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Meet Lester Monzon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lester Monzon.

Lester, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
After receiving my BA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, I did what I thought I really needed to do. I began to get my professors voice out of my head, and I began to start to really think for myself. In school, you get a foundation, you experiment, you try, you fail. My professors pushed me and challenged my ideas and strategies.

It was great to be questioned and to really think about the objects I was making, but you can’t always depend on those voices. You need to try on your own, fail on your own and succeed on your own.

I was always interested in the Abstract Expressionists of the 1940’s, such as Yves Kline and Lee Krasner, and the Minimalists of the 1960’s, like Agnes Martin and Sol LeWitt. In daily life, I often find myself caught thinking about these different movements of abstraction. For instance, when buying a collared shirt or boxer shorts, I think of Minimalism. When walking down the street and seeing oil stains on the ground, or graffiti on public spaces, I see the marks as expressive as the work of the Abstract Expressionists. These ideas of abstraction, commerce, and the idea of an individual is what pushes my work today.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
A huge struggle for artists has always been balancing the demands of daily monetary life and the activities of art-making. For instance, due to a huge student loan debt, I’ve had to sustain two part-time jobs, which can make finding the time for creativity difficult. I’ve also never had a studio, so I’ve had to work within the confines of my apartment. All my work, from small 9×12 inches to 5×4 feet paintings, are done in my 450 square-foot single unit apartment in Koreatown. But I learn to adapt, to push through my obstacles. I will always find the time and space for my work.

Please tell us more about your art.
My work begins with planned, mathematical penciled graphs, which I overlay with abstract oil and acrylic markings. These visual components are stand ins for competing ideologies, such as society versus the self or conformism versus individuality. I then erase large passages of the work using a rotary sander, to reflect on the place newness versus entropy occupies in American consumer culture.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I’m always perplexed and flattered when someone takes the time to write about my work. The writer’s Ed Schad, Eve Wood and Sara Clair have all written thoughtful and insightful pieces about my practice. These writers have in-depth knowledge of contemporary art, and I have always been proud that they decided to add my work to the dialogue.

However, my proudest moment in my career occurred last September in 2019. My mother surprised me by coming to my opening at Edward Cella Gallery. For the past twenty years, she has lived in Florida and throughout this time it has been extremely difficult for her to visit. I was so proud I was able to share my achievements with her in person. That will be an episode in my life that I will never forget.

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