Week 4 | Artist Conversation: Elmer Guevera and Robert Nehemiah

Exhibition Information:

Artist: Elmer Guevera and Robert Nehemiah

Exhibition: Immaterial

Media: Oil on canvas, Oil on unprimed wood, Oil on tarp, Oil on metal

Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West

Instagram: @wookieewarrior (Robert), @3lmski (Elmer)

About the Artists:

Elmer Guevera and Robert Nehemiah are both in their last semesters as CSULB undergraduates in the School of Art’s drawing and painting program working towards their BFA.

They are both in the LA area and are both figurative painters, however they have their own unique styles. They both started drawing and creating art ever since they were kids and always doodled in their spare time.

Formal Analysis:

Elmer works with fragmented images and paints them onto canvasses, while Robert uses unconventional pieces to paint on. Elmer’s pieces are fragmented and in a way, look like puzzle pieces fixed onto a canvas. The images are disoriented and positioned pointing in different angles and perspectives. The bright colors make it very busy as well.

Robert’s pieces are painted on rough, unprimed wood surfaces also on metal and tarp. His images are more straightforward portraits of people and it contrasts well with the unconventional canvasses he uses to paint on.

Content Analysis:

Elmer’s paintings are of homeless people he met in the streets. He took photographs of his subjects and their surroundings and created a collage which inspired his paintings. The fact that Elmer creates portraits using distorted and fragmented images gives you an idea of how his subjects might be or act like in real life. I think it is a very unconventional way to paint a portrait, but it gives a clearer message to the viewer. The viewer is able to look at all of the different images in a single portrait and piece them together to form their own ideas. The fragmented images also feel very chaotic and broken in a way that I imagine living without a home must feel like.

Robert’s pieces are rather straightforward at first glance, but then you notice the unique canvasses he uses to paint on. The oil painting in itself is very conventional, and it contrasts with the raw materials he uses to paint on. Although it contrasts with the paint, it also relates to his subjects and sort of gives his subjects more personality.

Elmer and Robert both explained that they were taught strict guidelines in art school and that breaking away from that is difficult at times. It can also be frowned upon to stray too far from those guidelines. They both aim to find their own styles even through all of those guidelines and connect with the viewers through their unique styles. I think that with their unconventional pieces, they certainly exceeded that.

Synthesis/My Experience

In Elmer’s piece “Greg,” you can see street signs and traffic lights. More interesting, is that Greg is portrayed with multiple arms and hands and looks as though he is jogging. There are also two sets of faces that create a sort of “double-vision” effect.

This piece gives me the impression that Greg is a very energetic person. The painting is sort of chaotic in a way and looks like everything is moving at a fast pace. I think that Elmer captured Greg’s personality perfectly because he explained to us that as he was interviewing Greg, he was fidgeting and moving his hands a lot. It also makes me think that Greg may have been nervous to be interviewed and so that may be why he was moving around a lot.

In Robert’s pieces, I feel like his portraits are very straightforward and easier to interpret. However, they are unique in the way that he uses unconventional canvasses to paint on. For example, for his piece, “Portrait of a Mother,” his mom is painted on a sheet of unprimed metal. The look in his mom’s eyes is serious, and her downturned smile is warm but stern. Her arms are crossed and her hands are overlapping each other. I think that the metal complements her personality because metal is sturdy and hard, yet it can make precious things like jewelry and other ornaments. The metal also goes well with her silver earrings. To me, I feel that his mom is being portrayed as being stern, yet loving and precious.

I think that Elmer’s and Robert’s way of depicting subjects in their portraits are very interesting and unique. It tells you a lot about their subject’s personalities. In some aspects, I can relate their portraits to people I know and compare them to some of their pieces.