“Arreguin’s palpitations of color and light and arrested movement awaken our sublimated vision. His paintings seem to force our entire being to experience its livingness as an insatiable yearning and questing of the eyes.” – from the book Alfredo Arreguín, Foreword by Tess Gallagher
Alfredo Arreguín has long been recognized as a major force in pattern painting. His canvases are tapestries that mingle diverse and interpenetrating influences and images: the traditional crafts of his native Michoacán; the lush rainforests of his homeland and of the Pacific Northwest; Japanese ukiyo-e prints; sacred and endangered animals; gods and and totemic figures; icons like Frida Kahlo and Cesar Chávez; and motifs including masks, eyes, and abstractly patterned tiles.
But Arreguin’s paintings, for all the apparent flatness of their surfaces, conceal an astonishing depth of perspective. The basis of their composition is a grid of colorful patterns applied to superimposed planes, and below the surface of each completed painting are many others, transformed by the artist’s strategic occlusions and erasures. The result is an exuberant, phosphorescent visual interplay in which images combine to form other images, yielding a potent narrative power and pointing up the profound, ambiguous symbiosis between human beings and nature, fiction and reality, and the natural and supernatural worlds.
Alfredo Arreguín (BA 1967, MFA 1969) has a long and distinguished list of accomplishments. In 1979 he was selected to represent the U.S. at the 11th International Festival of Painting at Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, where he won the Palm of the People Award. In 1980 he received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1988, in a competition that involved over 200 portfolios, Arreguin won the commission to design the poster for the Centennial Celebration of the State of Washington (the image was his painting Washingtonia); that same year he was invited to design the White House Easter Egg. Perhaps the climatic moment of his success came in 1994, when the Smithsonian Institution acquired his triptych Sueño (Dream: Eve Before Adam) for inclusion in the collection of the National Museum of American Art. A year later, in 1995, Arreguín received an OHTLI Award, the highest recognition given by the Mexican government to the commitment of distinguished individuals who perform activities that contribute to promote Mexican culture abroad. More recently, his success has been cemented by an invitation to show his work in the Framing Memory: Portraiture Now exhibition, at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. One of his paintings included in this show, The Return to Aztlán, will remain in the permanent collection of the gallery. Thus, Arreguín’s work is now in the permanent collections of two Smithsonian Museums: The National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery.
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