81 Leonard Gallery and Ric Michel Fine Art Present
Cande Aguilar: barrioPOP
September 5–28th, 2019, Opening Reception: Sep 5th 6–9PM w/ a Conjunto performance by the artist, 81 Leonard Street, 10013, NY, NY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New York — In partnership with Ric Michel Fine Art, for its inaugural exhibition 81 Leonard Gallery presents Cande Aguilar’s first solo show in New York. The retrospective charts the development of Aguilar’s vibrant artistic style barrioPOP. Inspired by the hybrid culture of Brownsville located in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas and using humorous juxtapositions of pop-cultural references the artist’s work celebrates the barrio in which he grew up.
On his canvases, Aguilar plays freely with (dis)guises and suggestive contrasts sampling imagery from comics, his daughter’s coloring books, and vintage video games combining them with local hand-painted signage, street art, and other markers of the urban environment. Before he started painting, Aguilar was a Conjunto musician; the music form was born in South Texas at the end of the 19th century and became widely popularized in the 1990s. A clown rendered with the head of Clark Kent plays the accordion in Chanito (2018) referencing the artist’s musical past. The work rhythmically unfolds a narrative where Mexican and American cultures are irrevocably connected highlighting that Mexican-American sub-culture is sometimes both misunderstood and undervalued.
In Aguilar’s work the distressed ambiance of the barrio’s streets is omnipresent, but so is the joy: the music, the antojitos, and the spirit of making use of everyday objects to get by. Connecting with blues music and Picasso’s blue period, Sidewalk Blues (2017) presents an intricate streetscape riddled by sadness where a despondent Pikachu has fallen on his side and a character, the artist himself, stands tall with a vision clouded by a wig. Aguilar’s homage to art history and use of nostalgic comics are lighthearted, however, his references to the street are more often dark. Reflecting on life in the border towns, Aguilar’s works embody the highs and the lows of the ever-shifting culture.
Land of Peace (2007) hangs at the far end of the gallery on a wall built to simulate the American-Mexican border serving as the exhibition’s centerpiece. In response to increased border restrictions, corruption, and cartel violence Aguilar created the idealized landscape to commemorate his memories of a time when he traveled fearlessly across the border. In Land of Peace, Christopher Robin mourns a once calm past; the Peter Max-style butterflies flit in a serene Van Gogh landscape; and the hand-painted street sign exhibiting a Menudo represents memories of his innocent childhood. Conversely in El Puente Nuevo (2019), the artist depicts a bridge across the border with a Millennium Falcon spaceship looming above symbolizing hope for the future. The exhibition poignantly speaks to the hardships of immigrants in the border towns presenting a version of American life where Mexico and America intertwine.
A compound of the Spanish term for neighborhood and Pop Art, barrioPOP is an amalgam of the street art and pop culture of the Rio Grande Valley region in South Texas. In Cande Aguilar’s work, hand-painted signs, graffiti walls, low rider trucks, Conjunto music, cartoon characters, art historical references, and immigrant experiences present a Mexican-American version of reality. Aguilar is the proponent of this distinct style and through it he has inspired others to consider Mexican-American culture and life in the border towns.
About the Artist
Cande Aguilar (b. 1972, Brownsville, Texas) is a multimedia artist based in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Aguilar uses painting, assemblage, and image-transfer to merge popular culture, street-art, and elements from art history in a style he calls barrioPOP. Inspired by his environs, and the barrio, his work presents narratives of joy and distress rooted in Mexican-American life. Aguilar is widely exhibited and has shown at McNay Art Museum, San Antonio; Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, Brownsville; MACLA Museum, San Diego; Wichita Falls Museum of Art, Witchita Falls; K Space Contemporary, Dallas; Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin; Center of Tamines & Auvelais, Sambreville, Belgium; The Painting Center, New York; and other spaces across the United States, Europe, and Mexico.
About 81 Leonard Gallery
81 Leonard Gallery, founded in 2019, is an artist-run space that stimulates engagement in critical thinking and culture. Founder, Nancy Pantirer, and gallery director, Elaine Mitchell, are dedicated to promoting underrepresented and marginalized artists. Through their exhibitions, artist talks, and publications the gallery actively fosters a community that supports artistic freedom and dialogue.
Ric Michel Fine Art
Ric Michel Fine Art, Private Dealers/Consultants, has been active in the International Art Market for over three decades. Drawing upon its vast network of both emerging and Museum artists, RMFA serves a diverse roster of corporate and private collectors.
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