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Los Angeles is often thought of as a conglomeration of contiguous but isolated neighborhoods, many associated with the streets that run through them. Sunset Boulevard recalls old Hollywood glamour; Crenshaw, South Central. In reality, these avenues cut through large swaths of the city, taking on multiple identities along their path. Ramiro Gomez’s On Melrose, currently on view at Charlie James Gallery, expands our conception of the street known primarily for high-end shopping, revealing the unseen labor, and laborers, who make this certain kind of refined lifestyle possible.
On Melrose expands on Gomez’s earlier work: pages torn from glossy fashion or interiors magazines onto which he painted the brown-skinned domestic workers who maintain these spaces. Large, brightly colored canvases depict familiar locations along Melrose Boulevard: exclusive boutiques, Paramount Studios, and the Pacific Design Center. Into these mannered, composed scenes, Gomez has painted gardeners and leaf blowers, the very individuals who are largely responsible for these pristine environments. Their faces are fuzzy, however, making us aware of their presence without revealing much about their discrete identities, similar to the experience of those shopping along Melrose. In doing so, Gomez implicates his viewers in the same system he is critiquing.
Gomez’s work here clearly responds to, and bears the influence of David Hockney’s sun-dappled Hollywood paintings, both acknowledging and enamored of the rarified world that Hockney depicts, while also asserting the necessity for a whole and cohesive narrative of how that world comes to be. Eastbound, a frieze of eleven paintings, charts a course driving from Melrose’s Western terminus (at Doheny), to its Eastern end on the inner edge of Silver Lake. Along the route, Gomez shows us posh and edgy locations commonly associated with “Melrose” alongside the strip malls and pawn shops that become more common the further East you drive, pointing to the street’s varied identity. A painting of “Gracias Madre,” the high-end vegan Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood, shows that laborers are not the only thing that travels East to West on Melrose.
On Melrose runs from April 16–May 28, 2016 at Charlie James Gallery (969 Chung King Road, Los Angeles 90012)