You can’t peg the art of GERMS down to one style. Since the Los Angeles-based artist started making work in 2003 he’s delved in different themes, motifs and subject matter, drawing from a myriad of inspiration from Salvador Dali to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and working in both commercial and fine art spheres. And while it’s garnered adoration from street art-lovin’ folks around his home base, GERMS’ art has also been accepted among the ranks of other highly visible Chicanx artists such as Gronk, Chaz Bojorquez and Yreina Cervantez.
Many of GERMS’ work is currently visible for one more weekend at Fullerton Museum until Sunday, so if you haven’t seen his show yet (how can that be?!) stop in for one last time. On its closing date there will also be a “Mimosas with the Master” workshop where attendees will enjoy bottomless mimosas along with a painting lesson with GERMS. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday, eh?
The exhibit itself is a spectacular glimpse into the artist’s breadth of work. Born Jaime Zacharias, he picked up the nickname GERMS as a teen, later picking up a paintbrush after a stint at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In his early works he began to pack iconography, symbols and cultural icons from his youth together, from the Virgin Mary to robots to luchadors, against a wild array of colors and patterns. One of GERMS’ recurring motifs are luchador masks and squid tentacles forming a weird hybrid monster, which have become his lasting trademark to this day.
As you veer deeper into the gallery space, there’s an interesting shift in GERMS’ level of ambition; stylistically, his work goes from a dense landscape of symbols and color to more concentrated and focused displays over time. GERMS explains it had more to do with feeling a stronger compulsion to paint 24/7 in his youth and later having to self edit to meet commission deadlines.
“As I got older and I kind of figured out what was working and what wasn’t working I was able to edit some of my style, where I think it was less busy but a little more selective, other than back in the day I had to cram everything into a square inch, it was more of a compulsive thing,” he tells the Weekly. “I usually work on multiple pieces at one time to keep more productive. So it kind of creates a flow where its a cohesive body of work where the pieces relate to each other.”
Among his collection are a high volume of luchador squid analogs of famous Latino icons like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, Emiliano Zapata, the Virgin Mary, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin’s character from Born in East L.A., and La Katrina from the Dia De Los Muertos holiday. Some paintings are commonly done on found objects and wood pieces. Religious symbolism and iconography abounds, as do the LA Dodgers logo, Mexican beer and bright colors. There’s also a recreation of his studio space, with doodles on the walls done by GERMS’s own children.
“Kelly [Chidester, curator] came up with the idea to recreate my studio. It doesn’t really resemble my actual studio, but opening night one of my kids was really happy to show off their own art. I wanted him to feel like a part of [the show].”
Bookending the exhibit are four life size luchador squid lamps in various colors. The Luchador mask head forms the shade of the lamp and is made of stain glass, while the tentacles form the base and are built out of bamboo. Originally made for his exhibit at the Vincent Price Museum in east Los Angeles, they are designed by GERMS himself, and are perhaps the perfect conclusion to GERMS’ bizarre yet amazing imagination.
You too will get to make your own luchador squid this Sunday at 1pm if you reserve your spot for GERMS’ Mimosas with the Masters workshop. There he will guide you step by step in making your own 4×4 canvas painting to take home by yourself. Admission is $50, which includes bottomless mimosas, art supplies and admission to the exhibit. Otherwise, admission to the exhibit is $5 general admission, $4 for seniors and students and $3 for children. More information here. See you there!