Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Luis Jiménez

"I only reflect what I see and what I have known. As such my work is social commentary."
                                                                                                          -Luis Jiménez

To say that Luis Jiménez simply based his works on Southwestern imagery would not only be a vast understatement, but an inadequate description of how well his works marry both sides of the Mexican-American border in order to articulate the vibrant history of the region as seen through the eyes of a native. Jiménez, “un hijo de la frontera,” traveled around the world as an artist but rooted his style in the American Southwest, concentrating on his life as a Mexican American growing up near the border. Jiménez viewed himself as a social commentator and attributed most of the inspiration for his work to the very events that unfolded before him in his day to day life.

The son of an illegal immigrant born in El Paso, Texas in 1940, Jiménez attended the University of Texas at Austin initially to study architecture, but changed his course of study to fine arts in his fourth year. Over the duration of his life, Jiménez dabbled in a number of subjects including American pop culture and older Mexican traditions in the Southwest.   A keystone theme in a number of his works is the “Honky Tonk” bar scene as depicted in these works entitled, Adeliza’s Candy Store (1983) and Honky Tonk (1981), respectively. 

Jiménez became all too familiar with the bar scene as he often ventured there in search of his father, who unfortunately suffered from the undoubtedly harsh effects of alcoholism.  These pictures, in addition to a number of Jiménez’s other pieces, are done by use of lithograph which, in essence, is a very elaborate method of printing using grease pencil on a stone slab. Evidence of the print can be a bit more clearly seen around the edges of Baile con la Talaca, this 1984 work.

Though lithography was a key medium for Jiménez, he also created a number of fiberglass sculptures that have often been used as public displays.

Southwest Pieta, 1984. fiberglass, 120'' x 126'' x 72''

I was attracted to Jiménez’s work mostly because it is so unconventional. His raw portrayal of sometimes serious subject matter is often coupled with a more whimsical feel, bridging the gap between reality and the surreal. I admire his style because his figures are imperfect and possess realistic shapes and flaws. The women he portrays are very curvaceous and the men are often rugged and brawny. Additionally, I find a number of Jiménez’s pieces to be refreshing in that they are very colorful, creative, and really just fun. Unfortunately Jiménez died in 2006. I believe he would have been a very interesting individual to listen to and watch at work.


Flores-Turney, Camille. Howl: The Artwork of Luis Jimenez. New Mexico Magazine,1997. Print.

Anaya, Rudolfo, Shifra Goldman, Lucy Lippard, John Yau, et al. Man on Fire: Luis Jimenez.         Albuquerque: The Albuquerque Museum, 1994. Print.

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