contemporary art curator. writer.
Born in Seville, Spain, Chicago-based artist José Lerma debuts his commissioned painting project La Venida Cansa Sin Ti at the Kemper Museum. This new work for the Museum’s atrium reflects the cultural connection between sister cities Kansas City, Missouri, and Seville, Spain, while playfully investigating the lure of historical subjects in art, which was the inspiration for Frederick James Brown’s commissioned installation The History of Art (1994) inside Café Sebastienne.
For La Venida Cansa Sin Ti, Lerma reinterpreted, in grand subject and scale, Brown’s painting The Ascension (1982) from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Lerma created several custom stencil patterns to depict the Christ figure rising above a group of disciples into a clouded sky. The brilliant floral motifs and color are derived from southern Spain’s Andalusian-style ceramic tiles used in areas throughout the Kansas City Country Club Plaza. The interlocking curvilinear, geometric, and floral influences found in the Andalusian ceramics were introduced to Spain by Arab cultures and made their way to Mexico by the early eighteenth century. The architect of the Country Club Plaza, Edward Buehler Delk, saw examples of the vibrant tile work in Mexico, which became a major part of the inspiration for his planning of the Spanish Colonial Revival Style architecture found in Kansas City.
The title of the work, La Venida Cansa Sin Ti, is a play on words resembling the Andalusian pronunciation of the street name “la Avenida Kansas City,” the street name given in 1968 to the Avenue of Kansas City, which extends from the Santa Clara neighborhood to downtown Seville, Spain, in celebration of its sister city status with Kansas City. For Lerma it also roughly translates to “Coming (or The Coming) is tiresome without you,” with playful sexual or religious connotations, as in “the second coming.” It may also express a poetic sense of loss. Lerma’s La Venida Cansa Sin Ti is presented on the cusp of the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of the La Giralda in the Country Club Plaza, commemorating the twinning of Kansas City and Seville as sister cities.