Inspired by Keith Haring, Jasper Johns, Frida Kahlo and Jean-Michel Basquiat, there’s a dichotomy in the work of University of Texas at El Paso Fine Arts graduate Jesus Arturo Gardea, the result of his penchant for a childlike view of the world, coupled with the often-violent environment in which he grew up. The result is a body of illustrative works on paper and canvas that is simplistic yet emotionally-charged.
“I have always believed that children know more about art than anyone,” says Gardea. “To me, children’s art is the most honest, real and pure art that can ever exist. They paint in a natural way with total freedom. This is the reason why my art is created in a childish way. In my artwork I have created my own cartoon-like characters with human features.
“Living in El Paso, across from the most violent city in the world, Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez—where my closest friends and some of my family live—has created an impact on me,” Gardea continues. “Seeing decapitated bodies and daily shootouts on the streets every day has also influenced my violent and sometimes aggressive artwork. Most of the time I use colors straight out of the paint tubes, primary colors because they are bright, ordinary, playful and they are the first colors that we learn as a child. Sometimes my figures are armless or legless to represent torture, mutilation and madness. I play with sexual humor, [and] that is the reason why most of the time the figures [in my work] are totally naked. Also sometimes the characters wear masks; this represents the side that people show you sometimes, and the one that they really are [that] is hidden.”
Original work by Gardea is available exclusively at Santa Fe’s POP Gallery.