ARTIST STATEMENT: Artist Statement: Jo-El Lopez
Paterson, NJ raised painter Jo-El Lopez uses the visual storytelling of traditional realism to convey complex commentary on the intersection of faith and modernity, the strength of family, and the multidimensional contemporary urban experience.
The decades the artist spent under the Pentecostal doctrine, a bold color palette informed by both abstract painting as well as older traditions of icon-making, all meld to create Lopez’s kaleidoscopic worldview. His collection of artworks reveals a restless, deeply engaged spirit closely observing not only his immediate environment, but the larger historic trajectory of national news.
Lopez asserts, “Originally, I studied business and fine arts at Kean University and at Montclair State University and was prepared for a life in the corporate arena.
But my life’s journey has led me back to artmaking and my true passion. My work shows my voyage from that life choice to now.” In just four years since leaving the business world to focus on art, Lopez’s work has appeared regularly in tristate art venues. But his greatest accomplishment thus far is when the Newark Museum acquired one of his paintings “The Millennial Guardian Angel” for their permanent collection.
His work assaults the senses: acid greens, bright pinks, and golden tones vibrate against each other. The artist’s instantly recognizable sense of irony, the wit that is at turns ruthless and affectionate, can be seen in works such as “The Kiss at the 16th Street Baptist Church,” “The Black Face Jesus,” and “The Virgin Miracle.” Yet in some works Lopez tackles his subject with restraint and reduced composition to compliment the visceral sentiments of life’s journey. There is a willingness to reveal yearning, and a desire for emotional transparency. Racial and ethnic identity, gender and sexual politics, and parallel as well as conflicting cultural traditions and narratives all are in play when Lopez turns his attention to a new canvas.