Horacio Quiroz talks about his artistic practice and his upcoming show at Annka Kultys Gallery in an interview with Jenny Muñoz, discussing his interest in erasing binaries, overturning capitalist hierarchies and returning to the materiality of the Earth.
Interview with Mexican Painter Horacio Quiroz: A Journey Through Duality and Identity
Meet Horacio Quiroz (b. 1981, Mexico), a self-taught painter whose artworks are a mesmerizing dialogue between conflicting forces, exploring the human condition, gender, identity, and the profound relationship between bodies and their environment. With a keen eye for detail and an innate understanding of the human psyche, Quiroz weaves visual narratives through an interplay of colors, textures, and matter, sculpting corporeal volumes that transcend the boundaries of conventional art, drawing us into a world where imagination and introspection intertwine in harmonious synchrony. Through his art, Quiroz offers a glimpse into the complexity of existence, inviting us to ponder the essence of our being and the intricate dance of duality within our universe.
Based in Mexico City, Quiroz earned his Graphic Design BFA from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. After just three years of pursuing his passion as a painter, Quiroz’s exceptional talent caught the attention of the esteemed 15th Rufino Tamayo Biennial of Painting in Mexico, propelling him into the spotlight. Renowned for his mind-bending artworks, Quiroz fearlessly explores queer representations of the body, nonbinary interpretations of gender, and dreamlike states, swiftly building a reputation as an artist with a unique and captivating vision.
Quiroz’s art has graced solo and group exhibitions worldwide, with prestigious venues like Arts Santa Mònica in Barcelona, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO), to name a few. His creations form part of esteemed collections, including BETH RUDIN DE WOODY COLLECTION in Florida, USA, and COLECCION MER in Segovia, Spain. Notably, Quiroz’s art found its way into the interior design of the film “Perfectos Desconocidos,” directed by Manolo Caro.
Currently, experience Quiroz’s art at the Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, California, as part of their group exhibition “EPHEMERAL PLEASURES.” Moreover, his first solo exhibition in London, “GODDESSES OF SPOILED LANDS,” opens August 3rd at Annka Kultys Gallery.
Discover more about Horacio Quiroz’s inspiring journey, from his transition from advertising to full-time artistry to the influences shaping his captivating paintings, and so much more in this exclusive interview. I hope you enjoy it!
Please tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an artist.
I have a degree in graphic design and worked as a creative in advertising agencies for 12 years. I am also a self-taught painter. I changed my profession because I was tired of working for large global corporations, creating advertising campaigns that perpetuate outdated ideas, false idols, and absurd stereotypes that promote the consumerism of unnecessary products.
What motivated you to transition from a successful career in advertising to pursue a path as a self-taught painter?
The transition was filled with doubts and fear. It took years of patience, introspection, and personal and professional learning. My motivation was my love for doing what I enjoy, expressing my ideas and emotions through painting. I was also inspired by the emotions I felt when visiting museums or galleries and thinking to myself that I could showcase my work in those places too.
How has living and working in Mexico City influenced your artistic style and themes?
It’s something that I’m often asked, and the answer for me is not so clear. I feel I can’t be objective since Mexico is my place, and it’s where all my perceptions and references to the outside world originate. I don’t know what it’s like to paint outside of this country to answer objectively.
But I can tell you that Mexico is a surreal country, full of contrasts, a country in search of definition. It stands on the foundations of a culture annihilated by conquest and the Catholic clergy, where freedom and spontaneity in cultural expressions have flourished, giving birth to a prominent surrealistic painting school.
Recently, someone pointed out that the rocky compositions in my paintings resemble the sidewalks of Mexico City (which I had never noticed). In Mexico, the sidewalks have cracks that are broken, patched, and crooked. Each one is different. The uniformity exists in the vast and senseless array of textures, cement, cobblestones, stones, and construction materials that coexist chaotically. Just by taking a few steps, the stones and textures of Mexico’s sidewalks tell you the story of a country.
What role does spontaneity play in your creative process? Do you meticulously plan or embrace improvisation?
The rocks in my paintings appeared organically as I observed what happened on my color palette table during the workday and wondered why that beautiful chaos that occurs when colors are randomly combined and mixed on the palette couldn’t also be part of the pictorial work beyond what strategically happens on the canvas.
That’s how I found in the rocky volumes the pretext to work from spontaneity and disorder. These volumes contain the entropy circumscribed within the order of a calculated composition, coexisting with the other elements of pictorial creation.
You have an upcoming solo exhibition, “Goddesses of Spoiled Lands,” at the ANNKA KULTYS Gallery in London. The show features figurative forms crafted with natural stones, representing mythological gods and goddesses from ancient cultures worldwide. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind this new series of works?
Conceptually, rocks, for me, are a representation of materiality—cosmic, geological, and human. From the Big Bang and the formation of the first particles of matter to the processes of pressure, temperature, and erosion that shaped the Earth’s crust, up to the first sculptural carvings of deities on stone made by Homo sapiens trying to explain their existence and their awe of nature.
Everything in the universe is made of the same cosmic dust; everything we know in this realm comprises the same chemical elements ordered in different proportions within each organism. We all are made of interstellar nuclear waste. Particularly in this series, “Goddesses of Spoiled Lands,” the rocky volumes in my paintings take on the character of debris. The stone is useless waste and rubble that comes together to build new orders. They are monolithic compositions that create ephemeral goddesses composed of legends, stories, and beliefs that have layered human thinking since our appearance on Earth.
In my view, the world is messed up. Private property, the industrial revolution, overpopulation, global warming, capitalism, social inequality, religions, and other beliefs have transformed the reality of this planet into a catastrophe. The damage is done, and there’s no turning back. It’s time to pick up the debris, repair, heal, rebuild, patch up, create new gods, imagine new beliefs, chart new paths towards a future that leads us to a better place, have fun, and enjoy the journey.
How did you decide to select ancient gods and goddesses, such as Pachamama, the revered mother goddess of the Andean indigenous peoples; Luperca, the she-wolf goddess of Roman mythology who nursed Romulus and Remus; and Ōmeteōtl, the Aztec binary god representing the union of Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl, responsible for the creation of the universe, as subjects for your paintings in the mentioned exhibition?
Yes, these monolithic representations reference names of deities from various ancient cultures. Their selection helps me tell the story of how human thought is a process of recycling and aggregating concepts, ideas, and beliefs subject to cultural shaping over millennia.
For example, the painting titled “Luperca’s Amendment,” was inspired by the mythical sculpture that tells the legend of the founding of Rome: Capitalism has ruined our Earth. The Western belief in conquest, subjugation, and inequality becomes evident in the history of the Roman Empire. That’s why in the painting, I represent Luperca as a human being (not as an animal) made of debris, nourishing a pair of animal fetuses (not humans). The roles are reversed as a sign of human mothers’ amendment towards Mother Nature. It’s about reconnecting humans with the planet as one more animal in creation.
I chose Ometeotl as he is a dual god, both male, and female within one. He is the Aztec deity who created absolutely everything that exists—space, time, and all living beings. He wears the typical bells of Aztec dancers on his footwear, and in the painting, I depict him giving birth to matter through his anus while twerking.
Regarding the painting titled “Makemake,” he is the main deity of Polynesian culture, the creator god of the world and fertility. In the painting, I depict him made of debris of various beliefs, forming a monolith dancing vogue. Among the debris, you can see parts of his body that refer to string theory through a harp, Christianity with a frieze of the Last Supper, capitalism with the Amazon logo, and the Moai culture with one of its stone heads.
How do you approach the exploration of gender and identity within the framework of duality in your artistic practice?
For me, there are no men or women; we are simply humans. All human representations in my paintings have an ambiguous and undefined gender because I believe that sexuality is like that, unlabelled. Within each human being, there exists feminine and masculine energy. Everything in our universe has a dual manifestation. This is so obvious that we take it as a fact. The truth is that absolutely everything that exists consists of the duality of opposing forces. As part of the cosmos, humans are no exception since they are made of spirit and matter.
Is there any other art form or medium that you enjoy exploring besides painting?
Yes, drawing is the foundation for my painting. Before starting to paint, I usually make several sketches or drawings that help me define the idea that will go on the canvas. Additionally, for this solo exhibition, I’ve created NFTs that will serve as certificates of authenticity for each piece. Each NFT consists of an animation based on the painting, exploring the fun side within the catastrophe. I loved the experience of animating the paintings because NFTs add another layer of information to the piece and give you a different approach to the work. Combining “traditional” art with digital art raises new questions about what painting is and how it transforms into an image within the digital jungle and the traceability of my work once it is sold since it’s on the blockchain.
Apart from your artistic activities, what are some of your hobbies or interests that bring you joy and inspiration?
Simple things. I love walking for hours in the city. I need to be in touch with my body to avoid going crazy, so I regularly ride a bicycle, do yoga and Pilates, and try to meditate. I like to lead a healthy life, sleep well, and eat healthily. I love being surrounded by the people I care about and sharing moments and ideas with them; that’s what life is about.
(Note: The interview was in Spanish and translated by the interviewer & author, Jenny Munoz)