In his latest exhibition at Charlie James Gallery, Nery Gabriel Lemus takes a somewhat meandering course through the contradictions of fatherhood and masculinity. Most of the works are pointed but heavy one liners, such as a tapestry of a baseball cap bearing the words, “Happy Father’s Day, Mom,” or a graphite drawing of guns scrawled with earnest but grammatically weird sentences: “Less guns! More, Good dads!”
Still, a couple of bizarre stuffed animals and a series of small drawings save the day. The animals are made of multi-colored fabrics familiar from serapes and blankets. One appears to be a heavy-lidded creature that has just ingested a small boy. The other is a horse-like figure with a small male doll strapped around its neck. Sweet, with an edge of menace, they speak of childhood devotion despite harsher realities.
The drawings were created in collaboration with Lemus’ six-year-old son, Gael. They integrate expressive child’s renderings of super heroes and villains with slicker pencil images or cartoon speech bubbles. A wonderfully raw portrait of Darth Vader, his tender, hot pink scalp exposed, shouts, “I LOVE YOU LUKE!” Spiderman holds a bright red balloon, and E.T. wraps a protective arm around a wobbly Incredible Hulk. By creating caring male heroes together, Lemus and son recast popular narratives of violence and mastery as stories of love. Sometimes you just want that Incredible Hulk to hold you.