Carlos Frésquez

b. 1956, Denver, Colorado

Artist Statement: “I have always tended to work in a grouping or in a series. My art is a body of work that combines our past with the present. The duality of Chicanismo is truly what is most inspiring. I am inspired by Picassos in the museums and the placas on the streets. The fusing of pop art with arte popular is what assists me to combine ‘isms’ (expressionism, etc.) with ‘ismos’ (carnalismo, etc.). Chicanismo allows us to accept our history but also gives us a new reality to deal with the present and the future.”

Biography: The duality of the Chicano experience was brought home to Carlos Frésquez during his college education, when he was learning traditional art history while simultaneously being surrounded by street culture. “I’d study Picasso and Rauschenberg, then go home and have beans and chile,” he told a journalist. He discovered early in life that he was a descendant of Pedro Antonio Fresquís, the early nineteenth-century santero painter, and was inspired to learn more about his personal and cultural heritage. This had a determining effect on his later work. Frésquez received his B.A. from Metropolitan State College of Denver in 1980 and his M.F.A. from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1995. In between, he showed his paintings in dozens of exhibitions and branched out in other directions as well. In 1999 he joined forces with fellow artist Frank Zamora to create Los Supersónicos: Two Chicanos Zoom into the New Millennium, described by one journalist as “a raucous contemporary exhibit filled with humorous political commentary in the form of irreverent paintings, prints, and sculptures.” Frésquez makes a point of maintaining the duality of his artistic consciousness, responding equally to ancestral influences and to those of his children’s life experiences. His daughter’s taste for rap recordings, with their “sampling” of earlier records, led him to the concept of “sampling” images from his youth in his more contemporary paintings.
The locus for expression of Frésquez’s two distinctive backgrounds, Mexican American and colonial New Mexican, is his artwork, which tells a tale of two cultures: Chicano and Hispano. In his role as a “cultural courier,” he brings both personal and community conflict and values into his art. He considers himself to be a Chicano whose art is a true American art, truer than other forms that, he asserts, borrow heavily from European forms and movements.

Exhibitions: Frésquez’s art has taken a variety of directions since the early 1990s. He has painted a number of murals as well as serving on several public-art selection committees, and he has done extensive set design work for El Centro Su Teatro and other theater groups. His many group exhibitions have included ¡Viva Latinos! (Western Center for the Arts, Grand Junction, CO, 1990), Homage to Frida and Diego (Art Department Gallery, Denver, 1991), Sin Fronteras: The Retablo (Metro Center for the Visual Arts, Denver, 1992), Crossing Borders (Arvada Center, Arvada, CO, 1993), Chicano Connections (Metro Center for the Visual Arts, Denver, 1994), HIV/AIDS Awareness (Ace Space, Omaha, NE, 1995), The Madonna: Four Centuries of Divine Imagery (William King Arts Center, Abingdon, VA, 1996), 25: Silver Anniversary Exhibition (Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, Pueblo, CO, 1997), and Bienal Guadalupana 1999 (Museo de El Carmen, Mexico City, 1999), as well as traveling exhibitions including Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation (CARA) (1990-93). He has also presented more than a dozen solo exhibitions, among them El Teatro de Mi Corazón (Alpha Gallery, Denver, 1992), Recent Work (Cultural Arts Center, San Luis, CO, 1996), and Mi Casa Es Su Casa (Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 2000). His work is held in numerous collections, among them those of the Museo del Barrio in New York City; California State University, Long Beach; Mutual of New York; and Qwest Communications in Denver.