Paintings by Kim DeJesus are completely abstract, but they tell very specific stories. In her studio she orchestrates and activates her mediums in an evocative replication of natural forces — gravity, momentum, viscousness, accident, chaos, revelation — with results that embody organic process but express human emotion in palette and gesture. Small but salient interventions in the shapes and surfaces serve as reminders of the paintings’ ultimate artificiality, at the same time documenting and even narrating her very real and forthright presence in the studio, her quasi-mystical experience of making, the science of pigment, and ultimately her own existence.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
KIM DEJESUS: I was obsessed with making things when I was very young. Carving wooden spoons, clay sculptures of kings, trays of beads, detailed handmade books, many drawings of alligators, horses, and pussywillows. But I think my first experience with art happened around the age of 12. I was drawing a portrait of my sister while she was sleeping and something happened when I was making it. I began to understand art differently, and it was probably the first time I thought of my work in the context of art and began to think of myself as an artist.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My work revolves around process and discovery in the studio. It’s about what I can control and what I can’t, the balance between the two, and my relationship and interaction with the materials, as well as my responsive way of working with those materials. My interest in color, freedom, and memory are also at the foundation of my search.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Theater is a fascinating way to understand what it’s like to be human for someone else. It creates the possibility of being present with another person. I think that is interesting.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes, I got a painting scholarship to go to art school. It was important to me to have a strong foundation in art-making. I wanted to challenge myself to have a diverse knowledge of art materials and art history. I ended up getting a Post-Bacc art degree as well. That said, while art school can build a foundation, it doesn’t necessarily make you an artist.
Why do you live and work in L.A. and not elsewhere?
Los Angeles is a city enriched by many cultures that is rich in diversity and an epicenter for creatives. The entertainment industry brings an unusual flavor to L.A. that many places don’t have, and the extraordinary seems to always be happening here. I love how spread-out it is, and the freedom and space it offers to expand does not feel limiting. The geography is also incredible. I can be working downtown in my studio and an hour later be standing on an oceanside cliff reminiscent of the Mediterranean.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
My most recent show in L.A., Erasures Washes and Memory, just finished this May. I am very excited that my next show in town will be with William Turner Gallery.
What artist, living or dead, would you most like to show with?
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I listen to a wide range of music when I work. I love Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen, jazz, Mozart, Edith Piaf, The Cure, Bob Marley, Spanish, instrumental Icelandic, or African music. I often listen to music in languages that I don’t understand because I like to paint to a mood rather than a specific message. I often play the same song on repeat not realizing it played over 20 times. Sometimes I feel I need to paint to Metallica; other times, my work demands I paint in silence.
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