Mauricio Olague

I think of myself as “olague,” The King’s Painter, a character that already merits immortality in the public archives of American history. I create collages and works of art from found objects. My work physically identifies who I am. I utilize the physical discards of my lower class Mexican-American community to create aggressive, street-wise works. In a world where technology has given us the ability to manipulate digital imagery and information into one media; to collage the world’s history upon my lap with my Mac PowerBook I feel an artist is compelled to produce one-of-a-kind creations. It becomes the artist’s responsibility to protect humanity’s spiritual essence through the ritualistic manifestation of an object tied to a specific time and space. My work identifies where I reign from, my Chicanismo, my faith, and my concerns for my own spiritual wealth. I collage the personal physical affects or materials momentous from my life unto my paintings. I make an effort to empower them with the spiritual essence that exists around me as I make my journey through this temporal, material world.

I insist that there is a relationship between Picasso’s collage and the Internet. I love the philosophy of art, and have followed the ideas of Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, and Jean Baudrillard. I have been discussing the aura of the one-of-a-kind vs. the aura of the mass-produced for years. We are living in a world that is saturated by simulacra (the simulated without reference to an “original”). We are controlled by mega-powers beyond our ability or desire to recognize them. We think we have choices, but we really don’t, our freedom is contained within the complex of corporations. We are consumers.

In the ritual of my creations, my physical and spiritual essence is embalmed with the paint applied to the object I create. I draw comparison to Jackson Pollack, and that small group of American Abstract painters who felt such deep conviction for their spiritual relationship to artmaking. In my paintings, I worry that like a drunkard on Friday night who spends his paycheck foolishly, I too and the world’s population will squander away its spiritual paycheck and show up flat broke and hung-over on Sunday. My work is about the infinitly subtle ways that humanity is falling, and my desire to capture it all on videotape, and create a really cool work of art.

Three of Three
(and other cigarette paintings)


I’ve been utilizing the symbolism and metaphor of cigarettes in my artwork for over fifteen years. I use smokes principally as a metaphor for sin: a behavior that can eventually kill you. Physicality and spirituality, it appears, are cohorts to many shenanigans. To create art where cigarettes are paired with Pop and cool is nothing new. Cigarette advertisements have been some of the most innovative, attractive and coolest in American history. In choosing cigarettes as a subject matter, I am making use of the beautiful form and geometric lines that boxes and cylinders present. I am also demonstrating my ability to pain t and the different styles I have mastered.
The American cigarette is part of a complex social tapestry interwoven into our lives. In the subject matter of cigarette smoking ads, for example, women were liberated socially and politically by smoking. One could create a lengthy series of paintings on the many different Surgeon General warnings. Or on the Congressional investigations on nicotine and tobacco, with the thousands of backroom deals, and the piranah-like behavior of these institutions suing and devouring the tobacco industry. Or I could simply deal with the personal aspect of smoking and how very difficult it is to stop.

I was a smoker for over three years. I smoke “Camels.” I quit by exclusively smoking “Faros,” a very popular brand of Mexican cigarette where the sweet-tasting rice paper wrapping the tobacco hides the hideous taste of the unfiltered drag. “Faro” means “light” and the package depicts a lighthouse perched on a solid rock. Remember the American cigarette brand “True?” As if we were going to find honesty and integrity in an activity so clearly detrimental to our health.
Smoking is a very attractive activity. I wish I could still be smoking today. But like so many other things that are detrimental to my physical and spiritual health I have reluctantly elected not to.

Chronicity of Ethnicity

This work was constructed out of found objects acquired from El Paso’s south central area. “Chronic Ethnicity” is what the characters depicted here are suffering from: A severe, chronic, ethnicity. The ideally proportioned female is often worshiped for her physical attractiveness. The physicality of physical form represents the material nature of our society, this country’s driving life force. The material is attached to the commercial; the commercial to the political, the political to the life and death of cultures and countries. Our physical and visual tendencies have totally dominated our standard for measuring existence, replacing the spiritual values founded from the Word of God. The Somalian crawling on hands and knees is starving to death, literally, physically dying right before our eyes. Imagine stopping at some busy intersection with a long traffic light. Imagine seeing this man crawling on the curbside. Would you not help? Well, we do see him right outside our technological window, and we do just drive on by. The manipulative power of the visual and the physical is here utilized to jar the viewer into transcending two unique and before incompatible genres, to compel the viewer into an uncomfortable realization. It is difficult to imagine that to this man, to these starving, dying people, that possessing perfectly proportioned breasts is any kind of concern.