Emery Lambus (b. 1952, Phoenix, AZ) is an American self-taught painter and sculptor residing in Los Angeles, CA. The son of a Tuskegee Airman, Lambus was born in “the most hateful place in the world” during a time of extreme state enacted and supported racism. Of his childhood, Lambus says, “they did everything in their means to disrupt my life other than murder me, but not for lack of trying.” Throughout his life, Lambus has worked as a rancher, landscaper, truck washer, tailor, forest fire fighter, upholsterer, jeweler, mechanic, and has lived nearly everywhere between Boise, Idaho and Los Angeles, California.
Lambus says he always had a rebellious spirit and developed his practice outside of any artistic training. He remembers during the early days of integration being the most talented painter in his all white kindergarten class, and subsequently becoming extremely depressed upon the realization he could never receive the same creative accolades as his fellow white classmates. He remembers that he couldn’t afford shop class fees in grade school, so he would sneak in late at night to tinker with the tools, make sculptures out of his classmates' scraps - until one night he got caught by the nights’ guard and that’s why he was sent to that state-run military training and brainwashing prison for children, known at the time as a “rehabilitation center for minors.”
Lambus says poetically that it was around this time a field opened up to him where once before there was a curtain, and he knew then, that if he caved into even just one demand on the brainwashing routine, he would open up the floodgates -- he saw his future and knew that even though he would always be feared for his rebellion, for rejecting the false reality of mental and physical slavery forced onto him, and that no matter what he did, he would always be targeted as a political criminal or judged as a crime-in-progress.
By the time he escaped that camp, he had hardened into a very angry young man, a true teenage revolutionary as he says it, and during this time he would practice what he called “shock-art,” where he would do things like gather 4 - 5 teenagers of various ethnic backgrounds to run together through the fountains of rich, all-white neighborhoods naked, or hide pound bags of flour up in a tree, with trip wires underneath covered by leaves, and other things of that nature. He says he had to learn how to turn his anger into art, how to create in order to survive all the trauma inflicted on him since birth. Nonetheless, to date, Lambus has been arrested over 300 times, been victim to multiple violent hate-crimes, and even survived a political assassination attempt enacted by a security guard in a California prison back in the day. But as he says it, those are just some notches on the belt of being black in America.
About 10 years ago, Lambus met Henry Taylor outside of Henry’s old apartment in the arts district downtown, across the street from what is now Hauser and Wirth. At the time, Lambus was living on Skid Row and was always in the neighborhood selling pyrite 24k stamped watches and necklaces. Lambus started helping Henry out around the studio, Henry would buy some paintings from Lambus here and there, and over time they developed an incredibly special friendship. Throughout the last decade, Henry has actively encouraged Lambus, providing him with materials, studio space and the freedom and security to pursue his practice.
- Text by Carlye Packer
“CAN A BROTHER GET SOME LOVE” will be the first ever public exhibition of Lambus’s work.