‘I’ve never walked into a museum and seen myself on the walls’


Studio Lenca paintings tell an autobiographical story which navigates borders and identities destroyed, redrawn and erased through colonisation and war. The portraits depict the artist and his community proudly wearing hats and vibrant colours in noble defiance of the ‘western’ discourse around migration.

These colourful paintings depict male Salvadoran figures adorned with costume and ornaments that playfully explore masculinity, the colonial past of Studio Lenca’s home country and the current violent discourse of Salvadoreñxs. The markings of MS-13 and 18th street are absent, instead whimsical marks and bold colours portray a softer more vulnerable experience.

‘My mother is a cleaner. When we moved to the US from El Salvador it was one of the only jobs she didn't need papers for. When I was younger I was so embarrassed to tell people that she cleaned houses. But as an adult I see that it's the noblest thing a mother could do for her children. This series is a reflection on the labour that she's endured and the deterioration of her body because of it. This "mantel" isn't painted it's scrubbed with cleaning chemicals. As an artist I reflect on my relationship to her and to labour. Because of her I am an artist.’

"Esta fregado" 2021
Kitchen "mantel" scrubbed with cleaning chemicals

Border Vessel

I created the Border Vessel project in 2023. The work takes the form of a disposable water bottle made from the bed of the Rio Grande River and Jade sourced from El Salvador.

The plastic gallon water bottle is an object that is used during the border crossings to sustain life, I also see the ‘vessel’ as a symbol of the body that resists the current unfair and inhumane US immigration system. The production of the work occurred across the geo-political and social borders that my community have overcome by entering the US illegally by land. The idea for this project came to me in a dream and it wouldn’t leave me until I made it.

It was important to me that the production of these works engaged and collaborated with people and community in these contested spaces. I wanted to include the Latinx voices that lived here.  I worked with a  Mexican-American collective of ceramic artists to source and process the material from the river bed to make the clay, we then hand built the forms and fired them.

When sourcing the clay from the river it felt that we had a direct material connection to the people that had passed through this place, as well as the estimated 30 people a month that lose their lives due to drowning in the river. The place and the clay felt integrated and charged with these lives.

After hand-building the vessels and firing, the clay became unstable and took on it’s own agency. Cracks and ruptures started to appear. It felt like the material had a memory of this fractured place, the cracks resembled maps, fault lines,  the flow of the river or the routes taken by migrants.

As we made, we talked about our experiences and the legacy the border had on our lives.

Once the forms were completed I took the works to El Salvador. This was important to me as it was a reverse journey where I had the chance to return these objects, bodies and earth back home.

In El Salvador I sourced natural jade and collaborated with a jade carver to make replica plastic lids. I felt the jade was important for this project as it was seen as more precious than gold to pre-columbian communities in the region. Often a ruler would be buried with a piece of jade in their mouth, to ensure survival in the afterlife. I then worked with my community to facilitate an ancestral ceremony led by a Mayan priest. This stage of the project allowed the objects to absorb an embodied and intergenerational knowledge.

Jose Campos 
B.1986 La Paz ,El Salvador
Lives and works in the UK

Parrish Art Museum

CPPC, Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

Elie Khouri Art Foundation

The MER Foundation

The Poma Collection

Mario Cader-Frech Collection

MA Arts & Learning 2019 Goldsmiths University of London 

Art & Design PGCE 2015 Goldsmiths University of London 

MA Contemporary Dance 2013 London Contemporary Dance  School


Solo Exhibitions:

Chisme, Parrish Art Museum, New York

Alquimia, Fina Cortesin, Malaga

El Jardin, Tang Contemporary, Bangkok

Cutting Through, Edji, Brussels

Listo, Halsey Mckay, New York

Flock, Ilwoo Foundation, Seoul

Joyeria, COAM, Madrid


Solo Exhibitions:

Ni de aquí, ni de allá, Untitled Art Fair, Miami

A Losing Game, Soho Revue, London

The Journey Becomes You, Artual Gallery, Beirut

I’m working on leaving,  Tang Contemporary, Seoul

The Dreamers, Foundry, Dubai

The Invisibles , Sierra Metro , Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh

Studio Jadaf, Dubai

Group Exhibitions:

Like there is hope and I can dream of another world, Hospital Rooms X Hauser & Wirth, Hauser & Wirth, London

Hometown Sessions 1, Edji Gallery, Paris

FreshPaint London, Noho Showroom, London

Orsini Palace, Studio 11, Rome

Adult by Nature, Quench Gallery, Margate

A Shadow Across A Line, Hatch Art Project, Singapore

Como la flor , Y.E.S Contemporary, Museum of Art, El Salvador 

Polychromy, Artual Gallery, Beirut 

Summer exhibition, Gallery Red, Palma

Pavilions , M.A.H Gallery, London

POW festival , Turner Contemporary, Margate

URVANITY, Arniches Gallery, Prize Winner (Fundacion MER), Madrid

Identity , Artistellar, London


Arniches 26 Gallery , Madrid 

Turner Open , Turner Contemporary, Margate

MAH , London Design Festival , London 

Convergent acts , Bubble and Squeak, Brussels 

Ni de aqui ni de alla Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles

The Pattern of patience at Marc Straus Gallery, New York

Los Historiantes, Nominated for Prix Pictet


SWAB BARCELONA , Solo Exhibition , La Unica Galeria, El Salvador

Los Historiantes , Winner of the Open Solo exhibition Photofringe, Brighton 

Unknown Learning , Northdown Studios, Margate 

Peckham Pride Mural Culture Seeds, London 

Queer’ing the art curriculum lecture University of Arts London 


Mile of String , Horniman Museum, London

Los Historiantes , ‘La Horchata’ Publication, Washington DC 

Los Historiantes , VIA Arts Prize Embassy of El Salvador, London 

Peoples Voices for Tony Cokes Goldsmiths Centre for  Contemporary Art, London  

Los Historiantes, Margate NOW Festival, Margate

Doing and Undoing St James Gallery, Goldsmiths University, London 


Critical Pedagogy in Contested Spaces, Tate Modern, London 

The Artist Teacher, 288 New Cross Rd, London 


Rural Painting School, La Paz, El Salvador 


Artist in Residence Under the Same Sun, South London  Gallery, London  


Kill Kill Kill Parasol Unit Gallery, London 


Navigating dance with my fat body, 288 New Cross, London

Passport Please, 310 Gallery, London


The Wave, Trinity Laban, London  

The Wave, National Portrait Gallery, London  


Local Group Resolutions !, The Place, London  


Choreographic Scores at Trisha Brown Barbican  Art Gallery, London 

Visiting Lecturer

New York University “The Latinx Project”

Goldsmiths CCA Assistant curator 

Freelands Foundation 

Unknown Learning Northdown studios

University of the Arts London 
Embassy of El Salvador 

VIA Arts Prize

University College London 

University of Leeds 

 Trinity Laban 

Installation View: Chisme (2023) Parrish Art Museum, New York (Photo: Kerry Sharkey-Miller)

Installation View: Cutting Through (2023) Edji, Brussels (Photo: Jules Toulet)

Engagement project with WeCount!, 2022, Florida (During the Fountainhead Residency)

Installation View: Joyeria (2023) COAM, Madrid (Photo: Paula Caballero)

Installation View: The Losing Game (2022) Soho Revue, London
Community Engagement Project during Chisme (2023) Parrish Art Museum, New York (Photo: Kerry Sharkey-Miller)

Installation View: I’m Working on Leaving (2022) Tang Contemporary, Seoul

‘When people ask me where I’m from, I never know how to answer. Born in El Salvador, growing up illegally in California then spending my adult life in the UK. What does that question mean and why do people ask it?’

Studio Lenca photographed by Marc Hibbert (c) 2022

Studio Lenca is the working name of artist Jose Campos – ‘Studio’ referring to a space for experimentation and constantly shifting place; ‘Lenca’ referring to the name of the artists ancestors from El Salvador.
Jose Campos was born in La Paz, El Salvador and like many had to flee the country during its violent civil war during the late 1980s. He travelled to the US by land, illegally with his mother and grew up in the gaze of a strictly conservative administration - an ‘illegal alien’. Studio Lenca is focused on ideas surrounding difference, knowledge and visibility. He works with performance, video, painting and sculpture.

Studio Lenca photographed by Sarah Bates (c) 2022

Studio Lenca’s process starts with personal memories and is underpinned by social activism and different forms of praxis.
Studio Lenca paintings tell an autobiographical story which navigates borders and identities destroyed, redrawn and erased through colonisation and war. The portraits depict the artist and his community proudly wearing hats and vibrant colours in noble defiance of the ‘western’ discourse around migration.

"Esta fregado 2" 2022
Kitchen "mantel" scrubbed with cleaning chemicals

Los Historiantes

Studio Lenca’s  photographic series ‘Los Historiantes’ looks at the folkloric dancers of El Salvador. This is an ongoing project in which he creates  portraits of himself and others dressed as a Historiante. Los Historiantes are a result of traditions brought over by the Iberian conquistadors during the colonisation of the Americas mixed with pre- Columbian beliefs. The Historiantes offer an embodied archive of trauma that is still relevant today. When building these costumes, the collection of materials becomes difficult and Studio Lenca often needs to borrow from different cultures with similar histories, this process becomes the performance. The inability to access authentic materials for the costumes highlights my distance from the place Studio Lenca was as well as a disconnect with Salvadoran culture due to being uprooted by war. The trajectories Salvadoran people and many Central American nations have taken stems back to violent histories, specifically the colonisation of the Americas by European colonisers. This postcolonial intergenerational trauma is present to this day and can be seen in public discourse of Latinx communities, especially in the U.S.