We reached out to Roberto Jamora with some questions about his work in our current exhibition Index, his studio practice, and things he is looking forward to.
Tell us about your work in this exhibition.
And then there was three…,2017
Blue Ridge Utopia, 2020
Rural Parking Lots, 2020
Miami, June 2019, 2020
These paintings are from my series “An Inventory of Traces.” In this series, each gradient is a vignette of an experience, place, or person. I attempt to commit important events in my life to memory via painting. I mine color from memory, photos, interviews, and artifacts from my family. Cold wax or pumice medium mixed with paint is swiped across the canvas. Thin traces of color are revealed. For me, the small scale paintings from 2020 are part landscape, part symbolic of moments of joy shared with friends at an artist residency and hanging out with my friends in Miami at an exhibition I was in last June. Because of everything happening on the planet, those times feel really far away right now.
How does this specific work relate to and fit in with your practice in general?
I’ve been working on this series since 2013 and it’s evolved slowly since then with subtle moves from painting to painting. I see the making of abstraction as not only a space for potential innovation of material, but as an experience of looking back to move forward. For me, reflection does not merely mean remembering, but reimagining what could possibly be- what does color do and what can it do?
Can you talk about your studio practice? What does a typical day in the studio look like? What is your studio environment like?
I’m typically working on a lot of different paintings and drawings at the same time. Some days, I don’t feel like being creative, so I’ll build several panels, stretch canvas over them, and gesso. A lot of the labor of my work isn’t actually painting per se. I feel like I’m always trying to identify moments of “everyday” color that are really extraordinary to me whether it’s the skintone of my wife or a sunrise at a rural McDonalds. My paintings usually begin with drawing or sorting through photos, thinking about color interactions. My sketchbook is full of drawings that look like simple two-dimensional design exercises. I am constantly organizing photos that I’ve taken or found into folders on my laptop and using Adobe Photoshop to isolate specific colors. The most laborious part is mixing the colors on the palette, which is where I spend the most time in the process.
Has your work or studio environment changed at all since the onset of COVID-19?
I couldn’t make anything for the first two months once the pandemic became real in the American consciousness and VCU moved to online instruction in mid-March. I felt paralyzed by the fear of death and losing everyone so I really couldn’t focus on art for a short period. I moved some of my materials from my studio on the Southside to my dining room table which became my office, classroom, and studio. I’ve since felt like I can work back in the Southside studio but I continue working from home when I can. Working from home hasn’t been all bad though- I started seriously drawing again, working on smaller scale paintings, and experimenting with acrylic, which feels really new to me. I’ve never had a home studio before since I used to only work in oil so It’s been great to be able to just work on something whenever I want to, without having to drive anywhere.
What are you working on currently? What is on the horizon in terms of upcoming exhibitions, residencies, or anything else you are looking forward to?
I am finishing up work for a solo show at FLXST Contemporary in Chicago that opens on September 12, 2020. Still working on a title for that exhibition, but at the moment it’s called Where were we? The exhibition will include work from my series, “An Inventory of Traces.” This summer I was supposed to be at an artist residency in the South of France for the month of July, but that obviously got cancelled. In addition to Index, I am also part of the exhibition New Waves 2020 at Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, which was juried by Susan Thompson, Associate Curator at the Guggenheim. That show is on view through January 3, 2021. Other than that, the future feels pretty uncertain because of the state of the world. Looking forward to continuing to make art, teach, and fight for social justice- a lot of work to do!
By carefully cutting incisions into the surface of his paintings, ROBERTO JAMORA reveals a sliver of what’s underneath. Mining colors from memories and photos, he uses cold wax and oil paint in swathes across the canvas. This both distorts and conceals any sense of imagery, leaving only traces of color behind.Jamora has been an artist in residence at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Joan Mitchell Center, Ragdale Foundation, and Sambalikhaan Foundation. His work has been exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, and the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans. He is represented by Page Bond Gallery in Richmond, VA.