Depending on your feelings about modern art, you'll either be captivated or baffled by the new exhibition at CAM Raleigh, Jose Lerma's The Credentialist. On the one hand, the professed subject matter—"famous French bankers from the 18th Century ... signified by wigged portraits," which Lerma reinterprets, according to the press release, "by distorting and and often erasing the features of the faces, only leaving profiles or frontal views of wigs"—is, admittedly, a little silly.
He also throws the conceptual book at his paintings. Some he leans against the wall, propped up on old synthesizer keyboards such that a few keys are depressed, generating droning dissonant chords. Others are painted onto carpet and installed on the floor, which "suggests new ways of experiencing art—visitors are invited to walk on top of his paintings and travel through a visual history." (Brentwood Carpets & Flooring in Raleigh is credited as a supporting patron.)
If this all seems rather absurd, that may actually be the best way to view Lerma's art. It is exuberantly silly and aesthetically dazzling—his colors and textures are lavish, his lines intricate, his use of space perfectly balanced. His giant wig portraits are liberally, lusciously, gorgeously ridiculous, not to mention fun, an ingredient too often missing in museums and galleries marred by the solemnity of overly reverential curators and patrons.
And Lerma, who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is clearly able to laugh at himself: In an interview on the art blog Fecal Face (what's with art blogs and preadolescent names? The bio on Lerma's website also mentions two reviews on Art Fag City), Lerma describes teaching as "fun ... I like to teach by brainstorming with the students, though sometimes my suggestions are simply moronic."
Lerma leads an informal talk and tour of the exhibition at 1 p.m.; it's included in the $5 museum admission price. The Credentialist will be on view through September 2. —Marc Maximov