The late Texas artist Alex de León (1959–2012) described his work as “basically a reflection of things I see and hear.” He was well known for his accessible “barrio style” which colorfully and humorously portrayed imagery from material or popular culture. His work was at times, to his displeasure, mistaken for “folk” art. Folk art is often assumed to be made by self-taught and outsider artists, neither of which was the case for de León. He received a B.F.A. in Printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1983 but became best known for his ceramics. In 1995, he participated in Artpace’s London Studio Program, and shortly thereafter he was chosen to be a Summer 1996 International Artist-in-Residence. For his exhibition ‘Just kuz you don’t think doesn’t mean they ain’t’, he created a nightclub environment complete with glistening streamers, hanging skeletons, emergency vehicles, and cigarettes, centered around the ideas of addiction and drug culture.
Having been trained in printmaking, even in his original ceramics and paintings it is clear that de León was always considering seriality and repetition. He said in 1996, “I’m into this idea of pattern. Something will get in my mind and roll around in my head. I just do it again and again and again. I kind of have fun with it, you know? Often, I will make a piece about something in the news that I just can’t believe. But, it’s always based on this idea of pattern.” In addition to his rhythmic motifs, he neither sought polish nor perfection, nor did he restrain his deceptively cheerful palette. With his strategic use of color, he instantly demands viewer’s attention, but further observation often revealed a heavier subject matter. Throughout his career, he masterfully rendered subjects gritty and dark in a style that was fun and playful.
This exhibition is the most comprehensive presentation of his work to date including enamel paintings, ceramics, and works on paper. Loosely organized in chronological order, it aims to chart the development of his work, repeated motifs, and material explorations.