Most of Jamesâ€™ neon pieces were already touching upon innovative functionality.[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pp_wOgowVU0′] There were no other artists doing this intense style of design at the time. It was as if by some divine act James was possessed with an innate ability. Charles Fine remembers James when he was in his twenties. Charles an artist in his own right, works with galleries and collectors who show contemporary art. He creates exotic works with paint and sculpting in Bronze. Fine had this to say about McDemas, â€œJames was working for Greg Abbott who was known for fabrication and metal design. We were in an industrial park at the time and I had my own studio. My work is contemporary art and involved a big studio, where I had my paints and sculpting and James was working with metal and steel restoration. Greg introduced us and we started hanging out. I believe that part of the attraction was my studio size and all of the types of materials I used for my work. James gathered light bulbs and other fixtures from various locations and would take them over to his studio in Culver City. He cruised all over Los Angeles taking donations from companies in the San Fernando Valley, Pacoima, Burbank, and Glendale, which were going out of business. He found particular interest in the 50â€™s and 60â€™s signage. For him it was like going on a treasure hunt. I refer to him as a preservationist. Many of those pieces would have been in land-fields now, had it not been for James. He loved the old signage of Southern California.Â http://youtube/B3IqDLwu-pw.
He was my assistant for a while and helped me to realize a number of my projects. By this I mean, he took what I showed him and was able to perfect it. If I needed tools, he got them for me. He would help me at times to complete my ideas and was able to complete projects meticulously and with perfection. He was much younger than I was and I opened his eyes, to different mediums that I used for my contemporary work. His presence was always so calm. He was quiet and diligent. James was good at taking directions and processes on artwork that I would realize .He assisted me on certain aspects of labor on projects that required more than one person. He would help to structure the piece and I would lay my work on top of that. He had learned welding and how to cut and shape steel from Greg Abbott and enjoyed working in a completely abstract studio environment. I do feel that what he encountered in my studio he used and began to add into his work of small objects and sculptures.
I would stop by his studio from time to time because I was only about three miles inland he was right up under the 405 and so it was easy to get over there. He was fabricating and making functional art at Marmol Radziner then. Marmol takes high-end new residences from prominent mid-century modern architecture and restores them. James worked on a number of projects for them, like exquisite fireplace screens, door poles, mailboxes all fabricated beautifully and meticulously. He had input into many of their designs. I would pick him up from St. Johnâ€™s Hospital and he always seemed to be in good spirits, had a positive outlook and focused on his work. He gave the hospital some nice art pieces. We hung out right up until the end.â€
MONA, the museum of neon art and James were fated to meet. As more and more of James talent began to surface, he started to shift from local artist to celebrity status. McDemas deepened his talent scratching only the surface of what was to become his personal brand of neon art. Let me explain, weâ€™re talking comic books, dolls and not just Barbie, toys, cooking utensils, oil cans, American flags, chairs, restaurant menus, ironing boards, scarves and handkerchiefs, stamps, coins keys, letters, anything that could create a cleverly crafted art piece. http://www.neonmona.org/sign-restoration/pdf/sign-restore-white150dpi.pdf. For those of you who may not realize how much work goes into restoring a NEON sign, MONA provides a downloadable pdf via the link above. MONA is the only museum in the world dedicated to neon, electric and kinetic art. MONA houses most of the McDemas neon pieces and recently purchased his famous sign ART. MONA restores signs with great consideration to the condition of each sign, its age, and history. The signs are left as intact as possible with minimal changes beyond cleaning, replacing broken glass units, wiring and transformers and painting as needed.
Charles and Ray Eames made the lounge chair and Ottoman as a gift for their friend, Billy Wilder, the director of â€œSome Like It Hotâ€ and â€œSunset Blvdâ€, their simplistic yet elegant style influenced James. In fact, some called James a baby Eames because of the multi-media and three-dimensional aspect of his work. Charles would have been 106 years old now. Ultimately, the Eames became a pair of names that resonate as a singular, legendary entity. Their collaborative body of work came to reflect all the modernist qualities of Charlesâ€™s straightforward prose: purity, and efficiency.Â It could certainly be said that McDemas was not only inspired by the Eames, but had a touch of Eames in him. His card reads:
ART + DESIGN-Fabrication + Metal + Neon + Restoration + Sculpture.
NOTE:Â The following is “In Search of Multi-Dimensions The ART of James McDemas”, Part II of a three-part story. The last part of the James McDemas story will be posted in next weeks blog at www.ankhentertainmentone.net. James McDemas is a rare and brilliant artist, in every since of the word. We say James, “is” rare because his talent and large body of work is in present time and here with us. When we look at his work, we see through his eyes, when we touch his work, we use his hands, he is very much alive although not physically present. It could be considered and we are hopeful that James McDemas, could very well be, the fore-father of multi-dimensional functional art. For more information on ART and other works of multi-dimensional artist James McDemas please visit, www.mcdemas.com/bio.html or contact Art Service of California at 310-398-2929 t/f / 310-741-9997 m / firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos in slide presentation are provided courtesy of Larry Underhill of Larry Underhill Photography.