Jonas Lauren Norr is a visual artist and self-proclaimed “artist’s activist.” He graduated from the Master’s in Fine Arts program at UCLA and has been featured in numerous exhibitions across the United States. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Norr’s abstract paintings and sculptures often use a celebratory tone to explore issues of capital and race within the fast-paced art world. Through the use of shape, composition, color, and texture, Norr consistently creates humorous works that are also critical of the status quo. He is most famous for his billboard project “Princesses Don’t Do Dirty Work,” which he has been steadily working on since 2010.
Norr’s solo exhibitions include five art shows at OHWOW Gallery in Los Angeles, two pieces in a group show at the Petersen Automotive Museum, and a solo artist exhibit at Parc/LA in Los Angeles. He has been included in numerous group exhibits since graduating from UCLA, including those at MassMoca in Massachusetts, The Warehouse Gallery in South Africa, and galleries across the United States. He has also been included in shows with fellow LA artist Kehinde Wiley.
“(Context of the piece) is a billboard project I started after the July 7th, 2012, Los Angeles Bombings. The piece was my way of reclaiming space and challenging stereotypical ideas about race, gender, and labor. Applying beauty elements to these traditionally unappealing topics provided a lens through which it could be seen differently. While this is the fifth billboard I have painted in the series, it is not meant to be a conclusive statement on the project. I look forward to continuing the series and addressing many more issues pertinent to current events.”
The billboard series highlights a problem in art, where artists are often expected to paint themselves into the white male category. The piece is meant to encourage girls, women, and minorities to enter the art market by showing that their work will be more important than their race and gender. In “Context of the piece,” Norr places himself in an image titled “Candie Cakes,” a famous Los Angeles bakery selling custom cakes for weddings. In the image, Norr is represented as a flesh-colored square, which also happens to be a shape used to advertise on billboards. The female figure is placed in front of Norr and crouched over in a pose that mimics the way people advertise their goods. The piece was inspired by advertisements from local southern California bakeries, who use the same shape to advertise their baked goods.
While many might interpret these pieces as political works, Norr insists that he is not making a statement but simply a work of art. He says that neither his paintings nor his sculptures have a definitive beginning or end point. Instead, they “continue to evolve in new and unexpected ways.”