Phung Huynh: Return Home | Luis Emilio Romero: Fortress of Light / Fortaleza de Luz | Melissa Huddleston: Primordial Spring
1110 Mateo St. Los Angeles CA, 90021
Saturday, June 22 at 6:00 PM 8:00 PM
Ends Aug 3, 2024
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce Phung Huynh: Return Home, the artist’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition will run from June 22 through August 3, 2024, with an opening reception on Saturday, June 22, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. A ceremonial performance will take place during the reception and begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. This new series brings together an installation of ornately framed graphite drawings and photographic banners that seek to ritually unite fragments of sacred Khmer Buddha statue heads that were looted from Cambodia. The artist examines Cambodian sculptures that memorialize the Golden Age of Khmer culture from the 9th to the 15th centuries, particularly the Buddha heads that are currently housed in American art museums and the remnants of the statues' bodies remaining in the temples of Cambodia. Huynh initiates critical dialogues in the pressing matters of repatriation and provenance within the collections of American institutions. The looting of Khmer statues from sacred temple sites began when France colonized Cambodia in the late 19th century. The carpet bombing of Cambodia during President Nixon’s administration and the American War in Vietnam opened the floodgates for the Khmer Rouge Genocide of the 1970s which eliminated 90% of the country’s artists and shattered the cultural landscape of Cambodians. Huynh frames her project as both personal and political: “As a daughter of a Cambodian father who survived war and genocide of the 1970s, I am well aware of how Cambodia became a vulnerable place for destruction and the theft of so many of our statues that are essentially vessels for our divine, ancestors, and cultural heritage. Considering the profound impact of war, genocide, and American imperialism, my artwork is built on the desire (for them) to return home and focuses on the repatriation of ancestral art and heritage to Cambodia.” The exhibition includes seven drawings of Khmer statue heads sourced from American museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Norton Simon Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the USC Pacific Asia Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Encased in gold gilt frames, the statue heads float in the negative space of the paper, each volume and detail of the head carefully rendered and positioned with dignity, emphasizing their removal from their original context—obscuring meaning, place, and connection. The lack of context and even knowledge about these objects is often highlighted by the way the institutions assign titles, positioning them in anonymity and erasure, with catalog numbers and generic names such as “Head of Buddha, Deity,” “Head of a Deity,” “Head of a Door Guardian,” etc. Huynh’s works also offer a critique of commercially produced appropriations of the Buddha's head—as a decorative design item, garden motif, or commodified object—finding them to be problematic in their disrespect of the Buddha and Theravada Buddhism, and in the acceptance and normalization of the illicit traffic in cultural property. The translucent banners are printed with images of decapitated and dismembered Khmer statues that were photographed by Huynh during her visits to sacred temple sites in Cambodia. There, she found many mutilated statues of Buddha, Lakshmi, and other deities sitting in dark silent corridors and niches. For example, the statue of Lakshmi at Angkor Wat had no head but was adorned with a glittering golden dress, while the toes of a monumental statue of Vishnu were broken off and made into amulets. The banners will be activated through a ritual performed by classical Cambodian dancers during the opening of the exhibition. The dancers’ blessings and interactions will make the bodies spiritually whole and give contrast to how such statues are taken out of their cultural and spiritual context when they are in museums. Phung Huynh (b.1977, Rạch Giá, VN) holds an MFA from New York University and a BFA from Art Center College of Design, she lives and works in Los Angeles. Recent solo exhibitions include Don’t Call Me FOB, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, CA and Sobrevivir: Healing Through Art and Recognizing the History of Coerced Sterilizations, Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Donut W(hole) at Pepperdine University’s Payson Library, Malibu, CA and Self Help Graphics, Los Angeles, CA. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Museum at California State University, Long Beach, CA; Asia Society Texas, Houston, TX; School of Art and Design, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA; USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA; Ronald H. Silverman Fine Arts Gallery at California State University Los Angeles, CA; Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA; U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; among others. Huynh has also completed public art commissions for the Metro Orange Line, Metro Silver Line, the Los Angeles Zoo, and the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. Her work can be found in prominent collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; Vincent Price Art Museum, Monterey Park, CA; USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA; Escalette Permanent Collection of Art at Chapman University, Orange, CA; and the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine Art Collection, Pasadena, CA, as well as private collections. Huynh is the recipient of the 2024 Marciano Art Foundation Artadia Award, a 2023 Fellow of the Lucas Artists Program at the Montalvo Arts Center for the Arts in Saratoga, CA, and 2022 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artist Fellows, State of California, among numerous other awards. - Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce Luis Emilio Romero: Fortress of Light / Fortaleza de Luz, the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition will run from June 22 – August 3, 2024, with an opening reception on Saturday, June 22, from 6–8pm. Luis Emilio Romero’s geometric abstract paintings are linked to ancestrally passed traditions of woven textiles as a process connected to the ritual of creation. Romero’s work speaks to the lifeblood of cultural methodologies, employing spirituality and indigenous craft as the structural logic in his intricate compositions. His paintings are vessels of process imbued with intention, energy, and devotion. Romero’s process starts by drawing linear compositions on delicate paper. Using colored pencils, the drawing is replicated on canvas and this foundational blueprint serves as both the guideline and structure of the painting, a step he reveals on the edges of each finished work. He shares, “These lines have their own skeletal system; when merged, they become pillars, and once I combine them, they become like a fortress. The energy flows through me and into the root of these lines. The meditation aspect of this process is similar to the ritual of making textiles in Guatemala. There, I was taught that understanding the tools used in their creation is as important as the final piece itself.” The next step in his ritual is activated by meditating on the color spirit of the painting. With a carefully considered palette, he combines bands of color with rows of repeating individual brushstrokes to build tactile woven patterns that evoke rhythm and harmony. Each surface ignites the physicality and movement of the composition, highlighting vivid structures of color, texture, and line. These internal spaces, intricate patterns, and passageways lead to chambers of reflection that trigger a sensory experience. Romero’s approach to color is intuitive and rooted in nature, using color to communicate growth, unity, and movement within patterns. Just as light is a force of energy captured in vibrant colors or subtle and muted moments in the day, his pallet varies with light and dark hues affecting a range of experience—from the tranquility and calm of a night sky to the active and energized blaze of a morning dawn. Romero explains, “My approach to color is more of an organic vital force rather than color theory. Through the combination of color, there comes rhythm and repetition. Still, color has its own nature—meaning that if I lean into new patterns during the process, it will enhance that relationship of color with me and with the work.” The exhibition’s title, “Fortaleza de Luz,” does not easily translate to English as “Fortress of Light,” as fortaleza holds a multitude of meanings. Fortaleza can be a personal verb or a physical noun; it can relate to the act of strengthening oneself, it can express the vitality of an object or being, or it can be a physical place designated for protection. Likewise, luz or “light” holds a wealth of metaphorical meanings—a poetic reading of protecting the light from within. Luis Emilio Romero (b.1996, Bárcena, Guatemala) holds an MFA from Hunter College (2022) and a BFA from Rutgers State University (2019). He has participated in exhibitions including Material Knowledge (2022) at Arsenal Contemporary in New York; It Begins with What's Already There at 205 Hudson Gallery, Hunter College, New York; and Rituales y el Subconsciente/ Rituals and the Subconscious (2023) at Mostajo Projects, New York, among others. Romero has been awarded the Dedalus Foundation Master of Fine Arts Fellowship in 2023, and was an artist-in-residence at Mostajo Projects in Warren, CT (2023). He lives in New Jersey and works in Brooklyn, New York. - Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is pleased to announce Melissa Huddleston: Primordial Spring, the Los Angeles artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, featuring a new body of paintings. The exhibition will be on view June 22 – August 3, 2024, with an opening reception on Saturday, June 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. Huddleston’s series of paintings on paper immerse the viewer in a luminous, prehistoric swamp populated with single-celled organisms, imaginary archaic life forms, and humanoid amphibian figures. Seen in silhouette, the figures’ complex relationships hover at the edge of narrative. Not quite land, not quite sea, swamps and wetlands represent a mingling of ecologies, a crossing of worlds. Encounters happen in these places that don’t happen anywhere else. The imagery in the paintings teems with mutation, decay, sex, death, and the magnificent messiness of life. The paintings in Primordial Spring utilize processes adapted from historic print and book arts techniques. Through an experimental monoprint-style method, paint is applied to the surface of a water bath, manipulated, and then transferred to paper. The resulting paintings are dense with organic activity, and buoyant swirls of colors floating with mysterious levity. Paper marbling techniques are commonly associated with European scriptural arts, as well as the Japanese art of suminagashi. Huddleston’s interest in these processes is informed by revisionist feminist histories of these works on paper that have reassessed their former status as minor arts, craft, or ephemera. Her paintings boldly intersect aspects of these traditions with the idiom and scale of modernist abstract painting. Melissa Huddleston (b.1981, Elm Springs, AR) lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. from Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, where she studied painting. Huddleston works as an Assistant Conservator at the Getty Research Institute. Her solo exhibition The Beautician appeared at the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive in 2016. Group exhibitions include Chapters: Book Arts in Southern California at the Craft Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, The Collectivists at the Brand Gallery and an artist residency at the Sam and Adele Golden Foundation for the Arts Language of Landscape at the Annenberg Community Beach House, and ¡Dígame! at the Obracadobra Residency in Oaxaca, MX. For further information, including images and previews, please contact Gallery Director, Brianna Bakke at 213-395-0762, or Gallery Instagram: @luisdejesuslosangeles
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