Thursday, May 5, 2011

Exploring Urban Spaces, Human Lives: Marco Zamora's Paintings

Marco Zamora

Marco Zamora is an artist that currently works out his studio in Los Angeles. Until recently, he lived in his hometown of Pomona, California. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts in 2004. Since then, he has had solo exhibitions in Los Angles, and around the world, such as “Sensory Overload”, “Give and Take”, “One Nation under a Canvas”. Some of his collaborative work includes “Nuestra Historia”, “Vans Sky Gallery Exhibiton”, “Claimin Space”, and “Collabro Show”. According to his website, he juggles his time between his personal work in art galleries and his work in graphic design ( His inspiration originats from the “urban locations, the chaos of city life, awkward moments, cycling and the working class”; and his use of photographs and improvisation of figures results in a “beautiful and complex tension between humankind and the urban landscape”(

                                               Self Portrait, photograph

            Zamora’s work is a reminder of the beauty of everyday urban life. As a native to Los Angeles I have had my share of crazy stories about people while traveling on the bus. I have had homeless men scream in my face, old ladies call me the devil, women fall asleep on me, men drink in front of me, and a transvestite call me a “fuckin bitch”. And one would think that I would hate it, but all these things just add to my curiosity of the city. Sometimes, while in the small village of Claremont, I find myself missing the musty smell of the streets, and the sounds of the freeway in the middle of the night. I suppose it is easy to misjudge a city like Los Angeles with its broken landscape, ununiformed buildings, and lack of cohesiveness, but what Zamora is able to do in his paintings is tell a story about the people living in the city.

                                             Automatic Overdrive, 2008, painting

             In the painting, “Yesterday”, a man appears to be carrying all his possessions. He has a bag to his side and a mountain of items on his back. However, the things he is carrying are not ordinary. The bag to his side has a satellite dish, and the mountain of items seem to be made of clothes and other shapes. Even the heaviness of these items seems strange, almost as if they are defying gravity. The man does not appear to be struggling with the load of his possessions. Instead, his casual stance implies that is part of his everyday life. Maybe what Zamora is trying to say about the city is that it becomes a city through its inhabitants. They carry with them all the things that allow them to exist within a certain space, and this is done unconsciously. Interestingly, his depiction of the relationship of people and their urban surroundings does not show any landscapes in the background. Instead, the background is rendered in lighter grays that are fluid and dream like. Displaced from any surroundings his subjects project the city through their own lives.

                                       Automatic Overdrive, 2008, painting

             Even though the gray background and small touches of multi-rainbow color contrast in their energy, both are able mesh well to give a feeling reminiscent of a trippy 80’s color scheme. Just looking at the paintings makes you feel as if you are experiencing a hallucinogenic trip. The bursts of color appear in the smallest details like the pant cuffs, the side arm, and the headlights on the car, and the strings of paper hanging from the car. The darker grays are reserved for the larger, more prominent figures. At a closer look, the small patches of color show formations of the surroundings that would appear in the back. It is as if the city is trying to leak in from a different dimension than the figure is in. The painting of the car from back view brings back memories of Back to the Future, of the car driving off into a space, with no roads, until it finally disappears.

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