The Date Farmers at Ace Gallery
December 15th, 2010 by Chloe Gallagher
Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez met at a Coachella Valley art gallery in 1998. It’s feasible that, had this meeting not occurred, they would have crossed paths sooner or later. Both originally from Indio, CA, at one time Carlos worked on a date farm owned by Armando’s father in nearby Coachella. After their chance meeting, and the discovery of their shared creative interest, Carlos and Armando joined forces to form an artistic alliance that has been creating some of the best mixed media work to come out of California in the past decade. In 2001 Marsea Golberg of New Image Art gave them their first show in LA, and also coined the name The Date Farmers, culled from their shared history. Since entering the gallery world the Date Farmers have been creating paintings, collages, and three dimensional work, in the tranquil seclusion of the desert east of LA. Their work has shown in many leading galleries, from Jonathan Levine to San Francisco’s The Luggage Store. Mining their collective experience as American-born Chicanos the Date Farmers’ work is deeply rooted in Mexican-American heritage and California pop-culture. The duo often cross the border, visiting Mexicali and Oaxaca, to collect found material for their work, like wood, discarded signs, and corrugated metal. Their solo show currently at ACE Gallery is a celebration of the Bicentennial of Mexican Independence. Lerma says, “Using stuff that was thrown away is Mexican ingenuity. People’s idea of art is that it’s really expensive and [made of] nice materials, but found objects are so abundant, they’re much easier and freeing for us.”
The Date Farmers’ work contains elements of graffiti, revolutionary poster art, Mexican murals, traditional Oaxacan sign painting (which they were exposed to on a trip to the city through Upper Playground), as well as prison art and tattoos. They call their use of larger-than-life figures and icons “Super Loco.” As ACE explained in their press release, “The artists primal drive for personalization and craft within the playground of soulless advertisements makes the work intellectually stimulating and visually compelling.” By combining original imagery with pirated material and appropriated iconography, their work becomes historical on a personal and societal level. Elements of comics and corporate logos situate the art within the context of American culture as a whole, while traces of ancient indigenous art and Catholic iconography relate to the personal experiences of the Mexican-American community and the unique visual lexicon of a cross-cultural population. Desert creatures like scorpions, coyotes and snakes often make their way into the compositions, foils perhaps for citizens of their borderland community. The artists themselves appear in the work as well. “In customizing found objects with a dark wit, the artists put themselves into their work, both emotionally and pictorially, sometimes representing themselves as ferocious black dogs.” In preparation for their solo show at ACE Gallery which opened this week Lerma and Ramirez took a studio in Los Angeles in order to have room to create the volume of work necessary to fill ACE’s spacious gallery. “The Date Farmers have been given free reign in mounting their exhibition, customizing it into their highly idiosyncratic universe,” even changing the wall color in places for the first time in the gallery’s 30 year history. Rising to the challenge of ACE’s somewhat daunting 30,000 square feet of gallery space, the Date Farmers have created some of their largest and most compelling work to date.
The Date Farmers: December 13th through March 2011
ACE GALLERY Institute Of Contemporary Art
@ The Wilshire Tower
5514 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Quoted text from Ace Gallery Press release.