Consummate Angeleno and essential witness to L.A.’s unique cross-border visual identity, artist Victor Estrada makes paintings, drawings, sculptures, and installations in hybrid modes of expression from Pop to punk, activist to Ab Ex, personal to political, material and mannerism, fantasy and design. Across a thirty-year career Estrada has pursued his ride-ranging curiosity about how interdisciplinary cultural movements communicate and control the zeitgeist. His visceral, color-forward surrealism is organic and complex, challenging tropes from race and identity to art history and access. Estrada’s current survey exhibition Purple Mexican includes work from the past three decades and the new, and is on view at his ArtCenter alma mater in Pasadena through February 25.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
VICTOR ESTRADA: All through elementary I would have experiences with art-making that resonated with the way my mind worked. At some point growing up, the idea that I was an artist came into my mind. I don’t know where that came from, exactly; I was not taken to museums, etc. as a kid, and I didn’t know anyone who was an artist.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
An engagement with Brown/Raza space, psychological, material and aesthetic.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes. I had been going to school and stopping and going back to school. I would always take art courses, but never found my way to making a decision to get a BFA and a MFA. Finally, my wife and I made the decision to just do it. It was a challenge because I was married, and we had two kids at the time. Still, despite the challenges, it was a good decision because I finally met people who were interested in art like I was. And I was exposed in an interesting way to ideas about art and its relationship to the world.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I was born here. This place and its relationship to El Paso, Texas are the origins, in various ways, of my work.
When was your first show?
My first show was at a friend’s gallery called Bliss in 1989. It was in his living room. I first showed my piece “For MLK” there.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
My current show is a survey show which is up at ArtCenter’s Mullin Gallery in Pasadena. The impetus for the show were drawings I had never shown before. Marco Rios, who was the curator and an artist, too, saw them and decided that there needs to be a show with these drawings. Both older and current paintings and sculptures are included in the show, as is a video based on a trip to El Paso from L.A. taken in 2019.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I usually don’t listen to music in the studio. I find that it takes up space in my head and makes it difficult to think. I don’t want a rhythm from a song setting the tempo of my mind. I need a slow, undisturbed mind to figure out what I’m doing/thinking.
Website and social media handles, please!
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