Lives and works in Los Angeles
Find in this post:
1/ “Lester MONZON: “This is pure painting!” by Beatrice Chassepot,
2/ Interview of the Artist
“Lester MONZON: “This is pure painting!”by Beatrice Chassepot
In his recent exhibition, at Kinkead Gallery (Culver City), Painter Lester Monzon shows no more than9 small paintings harmoniously spread out along the walls. At first glance you see a dance of colors and geometrics that make the paintings stand out the white wall of the gallery. These times it is more usual to see abstract in huge size “Museum format”. Here, the size is almost the same for all paintings: Small. It forces you to go to meet the paintings to know them better. You go naturally to the more colorful one, and start to look at it with attention. The relationship with the Artwork begins.
You see first a grid painted on the canvas. It might be simple horizontal grid or a grid drawn on the cross. The grids make squares that are painted (handmade, not printed or not a predefined and filled pattern) all differently but in the same tone.
Immediately you see another coat of painting on the canvas, like a stain made by accident. But, this is not an accident.
Actually, two paintings live together on the same canvas.
You understand that what you see in front of you in a 100% work of painting, this is not about some topic or other concern.
You are facing a kind of conversation between two “genres”: The geometrical background spreads the whole canvas and an Alien, like a virus, appears on it. It is a gesture, strong, thick and quickly painted. You have seen that kind of thick and fast brushstroke in the Asian art and Expressionist movement whereas the grids recall you Constructivism, Supremativism for which time and calculations were dominant.
Those paintings in front of me – because they are small, because the pattern of the background has no beginning and no end and because there are two paintings in one – are like a piece of bigger part, I guess they are telling us something related to the History of Art.
The long History of Painting is made of painters who, after having digested a technique from the eldest Masters, have surpassed it, and them, by breaking rules and codes creating another way of painting. The most popular example is the Cubism that came to break the rules of Impressionism.
Expressionism, born in New York in 1948, came to move off Constructivism/ Suprematism, born in 1914 in Europe. On Lester’s paintings the two movements cohabit together on the same canvas. One is the direct expression of human soul and the other is exactly the opposite, the absence of any human expression. Lester Monzon takes up the challenge and he assembles all together a long-standing separation between constructivists and expressionists. Two enemies reunite on the same place, two periods reunited in one, two “genres” of painting cohabiting together, two philosophies in one.
But which Philosophy “A big reconciliation” I guess this is what Lester Monzon wants to tell us: those two movements are reunited in a biggest one which could be Painting?
He replaces Painting at the very center of everything
Painting is the only one story that the Painter wants to tell us: “Painting” as an act, as a topic by itself, painting both as a mean and as a result.
And, actually this is pretty well done. The result is astonishing. Despite the two presences of two “genres” on the same canvas, your retina circulates perfectly over the painting lead by the colors. Lester Monzon’s paintings are not “dead” designs or just “wonderful” images like you see sometimes in abstract. There is a strong dynamic given by the battle between the two genres. But no one steals a lead over the other. The painter has found a remarkable balance in each one. The whole is dynamic-harmonious. No dissonances, just some highlights of pure yellow are put in purpose to keep your eye aware of.
French Painter, Cezanne, who is perfection, was doing the same when he was painting. It was all a matter of circulation of colors, a dynamic to create and a balance to find:
legs du comte Isaac de Camondo, 1911
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé LewandowskiRMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
Lester Monzon has found his own way to battle with these painting’s fundamentals. When you look at his paintings you “read” the battle between Feelings against Reason, like you read a Greek tragedy!
But here, there is no looser. Painting is the absolute winner.
Beatrice Chassepot, a French voice…
Los Angeles, October 23d, 2010
Lester Monzon’s Interview
I wanted to ask a few questions directly to the artist to get a better idea of what is in his mind when he works. (The way Lester Monzon responded to the questions is actually revealing a character trait because he has not answered all four questions in block, but a response after another allowing time between each.)
B.Ch: Would you explain your process of painting. Do you first draw, go to your computer to try different hypotheses. How do you start?
Lester Monzon: I tend to work a painting by attempting to aesthetically satisfy my taste in abstraction. Process in a painting for me, is to paint over and over and over. My goals are to find, what I consider a “completion” to that particular painting I’m working on at that particular time. The way I start is…. I have an idea, I’m thinking about a straight square pattern. I lay out the pattern on my panel and I start to paint. From this point on it’s all about getting lost in the pattern and discovering. This process continues until I find myself satisfied.
B.Ch: I am amazed by your technical skills. I guess it is quite uneasy to use acrylic painting the way you do. Because of your so dense background the second coat is made as difficult as to work watercolor on paper; Am I right ? and the gesture you have for the second coat must really come from your inner body, like Asian art paintings. Am I right?
Lester Monzon: I’ve been painting with acrylic paint for a very long time, almost 20 years. Most of my skills with acrylics was learned when I was an assistant to a muralist named Gregory Navarro Pickens. Murals are about layers and layers of glazing multiple coats of paint. I merge these skills down to a smaller scale to my own paintings. When I lay down the gestural brush strokes I am thinking about abstract expressionism or action painting, you can say this aspect is from my “inner body” or the emphasis on the physical act of painting itself. The brush strokes ultimately get highly controlled, and are glazed in order for a more pictorial finish.
B.Ch: Which fact somewhere in your life made you so interested in minimalism, constructivism and expressionism?
Lester Monzon: I’m very interested in minimalism, constructivism and expressionism. Before I went to Art Center College Of Design ( in Pasadena, California ) I wasn’t to familiar with these movements, but I have become to identify with there aesthetic quality. Most importantly with minimalism and expressionism. First with minimalism, I really love the idea of that the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features. With expressionism I enjoy the idea about the “self” or as I said before, “about the emphasis on the physical act of painting itself.”
I do believe my work reflects who I am as a person, and not only as an artist. An old friend ( who is not an artist ) once told me that she completely understands my work because she completely understands who I am. She continues on, explaining my work and myself as one; patterns are like me, very organized, put together well and stable. The wild brush work are me as well, at times I’m quite untamed, rude and uncivilized.
B.Ch: I would say your key words are “battle” and “balance”, do you agree?
Lester Monzon: At times I do think about it that way. In the beginning, when I first started to play with these ideas (pattern/gestural abstraction ) my thoughts were more formal…. composition, color etc. Then, after a few months later I wasn’t able to satisfy my appetite for one (pattern) or the other (gestural) and a painting would take months and months to complete. This still tends to happen from time to time. During this kind/type of process within my practice I do find myself feeling like I’m in a battle. The end result, the painting itself seems to carry this kind of connotation.
When there are two opposing styles of paintings within a painting, like my paintings are. Creating a “balance” can be a way of minimizing the strong ideas of pattern and gestural abstraction. Not too much chaos, not too much order, but accounting between the two sides. The outcome or existence of two styles as one image creates a different relationship, a diverse type of meaning.
November 6th 2010
Also read article by Ed Schad https://icallitoranges.blogspot.com/2009/03/lester-monzon.html