Ruben Aguirre: New Exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art
If you’ve ridden the Blue Line recently, you’ve likely seen Ruben Aguirre’s art. Between Western and Damen, a bright blue wall of shape and pattern catches your eye. The familiar visual language of graffiti mixes with abstract formalism to a stunning effect.
Ruben Aguirre’s artwork exists at an intersection of styles and mediums that feels unique to Chicago, traversing murals, graffiti, and abstract painting. His style is full of bright, flat colors and swooping lines reminiscent of graffiti wildstyle lettering. Layering and texture complicates the compositions, drawing viewers’ eyes deeper into the thicket of color and expression.
Ruben draws inspiration from many diverse sources including nature, urban architecture, the human body, and topography. He got his start in the graffiti scene, something which clearly animates his one-of-a-kind style. He’s also created tons of murals–both public and private. Whether on city streets or within corporate offices, his sprawling larger pieces toy with spatial relationships and dimension.
We’re lucky to have worked with Ruben for several years on various projects, including his mural at Adidas and his collaboration with Sam Kirk at PepsiCo last year. We were excited to see his first solo museum exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art, entitled Tectonic Reflections.
Ruben Aguirre’s Tectonic Reflections at the NMMA
Ruben’s new work is smaller-scale than ever before, the product of his turn towards a studio practice right before the pandemic. There are several series represented, either triptychs stacked together or diptychs bookending other pieces. There is a rhythm to the hanging of the exhibit, with themes developed, interrupted and then reestablished. There is a sense of continuity and storytelling, though the explicit narrative may elude you.
Each of the pieces in Tectonic Reflections is painted on a layered wood block, with dozens of stratas of compressed wood sheets. They protrude from the wall, taking on the qualities of an art object or sculpture rather than a stationary flat painting hanging on the wall. Ruben stained the top layer of each piece by hand, bringing out the organic grain of the wood and playing with the variety of colors available in natural wood tones.
The stained wood serves as the substrate layer of each of the pieces, poking through here and there. It roots the work in nature, reminders of green, wild spaces underneath the architectural forms and manmade structures in some of the paintings. Others seem to fully revolve around plant life and nature, reflecting Ruben’s excursions into the outdoors during the pandemic lockdowns.
Without leading you too directly, Ruben brings the visitor on an intimate tour of space and memory. Whether a reflection on home and comfort, a journey through what feels like a forest or jungle, or an aquatic ode to the human form, each individual will draw their own meaning and connotations from these evocative pieces.
Tectonic Reflections opened Friday, April 1st and will be on display at the National Mexican Museum of Art until July 24, 2022. The NMMA is free to all, so make sure to get down there while you can and appreciate Ruben’s joyful, colorful work.
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