VCU’s arrival in the Final Four of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament inspired many creative and spirited responses among the university’s student and alumni communities. For Roberto Jamora (BFA ’09), the design elements used in tournament brackets, team colors, drills and court markings got him thinking about the intersection of sports and artmaking.
He soon started incorporating the concept in his own work. His abstract paintings often leverage similar lines and two-dimensional shapes to explore processes of strategy, logic, history and the unscripted drama of the arts studio.
Jamora continues that formal inquiry today by contrasting color fields and lively line work in expressive, almost dialogic compositions. In a new two-person exhibition at Topaz Arts in Queens, New York, he presents paintings from “An Inventory of Traces,” a project he began this year. Inspired by Edward Said’s book Orientalism and bolstered by an Artist Community Engagement Grant from the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, Jamora interviewed immigrant artists and transposed their words into abstract works.
“Their stories,” he says, “inspired the color, composition, and literal traces on my paintings.”
Joan Carries All of This at the Women’s March (In Conversation with Joan Ariete-Hein) (36 x 44 inches, oil and beeswax on canvas, 2018) from the series “An Inventory of Traces.”
Community engagement has always been important to Jamora as an artist. As a student in the VCUarts Department of Painting + Printmaking, he played in bands and started a gallery at his house in Oregon Hill. He likens Richmond’s affordability and close-knit community to a “utopia,” and he found support in an experimental and DIY-friendly creative crowd.
“My time at VCUarts was really amazing,” Jamora says. “The art school held us to high standards and made sure we were pushing the envelope in our projects and thinking critically with our material.”
Playoff Picture (17 x 11 inches, oil on two separate canvases over panel, 2018).
Today, Jamora lives in Queens and has a studio in Brooklyn that he rents from fellow painting alumna Trudy Benson (BFA ’07). Since graduating, he earned an MFA in Visual Arts from Purchase College at the State University of New York, and was an Emerging Artist-Teacher Fellow at the Joan Mitchell Foundation. His work appeared in numerous national shows, including two in Richmond galleries—a 2017 solo exhibition at Shockoe Art Space and an anniversary show at ADA Gallery this past May.
In August, his work will be included in “Constructing the Break” at the Contemporary Art Center in New Orleans.