The Date farmers in their often collaborative art, collage drawings,and words on discarded signs. Their art is reminiscent of Mexican Revolutionary posters ala/Pancho Villa,as if Cesar Chavez is knocking on our door. Ramirez and Lerma explore the essential reality of the roots of California past and present culture. Their art depicts Mexican American religious icons and their style resembles prison art. Ramirez’s and Lerma’s lettering is strong in a low rider tradition of bold signage.
“A lot of it has to do with everyday struggle for the working class,” Ramirez says. “I think that’s relevant all around the world.”
Adds Lerma: “All of these paintings are stories that we’ve seen.”
The Date Farmers have collaborated for more than a decade. Both of the self-taught artists grew up in the Coachella Valley, where Lerma’s family owned a date farm and where they met in 1998. Their ties to the area -- and each other -- are deep
A blend of pop and assemblage art reminiscent of Mexican revolutionary posters -- much of it painted on sheets of corrugated metal or large wooden boards -- the art is screaming with color and meaning. Canvases are rich with pop cultural references, like Disney characters or mass media advertising symbols, and are often layered with objects such as photographs and stickers, all toward offering satire and commentary, frequently on behalf of the oppressed.
The work also is personal, featuring people and happenings the artists have witnessed day-to-day in the Coachella Valley: migrant farm workers, a big-box store shopper. One painting features a vociferous preacher at his pulpit, gripping a Coca-Cola can and with a snake wrapped around his neck. It was inspired by a tragic incident Lerma witnessed.
“He was under this tabernacle-style tent and showing faith with the rattlesnake,” Lerma says. “But it bit him, and he died. It made me feel like I knew I wasn’t going to live forever."
If the two artists are prone to finishing each other's sentences, that’s indicative of how they work together creatively. When they create work at their studios in the city of Coachella, they sometimes work on the same canvas at the same time, painting and drawing on top of each other's lines, with music blaring in the background. After 16 years working together, the artists' aesthetics are totally blended, Ramirez says.
“It’s not so much personal, but a shared aesthetic that we have now,” Ramirez says. “It’s a harmonization that we do, that’s the only way to describe it.”
Adds Lerma: “It’s as if we’re pushing forward, towards one goal.”