MATRIX 268 features approximately 270 drawings by the Los Angeles–based artist Veronica De Jesus (b. 1970), who from 2004 until 2016 made portraits of artists, writers, and diverse cultural figures to mark their passing. The first subjects of her Memorial Drawings were the famous chef Julia Child and the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz, whose deaths moved De Jesus greatly; eventually she expanded the project to include a wide range of people, some of whom she knew personally, such as Irene Pijoan, an influential artist friend of hers when she studied at the San Francisco Art Institute. The personalities she has honored range from celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Roger Ebert, and Václav Havel to members of various local communities, including Luce Depestre, who created literacy programs in Haiti; Mission District community organizer Eric Quezada; and Campbell Soup factory employee Robert Thiereff. Over the twelve years that De Jesus worked on the project, her style varied from simple black and white to a more complex use of color, layering, and minute details. Each portrait contains identifying markers that characterize and humanize the individual, revealing De Jesus’s thoughtful and tender approach.
Xerox copies of the portraits have accumulated over the years in the window of Dog Eared Books on Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District, where the artist used to work, and where the window has served as a kind of community board for loss and remembrance. Indeed, community is at the heart of much of De Jesus’s practice. Collectively, the portraits speak to the fact that each life is equally valuable and worthy of reflection and recognition. De Jesus is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s MFA program; this will be her first solo museum exhibition, and the first time the Memorial Drawings series will be shown together in its entirety.