Juan Hinojosa is a New York-based multi-media installation artist whose collage-drawings, composed of found and stolen detritus of pop culture, intimately challenge greed, obsessive consumption, and social stratification.
Juan holds a BFA from Parsons School of Design, and was awarded residencies at the Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Patron & New York Foundation for the Arts “Simply Perfect” program.
Juan’s exhibitions include The Queens Museum of Art, El Museo del Barrio, and Allegra LaViola Gallery. His work can be viewed on his website.
Assets for Artists intern Harry Gilbert interviews Juan Hinojosa on his passion for pop culture, his use of recycled images and materials, and the social and historical location of his work.
Can you describe, for those who are unfamiliar with your work, your craft?
I usually describe my work as mixed media on paper or installation that resembles a pop art version of a Rorschach test. However, there’s a little more to it then that. Clearly I have a connection to strong comic book superheroes, an unhealthy obsession with fashion, junk food, and a need to obtain things I cannot afford.
My process is very green … for the most part. Everything I collage with is either found or stolen. There’s always an opportunity to recycle everyday items and I like to think I’m doing my part to save the environment. Using products and everyday items brings to mind my own issues with consumerism and greed. It’s a national epidemic and the reason a number of people of this generation are in serious debt.
If memory serves me right, collage was pioneered, with a few other historical precedents, by the Dadaists and surrealists in the early twentieth century, and many of these artists, like yourself, utilized transportation tickets, advertisements, and other quotidian materials and imagery. Do you see yourself as in dialogue with any particular movements (artistic, political, or otherwise)?
I am not sure if can place myself inside the boundaries of a movement or something. Honestly I haven’t given it much thought. I would say my work stems from pop culture, my vastly different social circles, and the city itself. I find it fascinating that the city is filled with so many different types of people and those who travel between the high and low ends of society. As a traveler myself I must admit it’s pretty amazing. And it’s this mixing of high and low that I am putting down on paper and in installations.
Collage is media abstracted from an original frame and implanted into a new one. In this context, it seems impossible not to talk about intellectual property and appropriation in an era of global capitalism. Urban Outfitters, for instance, produced a shirt with the logo of the United Farm Workers, the adopted symbol of the Chican@ rights movement. Your work, rather than complicit with this system of oppression, offers a critique of capitalism, consumerism, and globalization. Could you talk about the murky space between appropriation for criticism and appropriation for profit?
As far as intellectual property is concerned, I don’t care. I seriously doubt Miuccia Prada is sitting in her villa in Italy worrying about me, my use of her iconic logo, or my effect on her amazing brand. The love affair between fashion designers and artists goes way back. (Tom Sachs, Kaws, and of course Andy Warhol) I am merely following in their foot steps.
Oh Urban Outfitters … I worked there for a summer during college. If those walls could talk. Yes, appropriation can be slippery slope but lucky for me I am not an annoying store that sells over priced trash to college students and hipsters.
I’m particularly interested in the work you did with FRAMING AIDS at the Queens Museum of Art. I haven’t been able to see much of it beyond very small thumbnails. Could you describe the pieces and exhibition a bit? And can you talk about how the pieces fit within your greater project and the critiques you level?
The FRAMING AIDS piece was difficult on many levels. On one hand I didn’t have an opportunity to see the space prior to the installation day which makes prepping next to impossible. On the other hand the exhibition asked every artist to remove color and any sense of a likeness to previous work. The curator Hector Canonge is great. It was such a great concept and a challenge to remove a number of elements you might rely on to communicate a message to the viewer. I think the piece allowed me the opportunity to view my work in a different light. The image of that piece still lingers in my head.
You had mentioned in an interview with the blog 500 Sandwiches that you were working on several new projects for 2013. Can you give us a bit of a sneak preview?
The 500 Sandwiches interview was hilarious. 2013 was a great year for me. I gave a four artist talks at the Children Museum of Manhattan. I am in a traveling group show which is about to start the second leg of the show in Sept 2013 – Feb 2014. The exhibition has such a wide range artists that all live in Queens!
Naturally I have a few more projects in the works but I’m not at liberty to talk about them just yet.