Thomas Lerooy: The Gift
1107 Greenacre Ave Los Angeles, CA 90046
Friday, April 12 at 5:00 PM 8:00 PM
Ends May 11, 2024
Nino Mier Gallery is thrilled to present our first solo exhibition with Brussels-based painter Thomas Lerooy. In the presentation, Lerooy seamlessly blends high and low aesthetics in his portraits of women and animals, partially occluded by objects and abstract forms. Aptly titled The Gift, the show invites viewers to unravel the layers of secrecy and concealment in each composition, experiencing the delightful surprises of what lies beyond surfaces. Thomas Lerooy is a trained sculptor, but has recently focused his practice on painting. In The Gift, he brings his awareness of objecthood into the pictorial realm, where he employs trompe l’oeil to playful effect. Reflecting an interest in art history, from the Old Masters through Surrealism and Pop Art, Lerooy’s works are a spirited melding of various styles. While many portraits exude Baroque or Edwardian-era luxury, it is difficult to place the figures within a specific period because they are stripped of their contexts, presented instead on monochromatic backgrounds. Furthermore, each face is obscured by objects or abstractions. Flutterby, for instance, features a woman peeking out at the viewer through a series of butterflies who have seemingly swiped at the paint on the surface of the canvas. This sort of “trick of the eye” repeats throughout the show, as various framing devices build within each composition. Though many of his figures are realist, Lerooy abstracts each composition through haze and streak marks. Some works incorporate the source of the marks itself into the composition. In Lift me up, an upside-down bird abstracts into a series of streaks produced by a squeegee depicted at the top of the painting. And in Jaguar, the titular animal leaps across a blue ground, its form lost to the rainbow effect of a windshield wiper. The latter work refers to both the animal and the car, a kind of visual punning characteristic of Lerooy’s humor. The tactile qualities of sculpting are still present in Lerooy’s painted works. Not only does he represent haptic experiences, favoring pointing, clasping, and grasping hands, but moreover he leaves traces of his hand on the works’ surfaces. In Gone with the wind, a small, winged insect rests on a man’s index finger, isolated in the center of the composition. A second insect flies above, with trails indicating movement radiating upwards. To create such lines, Lerooy used his own finger to manipulate the oil paint. A sense of wonder suffuses such shifts between figuration and abstraction, realism and surrealism. Bright colors ranging from peach to lavender and mint green set the mood of these joyful compositions. Lerooy’s figures, too, engage viewers with playful mischievousness, looking out at them through their whimsical veils of butterflies, fruit, and flowers. Even works that have darker subject matter, like We make a great pear – which depicts two skull-pear hybrids leaning sweetly on one another – brings a sense of tenderness and humor to a genre, the vanitas, that otherwise nods gravely to the transience of life. Lerooy’s insistence on the comic and pleasurable features of images – and of life – are gifts all who behold his work. Thomas Lerooy (b. 1981, Roeselare, BE; lives and works in Brussels, BE) has exhibited with Rodolphe Janssen (Brussels; BE); Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (Brussels, BE); Vanity Fair at Gaasbeek Castle (Gaasbeek, BE); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, (Deurle, BE); and Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris (Paris, FR); Simone Subal Gallery (New York, NY); among others. Lerooy’s work is included in public institutions such as the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Center Pompidou, Paris, FR; Province of West Flanders, BE; Belfius Art Collection, Brussels, Belgium, City of Brussels, BE, City of Puurs and City of Knokke, BE. Jaguar, 2024, Oil on canvas