About Luis Jiménez'
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTWORK
REPRODUCTION: What can I learn about how this reproduction is different
from the original artwork?
The image on the computer is a digitized image. The original print
is quite large (30" x 44") and is printed on thick paper.
CONDITION: What can I learn about the condition of the artwork?
The lithographic print is in excellent condition.
SUBJECT MATTER: What can I determine about what the artwork depicts,
The print shows a seated man with bent back holding on his lap the
body of a dead woman reclining with head down and one knee up. His
knees protrude under her striped dress. Her arms, shoulders and legs
are exposed. He wears a bandanna on his head and is unclothed above
the waist. An eagle, nopal cactus, maguey mescal cactus, ears of corn,
and snowcapped mountain peaks also appear in the print.
|TOOLS, MATERIALS, AND PROCESSES: What can I learn
about how the artwork was made?
Luis Jiménez drew a key image on his first aluminum
plate and used it as a guide as he drew five additional plates,
one for each color. The print is one of an edition of fifty.
Joe Segura, a master printer, inked each plate, placed a heavy
paper over the plate, and ran the plate through a press. He
repeated this process six times with each print (once for each
color) in order to make the final print.
Lithographic prints are made by marking a flat surface (usually
a polished stone) with a greasy pencil, which repels water.
Jiménez used an aluminium plate instead of the traditional
polished limstone. The artist seals the unmarked areas by coating
the surface with a water-based seal, which is repelled by the
grease pencil marks. The printer then rolls oil-based ink over
the surface. The ink sticks only to the grease marked areas.
When the printer places a paper over the surface and applies
pressure with a press, the ink is transferred to the paper to
make the print.
|SENSORY ELEMENTS: What visual elements do you see?
The print has a strong linear quality. Luis Jiménez
used lines to define anatomical parts and used cross hatching
and changes in value (light and dark) to suggest volume. His
six colors are red, yellow, blue, green, black, and light beige.
FORMAL ORGANIZATION: How do the elements in the artwork work together?
Luis Jiménez achieved an overall rhythmic quality by emphasizing
curves throughout his print. The central triangular shape of the female
figure dominates the image and is repeated in the mountains in the
background. The image is unified by a its generally warm color scheme.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE ARTMAKER
Luis Jiménez was born in El Paso, Texas on July 30, 1940.
He is the son of an illegal immigrant who became a citizen at the
age of 25. At an early age he worked in his father's neon-sign making
shop. As a young person Jiménez witnessed the power of festival
music and dance to build community identity, although as a Protestant
he was not allowed to dance.
After beginning his college education at Texas Western College in
El Paso, Jiménez studied architecture at the University of
Texas in El Paso and later studied art at the University of Texas
in Austin. When he switched his major to fine arts, his father "basically
disowned me. He [Jiménez' father] wouldn't speak to me for
a couple of years." Camille Flores-Turney. (1997). Howl: The
Artwork of Luis Jiménez, no city indicated: New Mexico
Magazine Press, p. 15.
In 1964 Jiménez studied art in Mexico City, and in 1966 moved
to New York City. Jiménez lived in New York City during a time
of street riots and anti Vietnam War protests. While living in New
York, he worked for the NYC Youth board, worked as a sculptor's apprentice,
and succeeded in having his artwork exhibited for the first time.
"At his first show, Jiménez received a gold watch from
his father. Engraved inside were the conciliatory words, 'To my son
the artist.'" Camille Flores-Turney. (1997). Howl: The Artwork
of Luis Jiménez, no city indicated: New Mexico Magazine
Press, p. 18.
A daughter, Elisa, was born to Jiménez and his first wife.
Elisa is now a successful exhibiting artist.
In 1971 Jiménez returned to the southwest, to Hondo, New Mexico,
where he lives with his family today. His second wife is an artist
and they have three children.
NATURAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about the natural environment where
the artwork was made?
New Mexico, where Luis Jiménez lives and works, is an arid
region of mountains, basins, and plateaus, where desert plants and
animals live. "Animals in the wild reveal truths about ourselves,
Jiménez says, 'They remind us about a part of ourselves that
we often try to hide from ourselves.'" Camille Flores-Turney.
(1997). Howl: The Artwork of Luis Jiménez, no city indicated:
New Mexico Magazine Press, p. 41.
FUNCTIONAL CONTEXT: What can I learn about how the artwork was used?
The print illustrates the ending of a traditional legend attributed
to Aztec culture. Luis Jiménez used the print, as well as numerous
drawings, as he worked out his composition for a large fiber glass
sculpture also called Southwestern Pieta.
CULTURAL CONTEXT: What can I determine about what people thought, believed,
or did in the culture in which the artwork was made?
New Mexico has a long, complex history defined by the evolving, overlapping
cultures of Native Americans, Spanish colonists, U. S. citizens of
European descent, and Mexicans.
"New Mexico Hispanics have an identity problem, and are in fact
a divided community, Jiménez says. Some call themselves pure
Spanish land-grant settlers, and the others align themselves with
an Indo-European culture that evolved since the Conquest. The distinction
is based on the amount of Western European blood that runs through
the veins, a vestige of the caste system that continues to infest
American society. It is in effect a tool to distance one's self from
the life of another. To close one's ears to the howl. 'To proclaim
a kind of ethnic purity flies in the face of reality. We all got mixed
up a long time ago,' Jiménez contends." Camille Flores-Turney.
(1997). Howl: The Artwork of Luis Jiménez, no city indicated:
New Mexico Magazine Press, p. 27.
ARTWORLD CONTEXT: What can I learn about the art ideas, beliefs, and
activities that were important in the culture in which the artwork was
Luis Jiménez has lived in a world with art influences from
an early age. He saw murals in Mexico City on a trip when he was only
five. At the age of six, he began working with his father, who was
a nationally known, innovative neon sign maker.
Jiménez studied architecture at the University of Texas at
El Paso and then at the University of Texas at Austin. Later he went
to Mexico City to work with Francisco Zúñiga. He earned
a degree in art from the Cuidad Universidad of Mexico City. Zúñiga
advised him to go to New York. When he did, he apprenticed to the
sculptor Seymour Lipton. In New York City he met a number of Latin
American artists. While in New York his work was exhibited at the
Graham Gallery and at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Some of Jiménez' one-person shows include O.K. Harris Works
of Art in New York, Long Beach Museum of Art, Contemporary Arts Museum
in Houston, Hill's Gallery Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, Franklin
Struve Gallery in Chicago, Bienville Gallery in New Orleans, Pepperdine
Gallery at the University of Southern California, Dag Hammerskjöld
Plaza in New York, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Lisa Sette Gallery
in Scottsdale, Albuquerque Museum, National Museum of American Art
of the Smithsonian Museum, and many, many more.
Jiménez has received commissions from Stueben Glass in New
York, National Endowment for the Arts, City of Fargo, Niagara Frontier
Transportation Authority in Buffalo, Veterans Administration Hospital
in Oklahoma City, Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design in
Los Angeles, Center City Development Corporation of San Diego, Three
Rivers Art Festival in Pittsburgh, Denver International Airport, and
the Cleveland Firefighters Memorial, among others.
Jiménez has called himself a folk artist.
VIEWPOINTS FOR INTERPRETATION
MAKER'S INTENTION: What can I learn about why the maker wanted the
artwork to look the way it does?
Luis Jiménez was aware of the image of the Aztec lovers, Popocátepetl
and Ixtaccíhuatl from his youth. He has used and refined it
in various ways for over twenty years. In 1976 he collaborated with
his, then fifteen-year-old, daughter to develop a watercolor image
of the Aztec couple painted on the side of a customized van of the
barrio. Jiménez has said that the image of Popocátepetl
and Ixtaccíhuatl "embodies a personal sense of loss over
what actually happened when the European culture collided with the
Native American culture." (conversation with Mary Erickson, August
"What I liked about the Southwest Pieta image in terms
of Albuquerque was a kind of commonality of symbols and images. The
same images and symbols that are so important to us in Mexico are
also equally important to us in the U.S. Certainly the eagle - it's
the national symbol for both countries. The rattlesnake is important
from a religious standpoint for the Native Americas, as are the two
plant forms that I used in the piece. The Nopal cactus was an important
food and actually still is south of the border, as is the Maguey Mescal
cactus. You know, the local Apaches here in the area are called the
Mescaleros because they were Mescal eaters. There's a bulb at the
bottom of the plant. It's an important food source. It's also what
they make tequila out of." Man on Fire: Luis Jiménez/
El hombre en llamas, Albuquerque, NM: Albuquerque Museum, 1994,
|ARTWORLD VIEWER UNDERSTANDING: What can I determine about how
the viewer, patron, or user understood the artwork?
There is an edition of fifty prints of Southwestern Pieta.
Some are owned by museums and other by private individuals.
A print displayed in a home may well have special significance
to its owner. Viewers of a print exhibited in a museum in the
southwest may understand it differently from visitors who see
another of the prints of the Soutwestern Pieta on exhibit
at a museum in the east, south, or midwest .
Mexican Americans who grew up with the story that the print
depicts will understand it differently from, for example, art
history scholars who are familiar with many pietàs (usually
the dead Christ held by his mother, the Virgin Mary) in Western
According to a May 19, 1996 article in the Salt Lake Tribune,
"Aztec Past Meets Fiberglass Future," "Jiménez
has become a contemporary spokesman on commingling of cultures
as they were in historic Mexico and as they continue to be in
the American Southwest, where he resides." Jiménez'
depiction of a legend that precedes Hispanic influence using
Western art traditions supports an interpretation of the Southwestern
Pieta as an expression of commingled cultures.
(Luis Jiménez made a sculpture called Southwest Pieta,
a year after the print. It is one of an edition of five castings.
The sculpture met with controversy when it was installed in
a park in Albuquerque. There were rumors that it depicted a
Spaniard's rape of an Indian woman. Eventually the sculpture
was installed in the workers' community of Martineztown.)
CULTURAL IMPACT: What can I learn about how the artwork was understood
within culture in which it was made?
Many Chicanos are familiar with the story depicted in the print.
The story is often represented on Mexican calendars. Non-Chicano viewers
are not so likely to be able to "read" the narrative of
the print. According to the legend, attributed to Aztec culture, but
refined by 19th century romantic Mexican sensibilities, Popo and Ixta,
the Aztec emperor's daughter, were secret lovers. In order to prove
himself to the father of Ixtaccíhuatl, the hero, Popocátepetl,
goes to war, Ixtaccíhuatl, remains faithful to him at home.
Popocátepetl's evil rival gets word back to Ixtaccíhuatl
that Popocátepetl has been killed. When Ixtaccíhuatl
hears of her lover's death, she dies of grief during her wedding ceremony
to the evil rival. After Popocátepetl returns safely he discovers
the tragedy. He takes Ixta to the highest mountains and stays with
her for days on end. Eventually, the gods take pity on the lovers
and turn them into complementary mountains (Popocáteptl is
on the right and Ixtaccíhuatl on the left), for all eternity.
The two mountains in the background of Luis Jiménez' print
represent actual mountains near Mexico City (Tenochtitlán,
the Aztec capital) named, Popocátepetl and Ixtaccíhuatl,
after the two Aztec lovers.
The sensuous curves of the image emphasize the attraction between
the lovers. The warm colors suggest passion and blood. The triangular
position of the woman suggests the strength and endurance (like the
mountain) of faithful love. As Luis Jiménez points out, the
plants and animals are significant symbols in U.S., Mexican, and Native
American cultures. Corn, a plant indigenous to the Americas has great
significance in traditional Mesoamerican and Native American cultures.
CONNECTIONS AMONG ARTWORKS
STYLE: How does the artwork look like other artworks?
Clearly recognizable subject matter and traditional drawing techniques
(anatomical detail and cross hatching, for example) are often characteristics
of artworks by Chicano artists. Many Chicano artists also choose ancient
Mesoamerican subject matter.
INFLUENCE: What can I learn about how earlier artworks influenced this
artwork or about whether this artwork influenced later artworks?
Luis Jiménez work draws from several traditions, from the
sign-making practices of his father; from the street culture of the
Southwest; from the WPA mural tradition of the Depression; as well
as from the graphic traditions of Mexican artists in the first half
of the twentieth century. Jiménez went to Mexico City in 1964
to work with Francisco Zúñiga. While there he also saw
paintings that he admired by José Clemente Orozco.
"Early on, [Jiménez] realized that the glimmering lowriders
cruising the streets and highways of the Southwest had already synthesized
painting and sculpture. They were the ultimate accommodation of
solidity and translucency, and as a young Protestant, growing up in
a Catholic world with an artist's education, Jiménez recognized
the traditions of Baroque art in the design and execution of these
magical automobiles -- in the way the smooth folds of steel and the
hundreds of coats of transparent lacquer caught the light and held
it as they slipped through the dry streets like sleeves of liquid
color." Dave Hickey, (1997) "Introduction" in Howl:
The Artwork of Luis Jiménez by Camille Flores-Turney,
New Mexico Magazine, p. 8.
THEMES: What general ideas connect this artwork to other artworks?
The theme of narrative unites Luis Jiménez' work with many
artists of different cultures. Among these artists are Chicana/o artists
like, Carmen Lomas Garza, Luis
Guerra, and Yolanda López;
Mexican artists like Diego Rivera,
Frida Kahlo, José
Guadalupe Posada, and Alfredo Zalce;
American regionalists, such as Thomas Hart , and Grant Wood; and European
artists such as Francisco Goya, Honoré Daumier, and William
The pietà theme, unites Luis Jiménez lithograph with
the long tradition of Christian pietas depicting the Virgin Mary holding
her dead son, Christ (such as Michelangelo's Vatican pietà).
The idea of seeking cultural identity in legends of the past is a
theme that bridges cultures. Examples include the Renaissance revision
of classical Greek and Roman art and culture, early U.S. neo-classical
architecture, and the Chinese painting tradition of looking to great
masters of the past.
© 2001 Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State University. All