May 29, 2015
Review: Hugo Crosthwaite on the border and a sorrowful loss
By SHARON MIZOTA, 3:30 PM | Hugo Crosthwaite’s exhibition at Luis De Jesus presents two distinct bodies of work. One deals with the recent murder of 43 college students in Guerrero, Mexico; the other, more murky, addresses the city of Tijuana, where Crosthwaite was born and grew up.
“Shattered Mural” is a beautiful commemoration of the college students. Forty-three freestanding panels, cut in quixotic shapes, are sprinkled across the floor. Propped upright like tombstones, each one depicts a black-and-white portrait of a victim. more
More ambitious is a series of black-and-white drawings of Tijuana carnival scenes in the front gallery. Mash-ups of photorealistic images of rides, taco stands, liquor stores and brothels, they are further overlaid with rough, cartoonish imagery of enigmatic figures or lumpy, intestinal shapes.
At first these interventions feel like defacements; on closer inspection they also convey a child-like glee. They are perhaps an effort to introduce another dimension of experience into otherwise bleak imagery.
Crosthwaite is certainly a virtuoso at juxtaposing and reconciling multiple spaces and realities. His works clearly reflect rich internal narratives about Tijuana’s role as a gateway between two separate, unequal ways of life. However, these stories are so deeply encoded, so densely layered, as to be nearly inaccessible.
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd., (310) 838-6000, through Jun. 20. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.luisdejesus.com
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May 29, 2015
Q&A: Hugo Crosthwaite on Tijuana, Mexico's missing, the power of comic books
By CAROLINA A. MIRANDA, 8:22 AM | Walk into the rear gallery at Luis De Jesus in Culver City and it will appear as if a wall has exploded. Scattered about the floor are jagged pieces of images that together seem as if they would form a mural — and indeed, that is the idea. The fragments are part of a work by Mexican artist Hugo Crosthwaite titled "Shattered Mural."
On first glance, the piece looks like a family photo that's been torn to bits. more
The piece, in many ways, addresses the countless lives claimed by Mexico's ongoing drug war — a response to the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa in the fall of last year at the hands of police. It is on display in a two-part show at Luis De Jesus that also features a series of Crosthwaite's wall works, pieces inspired by the people and landscape of his native Tijuana.
The artist took some time to chat with me via Skype from Rosarito, just south of Tijuana, where he is currently based. (He also spends long stints in New York.) Crosthwaite discusses what led him to make "Shattered Mural," what inspires him about Tijuana, and why comic book art has proved so instructive.
You made "Shattered Mural" in honor of the 43 students from Aytozinapa who went missing late last year. What inspired this piece? And why have a tribute to them as a mural rendered in fragments?
I had been working on this show for two years and I started with the work that you see in the first gallery [at Luis De Jesus]. That work looks almost like crossword puzzles. They almost look like they want to come together and form something, but they really don’t. If you do put them together, they don’t form a unified narrative. When I got the second gallery, I thought, I’ll do the opposite: I’ll create a puzzle of all these pieces that do come together.
And that was right around the time Ayotzinapa happened. I remember, some stupid politician said something like, "Why are we making such a big fuss over 43 students?" I was infuriated. It’s not just 43 students. It’s thousands. It’s tens of thousands of people that have been killed.
So I thought, I’ll do a mural where I show people — figures from Tijuana and Rosarito and historical figures, with elements of [José Guadalupe] Posada and other icons — and then I'll shatter that mass of people. I wanted the idea of the humanity of Mexico being shattered.
Is this one mural shattered into 43 pieces? Or is it 43 individual murals? So you start to deal with this exponential number. That gets back to what the politician said. It’s not just 43. It’s an exponential 43.
The back sides of each of these pieces is covered in these quite lovely and very inoffensive decorative patterns. How did that idea come about?
I remember once in Tijuana and I did a mural and someone came and said, “I really like this dog. Can I cut the piece of the wall with the dog?” And I said, “I’ll do another dog.” And he said, "No I want that dog.” So we looked into cutting the wall. On the other side was a boutique, with this very nice wallpaper. I didn’t get to cut it. But that stayed with me. I like the idea of my drawing with this very nice wallpaper in the back. So for this piece, I created these Xerox transfers of very common wallpaper patterns.
In the fragments, you see images of performers, idols, cartoonish figures and what appear to be drawings of real people. Who are the individuals you feature in this piece?
It’s the idea of capturing all of humanity and their idiosyncrasies. You get La Llorona [the weeping woman of Latin American legend]. You get El Santo, the famous luchador. You have these dead babies that are dressed up as saints — part of this notion of sanctity from Catholicism. I did this image like of [the legendary actress] Maria Felix, a romantic figure, but she's next to this monster. And there are the people I capture from my own sketches around Tijuana. They are not people I know. I just go to the market or I walk the street and I take pictures of people coming and going, very regular people.
I did not want to feature the missing students. I wanted to be respectful. I wanted the idea of Mexico shattered over the massacre of these 43 students. But I didn’t want to do a literal memorial in a gallery where the work will be sold. That is not appropriate.
In your work, you'll often pair some really mundane activity (a guy making tacos) with something outrageous (a half-dressed woman right over his head) — as if you are revealing what can't always be seen.
Well, I was playing with this notion of a puzzle — a puzzle you couldn't unite. But I started seeing small things, aesthetic things, that could be connected: There might be a line in one drawing and you’d see it in another drawing. I then started thinking of the whole notion of these very disparate narratives and how they unite in some way, but they’re not literally connected. In a way, they are forced to be connected.
Well, that's what happens in a city. You can’t choose your neighbors. So you will have the taco stand and then above it, you’ll have the brothel. There is a connection and it’s Tijuana, it's the grittiness of the city, this city that is improvised and chaotic.
On view, you have another series of works called "Tijuana Radiant Shine." These feature strange views of the city: a man with a monstrous mask, a dummy sitting in a car, weird apparitions. How much of this is the actual Tijuana landscape and how much of this is your own invention?
They’re a mixture of everything. They're a mixture of sketches that I do. I’m always making ink drawings. There are faces that I see and I draw them. Then the rest, I make up from other imagery: from comic books, from newspaper articles. I take a face and then I unite them with other things. I might need an arm, so I might grab it from a comic book. Or if I'm looking from a leg, I might get one from a fashion magazine. Many of [my figures] are like Frankenstein monsters made up of all these different parts. You can do that in drawings. You can take all of these elements and you mold them together into one piece.
The drawing that shows the dummy sitting in traffic: That's cars in line at the border. I didn’t want to draw a person, so I grabbed a face from a fashion model and the body, I took it from a 1930s pictures of a clothing dummy. But then I worked on it to make it into a whole composition: this dummy sitting in traffic.
It’s about how you feel when you’re trying to cross the border. It should take you five minutes, but you can be there for hours.
Comic-book style characters regularly appear in your work. How much of an influence have comic books been for you?
I didn't read comic books as a kid. I came to comics when I was in New York. I was incorporating a lot of the graffiti I saw in New York into my work. I started to get into this graphic kind of work and that led me to comic books and Jack Kirby and black-and-white comic books — a little bit of everything.
I often do wall installations and they will give me four, five days to complete it. It’s not like the work I usually do which is very dense. I've done murals that took me nine months. But often I don't get that kind of time. So I've been looking at comic books for their simplicity of line and the ways in which they tell a narrative simply. Comic books do that. It’s very effective.
How does Tijuana inspire you as an artist? What aspects of the city are we seeing of it in your work?
I think my first motivation is the aesthetics of the city. I call it a chaotic sediment of urbanization. It also comes from my growing up in the curio shop that my father ran. Everything was a mess, but it was an organized mess. There was an order to it. But at first impression you come in, it looks like a mess.
You go to a store in the U.S. and everything is really neat and perfect. But you go to a shop in Tijuana, every little corner is filled. It’s almost baroque. And it looks like there is no plan. That’s what Tijuana is. At first impression, it looks chaotic. But it has an order to it.
Hugo Crosthwaite's "Tijuana Radiant Shine" and "Shattered Mural" are on view at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles through June 20. 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, luisdejesus.com.
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May 23, 2015
Mario Cutajar on hugo crosthwaite
Hugo Crosthwaite’s latter-day baroque realism is important for reasons that extend beyond the opportunities it affords the artist to display his considerable skills as a draughtsman. They are reasons that have to do with the vicissitudes of representation in an age assumed to have a surfeit of it.
Thanks to the omnipresence of “reality” TV programming, today there would seem to be no such thing as TMI when it comes to the minutiae of celebrity lives in their various phases of ascent and dispersal. more
This media-manufactured froth, while claiming to deliver reality in its most scandalous immediacy, functions instead as an insulator against the harsher realities that govern the lives of those whom neoliberal economics have effectively reduced to the status of vermin. Reality TV is the ultimate confirmation of Baudrillard’s now-hoary thesis that the globalization of capital-ism has reduced reality to its mere (dis)simulation.
It is in this context that the persistence of representation in a medium as poignantly anachronistic as drawing achieves its paradoxical significance. Drawing keeps it real, it counters simulation, by owning up to, and actually delighting in, its own contrivance. It rescues us from the Matrix-like phantasmagoria of simulation by reacquainting us with the conventionality of representation and, in Crosthwaite’s case, with the dignity that representation can confer on subjects that neoliberal economic practice is interested in only as exploitable low-wage labor.
The title of his current show, “Tijuana Radiant Shine,” will seem opaque until it is understood as referencing a short poem/song by Edgar Allen Poe originally titled “A Catholic Hymn” (subsequently, “A Hymn”) that is a short prayer beseeching the Virgin to grant a “Future radiant shine” to succeed a time of darkness. On display are 14 largish drawings executed in graphite and acrylic on panel. The artist eschews color in favor of gray tone, which insinuates associations with both photography and urban grime.
The theme of Tijuana, Crosthwaite’s hometown and a gateway city on the Mexican-American border (whose fence is the city’s northernmost physical limit), has driven his graphic output over the years. He has remarked that like his own drawings, whose beguilingly photographic level of detail testifies to both an immigrant’s fierce attachment to place of origin and an extraordinary visual memory, Tijuana is an entirely improvised, “organic” city. As Peter Frank has observed, Crosthwaite’s realism is of the magic realist kind, something that becomes particularly evident from the way that in his drawings, characters and scenery from a variety of sources and semiotic regimes cohabit together. It is a realism fully committed to the idea that reality is fundamentally a symbolic construct structured by a jumble of internalized discourses. Thus, while Tijuana is the ostensible subject, its exacerbated cultural hybridity serves the artist as a privileged metaphor for the never-finished construction of subjectivity itself.
Juxtaposition was used by the Surrealists to summon what they called the marvelous. In the ‘80s, it was employed by a generation of post-Pop cynics to suggest the ruination of signification in general. Crosthwaite employs it to a different end or ends. Through the layering of different graphic conventions (cartoons, graffiti, commercial signage, diagrams, Mayan glyphs, photo-based illustration) his juxtapositions establish the deliberateness of the framing and choice of subject matter. In other words, it makes transparent the montage that reality TV naturalizes in order to achieve a simulation of reality.
But just as importantly, Crosthwaite’s use of the physical abutment of his drawings speaks to the cultural dislocation that is at the heart of immigrant experience. The artist’s own private Tijuana embodies the suspension between cultures that troubles every immigrant. There is a certain squalidness that goes with this condition. The space of the in-between, as Julia Kristeva observed, is the space of abjection. But, as she also noted, it is in response to abjection and as a means of allaying its terrors that the most visceral poetry and art originates.
Crosthwaite’s achievement here is to have found in drawing (and in the sublimation of defilement that drawing allows) a means to honor cultural hybridity and those who might be dismissed as merely its victims. Getting past Tijuana’s renown for its featurelessness, poverty, crime, pollution and a host of related ills, he discovers in its chaos an unlimited license for graphic appropriation and improvisation ...and an anchor for a conflicted cultural identity.
PUBLISHED IN ARTSCENE, JUNE 2015.
May 21, 2015
Turning a Personal & Artistic Vision into Commentary, Mexican-born Humanist Artist Hugo Crosthwaite at LDJ
Inaugurated last Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles is an exhibition entitled "Tijuana Radiant Shine and Shattered Mural" (On View through June 20th) by Mexican-born, Gallery artist Hugo Crosthwaite.
A Grand Prize recipient of the XI Bienal Monterrey FEMSA, Crosthwaite, 43, is having his large-scale wall drawing installation included in the exhibition The House on Mango Street currently on view at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. [ READ MORE ]
May 19, 2015
Hugo Crosthwaite featured: LA Times Review | Gallery Report: Stitched paintings, a shattered mural, hidden heads
It's a good time to be trotting around Los Angeles. looking at art. A short tour Saturday through Culver City — with one stop in West Hollywood — turned up some wild abstractions, naughty stitched collages, a funny video that plays on female beauty tropes and a stirring mural shattered into 43 pieces.
At Luis De Jesus, Tijuana artist Hugo Crosthwaite delivers a terrific gathering of works that straddle the divide between painting and sculpture and the real and the unreal. more
The piece de resistance at Luis de Jesus is Crosthwaite's "Shattered Mural," which takes the idea of the conventional mural and atomizes it into several dozen pieces on the gallery floor that the viewers can walk through and around. A beautiful installation. This is a show not to miss.
Hugo Crosthwaite, "Tijuana Radiant Shine" and "Shattered Mural," are on view through June 20 at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, 2685 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, luisdejesus.com.
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May 19, 2015
artist of the week: matthew carter
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?
I’m currently working on a series of collages that focus on the aesthetic practices and media representations of John Wayne Gacy aka “the killer clown” and Albert Speer aka “the good nazi.” Both figures encompass the idea of the psychopath, but from different trajectories. John Wayne Gacy, as I’m sure you must know, was a serial killer active in 1970s Chicago, IL. more
May 15, 2015
hugo crosthwaite featured: LA TIMES, "Datebook: Dirigibles, comic book noir and photos of the American West"
A sculpture that floats. Paintings that take a sculptural turn. Iconic imagery of the American West. Plus: a panel about black conceptualism, a show that touches on the Mexican Revolution, and lots of evil eye. Here’s what we have in our Datebook:
Hugo Crosthwaite, “Tijuana Radiant Shine” and “Shattered Mural,” at Luis de Jesus. Crosthwaite’s signature black-and-white-noir-meets-Mexican-comic-books style of paintings take a sculptural turn in his latest solo show at Luis De Jesus. Looks like one not to miss. more
May 12, 2015
JOSH REAMES FEATURED: First Look - Frieze Week | 30 Emerging Artists to Watch Across Frieze Week
The Dallas-born Reames taunts us with snaps of drying canvases—a friendly offering in the countdown to Frieze, from which we conclude that pyramids, playing cards, and words penned in memespeak will appear in his brand new work. As one could imagine, given that his paintings hang in The Hole’s current group show, “Post-Analog Painting”—amongst angry birds and oil-rendered anime—Reames communicates in the language of the internet. more
May 06, 2015
People issue: MEET TRANSPARENT'S TRANS EXPERT, ZACKARY DRUCKER
Look hard and you might spot Zackary Drucker in Transparent, the Amazon dramedy about Mort-who's-becoming-Maura. Drucker appears on screen as a support-group facilitator for only a few moments, but her behind-the-scenes influence was profound. Along with filmmaker Rhys Ernst, she advised series creator Jill Soloway on shaping storylines, developing Maura's backstory, bringing on trans actors and crew members and ensuring the on-set bathrooms were gender-neutral. [ READ MORE ]
April 20, 2015
josh reames featured: 5 Must-See Gallery Shows: Gaetano Pesce, Nina Beier, and More
BY SCOTT INDRISEK | APRIL 20, 2015
“Time Flies Like a Banana” at Johannes Vogt Gallery, through May 9 (526 West 26th Street, Suite 205)
A three-person show of work by Josh Reames, Ron Ewert, and Greg Ito, this exhibition earns its oddly slapstick title. Reames — a Dallas artist recently relocated to Brooklyn — continues to kill it with painted and airbrushed canvases that resemble cluttered computer screens awash with jarring medleys of clip art (a happy cigarette here, some purple-tinted lemons there). more
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