieve a higher status in people’s opinions of us, instead of trying to improve ourselves to have the ability to help others. I admire Robert and Elmer because they are trying to perfect their craft and are using it to educate others on what is truly important.

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