• Cande Aguilar
  • cande.aguilar@gmail.com
  • Born and raised in Brownsville, Texas, Cande Aguilar is a self-taught artist who reflects on border culture through his BarrioPOP distinctive style.
    At the young age of 10, Aguilar embarked on a music career as a musician and at the age of 13 recorded his first album. As a musician, he toured the United States and received numerous awards. Life on the road allowed Aguilar to mature and gain inspiration from diverse cultures. In 1999 he produced his first oil painting, and has since accumulated an impressive body of work. In this short period, he has shown his passion and dedication for the arts.
    Aguilar defines his BarrioPOP distinctive style as an amalgamation sprung by characters, colors and street phenomena.
    Aguilar’s work has been featured in solo shows at: The Brownsville Museum of Fine Art,
    International Museum of Arts & Science (McAllen) and group exhibits at MACLA Museum in California,
    Wichita Falls Museum of Art, Craighead Green Gallery,
    Cohn Drennan Contemporary Dallas, Kirk Hopper Fine Art Dallas,
    K Space Contemporary, CorpusChristi , 500X Gallery Dallas,
    Alexandria Museum of Art, LA, The Painting Center in New York,New York,
    Studio Apothiki, Paphos Cyprus,
    and a touring project curated by Boecker Contemporary, Heidelberg Germany; Spain (Tenerife) Belgium (Tamines) Forthcoming exhibitions Antwerp, The Netherlands and Germany, Perwez in Belgium...and recently Aguilar was selected as one of the featured artist in the group exhibition “Texas Biennial 2017” held in Austin Texas.

    Aguilar’s work can be found in Collections:

    International Museum of Arts & Science, McAllen TX Brownsville Museum of Fine Art
    Wichita Falls Museum of Art
    UTSA Art Collection, San Antonio TX
    Mountain View Collage, Dallas TX
    Harper Collage, Palatine IL

Cande Aguilar “barrioPOP para Todos”
All art emerges from the hearts of its creators and those hearts are forged in the places from which those artists themselves emerge. Cande Aguilar’s body of work likewise pours forth from a sincere corazón that emerged in conjunction with the waters of the Rio Grande that flow through his hometown of Brownsville. There at the convergence of nations, of languages, of cultures and ethnicities a Mestizaje society flourishes along La Frontera and Aguilar’s artwork reflects that confluence in its respect for the imagery and the people of the region.

Aguilar was born into a family of creatives and from an early age was immersed in the Conjunto music that was played by his family members. By twelve years of age, he was performing on stage and throughout his youth on into adulthood he enjoyed an illustrious musical career. He still plays the accordion with the technical virtuosity of a seasoned professional.

While the Conjunto tradition is inextricably linked to the region of La Frontera, like most things from that special place, it carries within in it the legacy of a plethora of cultural traditions. In its melodies and rhythms one can discern the musical traditions of the Polish Polka, the Ashkenazi Klesmer trumpet, the Romani violin, the Arabic lute and Afro-Caribbean rhythms as well as Celtic Irish cadences carrying the Spanish lyrics peppered with vocabulary derived from indigenous Nahuatl roots. Like the region itself, Conjunto represents a confluence of cultures each leaving their aesthetic artifacts within the Mestizaje experience.

As he began his artistic practice as a painter and visual artist, Cande Aguilar would approach his craft with the same culturally polyvalent priorities as one finds in Conjunto music. He would seek out the colloquial images of a popular culture that promiscuously borrows from any source that strikes its fancy. These diverse elements can be appropriated and combined to create unprecedented conflations which are themselves comprised of recognizable precedents. It is the recognizability of its elements that provides the viewer with an initial delight which is only enhanced by their unexpected combinations.

Aguilar’s sources for inspiration are encyclopedic as he may coyly steal from da Vinci in one moment and Van Gogh the next. He will mine childhood nostalgia in the form of Winnie the Pooh for one narrative and an adolescent Star Wars fantasy for another. Aguilar will reference the precedents of Marcel Duchamp in his use of found objects and then combine them in a manner that is aware of fellow Texan Robert Rauschenberg. He uses field color like a mid-century Modernist, albeit with a less contrived formalist sensibility that is more instinctual than designed. He will create an homage to Andy Warhol and then defile it in a Neo-Expressionist nod to Jean-Michel Basquiat. Aguilar is nothing if not an equal opportunity thief who possesses an insatiable appetite for imagery across time, across style, across class ... from Highbrow to Lowbrow, from High Renaissance to AbEx, from slick Pop Art to grunge Street Art ... all are fodder for Aguilar’s creative expression.

Aguilar’s sources are the product of careful observation and a conscientious ability to recognize the significance in the often overlooked. His genius lays largely in recognizing genius, both famous and anonymous, and realizing that snobbery only inhibits one’s clarity of vision. Beauty, grace, respect, dignity, imagination, love and authentic expression can be found anywhere if one knows how to see it. Aguilar possesses that metaphysical gift of cogent sight.

In an Aguilar artwork, a background texture gives body to the vivid hue of its expressionistic color. But atop that formal foundation may lay carefully calligraphed text recalling the formidable talents of legions of sign painters who ornamented the commercial sphere with their impressive skills and humble dispositions. Despite the tradition of anonymity, their graphic sign-work was made with pride and each meticulous seraph is evidence of that fact. In an Aguilar painting the legibility of the text may be obscured but the virtuosity of its rendering conveys this artist’s real message.

Many an artist of the 20th century has professed an aspiration to create artwork as if it was executed by the innocent spirit of a child. But for most who tried, that infantilist aspiration was more of a contrivance; more a rebellious adolescent act than a genuinely innocent gesture. A grown man does not think as a child, he doesn’t feel like a child and doesn’t actually make marks in the manner of a child or for the reasons a child makes them. Perhaps this is why so many of those efforts have lacked authenticity or at least credibility.

But Cande Aguilar found a way to invoke the idealization of innocence without the problematic affectation of infantilism. As a loving father who actually delights in his children and welcomes them into his studio to encourage their own creativity, Aguilar steals as unapologetically from his own five and six year old daughters as he does from a canonical master. Rather than awkwardly trying to emulate their style of exuberant mark making, the artist will simply make transfers of their actual crayon drawings and apply them directly to his own canvas as gestural elements more authenticallyexpressive of their innocence than any adult could have hoped to have created with his own hand.

In other artworks, Aguilar will borrow the more adolescent marks of the graffiti artists and combine these with the Neo-Expressionism of the late 20th century. That gritty style conflates comfortably with the folk aesthetic of the Mestizo Arte Popular. The artist will take one of these hybrid visceral works and ironically place it within an ornate gilt Rococo frame as if to make a clever Rasquache visual pun that is consistent with the irreverent spirit of the Punk aesthetic of the early 1980’s. “Rasquache” is the term coined by noted art historian Tomás Ybarra-Frausto to describe a Chicano underdog perspective and the Mestizo practice of deploying repurposed modest materials and naive styles to give expression to populist artistic priorities. Such art is the prerogative of all people, regardless of their economic or social status. It appears throughout the lived environment in alleys, on fences, on boxcars, on signs, in restaurants, in cantinas, in garages, in upholstery workshops and anyplace people might be present to encounter it.

Whether Renaissance or Rasquache, the imagery of Leonardo or Lucas, it is all fodder for Aguilar’s grand Mestizaje vision; his Barrio Pop style that has been refined by many years of syncretizing practice. But in his adept hands, through his hybridizing imagination, somehow all these images remain timeless yet still manage to reflect the spirit of the current age and the cultural conflations that are so unique to La Frontera. This is why Cande Aguilar’s artworks are so avidly sought out by astute collectors of Chicano Art and why visitors will encounter them on exhibition in venues like The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum.

Cande Aguilar’s corazón, like his art, is a product of the place from which it has emerged. But the Mestizaje culture of that place is itself the product of centuries of confluence of peoples, of their hearts, their aspirations and their hopes. While Aguilar’s art emerges from a unique place, its conflated visions provide insightful epiphanies for people as diverse as it sources.
Text by: Joseph Bravo