FOCUS: Critical Conversations with Art
Born in El Paso, Texas in 1940, Luis Alfonso Jiménez Jr. was the son of Mexican immigrants. Luis’ father owned a neon sign shop in El Paso, where he worked as a youth. His experiences at the sign shop and his fascination with U.S. car culture in the border areas greatly influenced his art career. Jiménez studied architecture at the University of Texas, Austin, where he also took art classes and began to make sculptures in wood, steel, and fiberglass. He began working in fiberglass almost exclusively for his larger public sculptures because of its association with U.S. popular culture. In doing so, Jiménez became one of the artists who made fiberglass an acceptable medium in the 1960s. In 1966 he moved to New York City and began to exhibit his art and then in 1972 moved to New Mexico to focus on his public sculpture commissions, while continuing to create drawings, prints, and lithographs.
It was with his large-scale, colorful, public sculptures that Jiménez found acclaim — and also some controversy — as an artist. Colorful neon paint and low-brow fiberglass material were used to depict popular images of the “Chicano” culture and “el Norte”: the pietá, el mesteño, a border crossing, fiesta dancers, el vaquero. His sculptures of animals often included lit eyes—a nod to his father’s neon sign work in El Paso. Jiménez’ combination of color, materials and scale was uncommon in the realm of fine art. Rudolfo Anaya, professor at the University of New Mexico, said of Jiménez: “The kind of medium he used shocked the art world at first. It was first called outlandish and garish, but it spoke not only to Hispanics but to the world. In the coming years there will be a school of Luis Jiménez art.”
Jiménez’ art elicits strong feelings and deals with humanistic themes. His sculptures are collected and displayed in public spaces and museums around the country. In 1999, his sculpture Southwest Pietà was designated a “National Treasure” by First Lady Hillary Clinton. Jiménez has been a featured artist at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Centre Cultural Americaine in Paris, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, TX, the Albuquerque Museum of Art and others.
Source: Denver Public Art, https://denverpublicart.org/artist/luis-jimenez/, Accessed September 1, 2020