Installation view, Danielle De Jesus, Street Kind, 2023. François Ghebaly, Los Angeles, CA
François Ghebaly is pleased to present Street Kind, Danielle De Jesus’ first solo exhibition with the gallery.
Dually artist and activist, Danielle De Jesus has cultivated a practice dedicated to issues of cultural identity, urban space, and economic inequality. Focusing intimately on the distinct experiences of Puerto Rican and other Latin American communities living in New York City, her paintings represent the political and historical ramifications of gentrification and displacement unto working-class and low-income residents. Her work often examines social and political equity in the face of an ongoing influx of affluent city dwellers, businesses, and real estate development.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, De Jesus identifies as ‘Nuyorican,’ coined as a combination of the terms 'New York' and 'Puerto Rican' and that refers to both individuals and the culture of Puerto Ricans located in or around New York City. The gentrification of Nuyorican neighborhoods has become a particular source of controversy and activism, echoing local Angeleno conversations surrounding the demographic changes in Boyle Heights and Echo Park. With Street Kind, De Jesus focuses her lens on street vendors, raising questions about cultural preservation, economic justice, and the politics of representation.
Street Kind commemorates the experiences and perspectives of street vendors, who are often overlooked and underrepresented in mainstream narratives. Featuring vibrant scenes of exchanges between vendors and customers, De Jesus’ works incorporate paint, thread, and textile elements like vinyl tablecloths that swirl around her figures. The relationships De Jesus fosters with the people in her community are central to her practice; each work presents an aura of interiority to the people she depicts. In her collage currency series, for which De Jesus formats small-scale paintings on dollar bills, intricate patterns and embroidery cover the first president of the United States, foregrounding instead the people who constitute new chapters of contemporary America. In each work, the vendor's faces are blurry or partially concealed, placing focus on the fresh foods and other products in the street carts. ‘Chicharrones de Harina,’ flower bouquets, fruits, and snow cones invite viewers outdoors, where sights and smells are feasts for the senses.
Exhibited alongside De Jesus’ works on dollar bills, is a work on canvas, Los churros de Maria. Street signs and a subway overpass situate the sugar dusted, freshly fried dough as it dots a brown paper bag. ‘Maria’s churros’ are held up in glory, emphasizing the prized possession that they are.
Challenging the notion that street vending is merely a form of informal commerce, De Jesus highlights the importance of these activities in supporting families, building communities, and preserving local cultures. In her portrayals of city life, where the cultural identities of residents are constantly in flux, De Jesus celebrates these moments of exchange.