Harper’s Los Angeles is pleased to announce Been Here Before, New York-based artist Nicasio Fernandez’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. The presentation features new oil paintings by Fernandez and will be on view through July 13, 2024. 

Across Been Here Before, Fernandez creates a world that teeters along the boundaries of the familiar and the foreign by personifying raw emotion. The artist transforms feelings of angst, frustration, melancholia, and uncertainty into anthropomorphic vessels who are the protagonists of heated scenes. Calling attention to humanity’s frequent estrangement from emotional and psychic space, Fernandez displaces these caricatures from normative human appearance. With elongated limbs and magnified facial features, the brilliantly-hued figures emit a fantastical presence. They summon the surreal aesthetics and esoteric questioning found across mid-twentieth century Chicago Imagist painting and Expressionism.

Fernandez tends to begin with affect. An emotional state beckons a word or term which then conjures an image. The work Gutted for example, emerges from the descriptive verb to gut, which describes a harrowed state of disappointment. Here, a distressed character with a subdued, yet, fiery orange complexion leans toward the ground. As if a supernatural strike has descended upon the figure’s gut, their stomach is inverted: the organ protrudes from their back in a distended hump. With their mouth agape and eyes fixed in an uneasy glare, the figure appears to yell in frustration, or perhaps, gasp for air—recalling a timeless response to distress. Fernandez applies the pigment in an expressive, albeit, precisely controlled manner: layered brushstrokes greet profound earthy pigment that colors a contemporary domestic space and grounds us in the troubling realities that often haunt everyday human life. 

Sometimes, like in Lesson, which bears referential qualities to Pierre Bonnard and Phillip Guston’s similarly titled works, multiple figures reflect the negotiation of various emotions at once. Within this striking work, a determined figure shaded in blazing red paint, crushes a sullen yellow figure beneath their palm—as if conquering the weight of depression itself. A ghostly body overlooks the scene from a distance, blending into the shadows of a teal-colored corridor. 

In Storm, we are transported again to a landscape of rage. A furious figure clutches an ax amidst an ominous sky in this enthralling work. With furrowed brows and a conniving grin, the figure’s unwavering disposition refutes confinement much like the expanse that presides above, threatening to unleash a deluge at any moment. The viewer is left to ponder what preceded the heat of the moment. One might even contemplate their own actions amidst a fit of rage.

For rage, much like all of the emotions referenced in Been Here Before, is a timeless internal sentiment. It brews within our subconscious until it bubbles up to the surface and provokes decision-making within the external world. Throughout Been Here Before, Fernandez repeatedly visualizes this infinite battle between interiority and exteriority, inviting the viewer to converge the psychic, emotional, and physiological qualities that inform the human experience. For Fernandez, human existence is an amalgam of these elements. Predicated on dynamic investigations of the self, to be human is to concede our favorable, perplexing, and at times polemic inner workings.