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"Luis Jiménez: Native Son" opens at El Paso Museum of Art
Luis Jiménez (1940-2006), Honky Tonk (1981). Lithograph with glitter, 35 x 50”. El Paso Museum of Art, Purchase with funds provided by the Robert U. and Mabel O. Lipscomb Foundation Endowment, 2004.1.1

EL PASO, TX.- Considered a godfather of Chicano art, Luis Jiménez was instrumental in bringing Chicano sensibilities into the mainstream through his vividly colored, larger-than-life fiberglass sculptures reflecting his Mexican-American heritage. He was also an accomplished and prolific draftsman and printmaker. Jiménez’s focus on everyday human subjects fostered his reputation as an artist of the working class, while his novel treatment of themes and use of pop-culture materials sometimes shocked critics and the public.

Selected exclusively from the holdings of the El Paso Museum of Art and organized by the museum’s Senior Curator, Dr. Patrick Shaw Cable, Luis Jiménez: Native Son features works that date from 1973 to 2004 and represent the artist’s three principal media: lithography, colored-pencil drawing, and fiberglass sculpture—this last technique embodied in a beautifully colored model for a monument honoring fallen firefighters

Born in El Paso in 1940, Jiménez began at the age of six to help out in the electric sign shop of his immigrant father, the elder Luis Jiménez. Not only did the young Luis learn from his father the techniques of welding and airbrushing that would be key to his later fiberglass sculpture, but he also absorbed popular Southwestern imagery, which he subsequently combined in his art with subjects and forms from history, nature, religion, and myth. After graduating in 1964 from the University of Texas at Austin and continuing his studies briefly in Mexico City, Jiménez moved to New York City, where he contributed unique expressions to the Pop art movement. In the early 1970s the artist returned to the Southwest, whereupon he embraced the culture and imagery of the region, eventually dividing his time between his native city of El Paso and Hondo, New Mexico. As an ironic illustration of the physical labor Jiménez devoted to his art, in 2006 just a few weeks before his sixty-sixth birthday, he was killed in his Hondo studio when a section of his colossal sculpture Blue Mustang, commissioned by the Denver International Airport, fell and severed his femoral artery.

The works on view reveal the artist’s mastery as both an expressive colorist and draftsman. The exhibition also testifies to the artist’s rich range of sensibilities and approaches—encompassing bold celebrations of common humanity; sensitive observations of people or animals; lusty allegories of sex, drink, and death; as well as social or political critiques. Free to the public, Luis Jiménez: Native Son was conceived to complement the concurrent EPMA retrospective of the career of Gaspar Enríquez (on view from 26 January to 11 May). Notably, the more established Jiménez became a significant mentor to his fellow El Pasoan Enríquez when the latter was forging his career in the 1980s; and in turn, Enríquez inspired and taught a number of area artists.

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