Various Small Fires (VSF) is pleased to present Descarga Heavy, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Alex Becerra at the gallery’s Los Angeles location. This is Becerra’s first solo presentation as a VSF-represented artist.
Descarga Heavy–Spanish slang for a music jam session–encapsulates the exhibition ethos: a rhythmic constellation of oil and acrylic paintings that demonstrates the intersections of Becerra’s background and influences. The textured works bring together his passion for music, a fondness for Abstract Expressionism, and an homage to Los Angeles and his upbringing as a Mexican-American in Southern California. Exploring freedom and energy, Becerra’s paintings are unbound by rules, solely guided by the desire to animate a flow between abstraction and figuration.
Becerra, who grew up in the small farming community of Piru, California, and later attended Otis College of Art and Design, makes works that contend with a range of visual histories. His Mexican-American heritage inspired his fascination with lowrider car culture, as seen in his performance and outdoor sculpture Garage Fanfare and his paintings’ custom-made chrome frames. Quiet renderings of telenovela-like dramatic scenes of intimacy, as seen in Novia Hippie, juxtapose thickly-painted nudes across the canvas.
Becerra’s art historical training and the months he lived in Germany early in his career are evidenced in his style. Influences from Expressionists, Colorists, and Modernists painters in Europe such as Jörg Immendorff, Jonathan Meese, Werner Büttner, Édouard Manet, Vincent van Gogh, and Francis Bacon appear as muddied and dynamic explorations of the media. Thick layers of paint, sometimes straight from the tube, mix figuration with his observation of the world around him. Rather than sourcing from the canonized live figure drawings like his painting muses, he reaches for his growing archive of free LA city magazines that features pages of advertised sex workers in contrapposto, pudica, and odalisque poses as seen in Figures in the Park and Grazing in the Grass.
Jamming in music represents a process of being present and not guided or inhibited by preparation or a predefined arrangement. Here, Becerra improvises form, color, and composition, responding to his own body, the studio, and his love of painting. The individual paintings vibrate with energy, revealing a syncopated visual treat of varied accents, hues, and abstracted bodies. At the center of Blue Note, for example, a nude figure looks back at the viewer and carefully caresses an upright bass; both float in a sea of blue, providing a visual respite in the show. Instruments like the saxophone and flute appear amidst the frenetic space of the surrounding paintings.
Descarga Heavy reminds us how to navigate pleasure within visual and auditory experiences: it requires the sustained practice of being present. The exhibition asks the viewer to look deeply, with curiosity, thoughtfulness, and openness to surprise.
Alex Becerra (b. 1989, lives and works in Los Angeles) works in painting, drawing, and sculpture, exploring the way we view modernity, often chopped up into bits and sliced together. He has had solo exhibitions at Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; Levy Delval, Brussels, Belgium; Karma International, Beverly Hills and Zürich, Switzerland; Weiss Berlin, Germany; and One Trick Pony, Los Angeles. Selected group exhibitions include Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, Los Angeles; Kunstraum Potsdam, Germany; Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles; The Journal Gallery, New York; Richard Telles Gallery, Los Angeles; The Green Gallery, Milwaukee; M+B Gallery, Los Angeles; Journal Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; Ben Maltz Gallery, Westchester, California; and more.