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Nery Gabriel Lemus: Yearning to Breathe Free

Nery Gabriel Lemus
Yearning to Breathe Free
July 7 – September  16, 2018


Immigrants leave the place they call home to seek a better life – to escape from a life lived in poverty, gang violence, scarcity, and political turmoil. These situations create a location of stress that metaphorically feels like one can’t breathe, as when one loses a loved one and feels like their lungs cannot hold air.

Yearning to Breathe Free delves into immigration through the lens of “The New Colossus,” a sonnet originally written by American poet Emma Lazarus in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. The sonnet depicts a mighty woman that lights the way for refugees and immigrants seeking shelter, highlighting her desire to embrace such individuals as a mother would her children; Lazarus calls her the “Mother of Exiles.”

Through a series of highly detailed watercolor paintings, sculptures, and rugs, Lemus’s work explores the terrain that immigrants traverse on their journey(s) into the United States – the points of arrival and the beginning of new possible dreams.

Migration is a step to breathe free.


Nery Gabriel Lemus  was born in Los Angeles in 1977.  The subjects in his work range from issues of stereotype, division, and immigration to problems in society that can lead to the failure of families, such as poverty, abuse, and neglect.  Lemus received his BFA at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California (2007) and his MFA at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California (2009).  Lemus also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine (2008).

His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Steve Turner Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA; The Bindery Projects, Minneapolis, MN; Project Row Houses, Houston, TX. Group exhibitions include, Taste Makers & Earthshakers, Vince Price Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Fí­ºtbol: The Beautiful Game, LACMA, Los Angeles, CA; Made in L.A. 2012, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Day by Day, The 9.99 Gallery, Guatemala City, Guatemala; OZ: New Offerings From Angel City, Museo Regional Guadalajara, Jalisco; Common Ground, California African-American Museum, Los Angeles, CA.  He is a recipient of a California Community Foundation Fellowship, a COLA Fellowship Grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, and the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Fellowship Award.  He is represented by Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at Azusa Pacific University.