Latino previously undocumented in the USA.
Studio Lenca is based at Tracey Emin's TKE Studios, Margate, UK
Jose Campos (aka Studio Lenca) is an artist that doesn’t belong anywhere apart from the world he creates.
Going by the name Studio Lenca. ‘Studio’ refers to a space for experimentation, a laboratory for praxis; ‘Lenca’ links the artist to the Mesoamerican indigenous people of eastern El Salvador.
The artist was forcibly displaced as a consequence of El Salvador’s violent civil war, one of the first wave of child migrants moving to the USA. Travelling illegally with his mother, the family lived as ‘illegal aliens’, cleaning houses with no fixed address.
Studio Lenca’s allusions to materiality and the depiction of regal figures seek to decentralise the collective idea of Salvadoran identity. Proud, courageous and visible. All the things that a young Studio Lenca couldn’t be. The subjects stare out from the canvas, holding our gaze. Sharply dressed in colourful outfits and hats, confidently taking up space.
The work playfully references a combination of biographical anecdotes, personal reflections and folkloric iconography. Visual cues are recalibrated to reclaim autonomy over a fragmented history. Studio Lenca creates through the lens of his own sense of belonging and joy to defy the narrative surrounding his community. His work offers an altogether different sensibility from the forced assimilation and secrecy caused by the US immigration system.
Creating by his own rules. The displaced narrative is reconfigured and the conversation is extended to enable investigation and redemption. Studio Lenca creates a world where we are empowered to tell our own stories.
Image credit: Studio Lenca, Photographed by Benjamin Eagle, 2023