“Red Social: Portraits of Collaboration” by Colombian artist Alejandro Garcia Lemos is currently featured in Columbia College’s Goodall Gallery. The show runs until Oct. 15 in honor of Hispanic Heritage month.
Students and faculty, as well as many from outside the campus community, gathered for the exhibition's opening on Sept. 6, where they marveled openly at Lemos’s vividly and imaginatively realized array of portraits, including one of himself. The artist’s work displays profound social commentary, emotional depth and hints of the Latin tradition of magical realism, an aesthetic style that mingles reality with magical elements.
“Magical realism is something that’s really embedded in what I do,” Lemos said. “It’s almost impossible to move away from it.”
“At some point, magical realism became something so big that it kind of overshadowed the rest of the work of the writers and painters," he said. "So, yeah, it’s there. But at the same time we’re trying to find new venues and new ways of expression.”
Lemos said social issues like immigration, women’s rights and politics interest him. In the way of inspiration, Lemos looks to several prominent artists like Frida Kahlo -- who earns her own portrait in the exhibition -- Colombian painter Fernando Botero and even Georgia O’Keefe.
“It took me time to get it. But once I got it, I was like, ‘I love this’,” he said.
Lemos has plans to adapt his exhibition into a book, but for the moment he is continuing his work with Palmetto y Luna, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering Latino art and culture in South Carolina. Lemos is on the board of directors, and the “Red Social” opening was attended by many of Palmetto y Luna’s members, including students from area colleges. Lemos’s friend and business partner, Mexican artist Ivan Segura, also the organization’s executive director, explained that too often he would run into Hispanic immigrants who could not find an outlet for their creativity upon arriving in America.
“The part of the Hispanic community that’s not being met, let’s provide them with opportunities,” Segura said. “We have successful artists like Alejandro, but we’re also trying to provide new venues for upcoming artists.”
“Red Social” was a hit with both the students and the faculty.
“I think it’s spectacular,” French professor Dr. Corrine Mann said. “I love the colors; I love the movement; I love the expression.”
“What I see is living portraits,” she said. “It’s not the traditional portrait. The artist and the viewer are communicating.”
-- Kelli Weston '12