© 2024 Cruz jimenez. All rights reserved.
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Born in 1967, California, USA | Based in Auckland
about bg

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Art Institute of Southern California, USA


Board of Trustees Scholarship of Merit, Art Institute of Southern California, USA (1993); The AICAD/New York Studio Residency Programme, Yale University, New York; Parsons School of Design, New York; The New School for Social Research, New York (1993-95)


Irvine Fine Art Centre, CA, USA; The James Wallace Arts Trust

Public Exhibitions

Wallace Gallery, Morrinsville (2015), Mixed Metaphors, Corban Estate Arts Centre, Auckland (2007); Scope Art Fair, New York (2003)

Selected Bibliography

‘Life Stories’ by Alice Lines, Homestyle New Zealand, Jun/Jul 2017, pp 56-59; ‘Inside Story’ by Alan Perrott, Urbis, No. 96: The Luxury Issue, Feb/Mar 2017, pp 47-51; ‘Memory Serves: Remembering in Cruz Jimenez’s Viaje’ by Amy Stewart, Art New Zealand, No. 159, Spring 2016, pp 84-87; ‘Threads of rich emotion’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Sep 2014; ‘Friedl pulls the strings’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Mar 2014; Stewart, Amy, Cruz Jimenez: Bubble Boy, Auckland: Sanderson Contemporary, 2013; ‘Industrial Revolution’ by Lee Ann Yare, Homestyle New Zealand, Issue 54, Jun/Jul 2013, pp 31-38; ‘Experiment with light lets energy shine through’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Apr 2011

The Sky We Remember - 53 Miles West of Venus

You are travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination.It is the middle ground between light and shadow.

The Twilight Zone, Marius Constant & Bernard Herrmann, 1959, CBS.

Our understanding of what constitutes tradition when referring to contemporary art practice develops from the interrogation of individual works and what we know of the maker. Like memory, tradition and the conventions informing it are in a state of constant flux. The present and future forms of painting are a lot less stable than we might imagine. For both the artist and the viewer, understanding of the connections, be they direct or indirect, are constantly being modified and reviewed with each new exchange, each new action, and each new viewer. All the participants jostle, shift, and contest in an occupied zone, altering accepted meanings by rereading and reforming the concepts and practice of painting. When the artist invites us to imagine something that shifts between abstraction and figuration, we enter an imaginary space outside of this country’s art historical traditions. As makers, viewers, and participants in aesthetic discourse we are invited to recall where we came from and where we are now. We are drawn into reflecting on ideas about home, belonging and the present.

“You are travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. It is the middle ground between light and shadow”.
The Twilight Zone,  Marius Constant & Bernard Herrmann, 1959, CBS.

Darkening, deepening effusions,  space and time welcome a bewitching in the twilight hour when the nahual, an animal double that we all possess or the way chivo (sometimes spelt Huay Chivo) Šprajc (2018) is brought to life to play in washes and sweeps of paint. Cruz Jimenez summons points of starlight from another sky to sparkle and glitter in translucent washes of paint, strutting and dancing in an in-between-ness, we are  shown us a mirror image of ourselves in a world we orbit through to our destination unknown. 

“we'll begin with a spin travelling in the world of pure imagination”.

Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka and the chocolate Factory 1971, 

Paramount Records, Los Angeles 

In another painting Jimenez delivers a magic sleigh ride through a different rosebud, one born not out of loss, but made transformative by shifting our focus from a specific location to a meditation on an astral plane that is everywhere and nowhere. Then Jimenez gives us a glowing mantel, warm against the darkening tissue of the night is punctured by fragile shards of colour. 

Each work in this current body of work is animated by the stray slips of light, titanium whites breaking through dark hues. The pale light from distant worlds beckons between the spirit world and the world of our flesh. Gone is the tyranny of lost futures. Torn apart we are in a departure lounge, able to travel again, the dangers of disease dispensed with, we are suddenly free and unfettered, off to play again. Here in a chromatic twilight zone, Cruz’s paint forms create new worlds for us to glimpse what is coming into sight. Before us is Cruz’s pursuit of fantasy, illusion, concealment, revelation; temporary arrangements, his testing of ideas through paint. Cruz unfurls a playful sense of nocturnal, shadowy atmospheric worlds, both luminous and weightless.  Cruz unpacks the painterly grammar of colour, composition, pictorial space, surface and depth, paint washes and brushwork transmit something of Southern Californian Chicano culture transubstantiated in Tamaki Makaurau in Aōtearoa. 

Cruz Jimenez was born in Orange County, Southern California, in 1967 into a new suburb of young families, many of whom were first-generation Americans. Cruz notes however, that his was one the few recognisable Mexican-American families in the neighbourhood, which he notes has distinct parallels with new suburbs in west and east Auckland built in the same period. Cruz spent holidays and many weekends with his grandparents at Huntington Beach, an ethnically mixed, and long-established coastal community. In both suburbs, Cruz and his family were members of a minority community who described themselves as Mexican-Americans. Not quite outsiders in America, and yet not fully incorporated into American culture. Cruz describes this uncertain space as one requiring continuous code-shifting between disconnected realities. A paradoxical space that presents the dangerous possibility of adaptation,  invention, and change. Coco Fusco has described this hyphenated identity as a "shelter space, a place to stand between cultures" (p, 69). But the hyphen between the two markers of identity also keeps them apart. In Mexico Cruz was described by his cousins as being  'pocho', meaning only a little bit Mexican. Pocho (male), and Pocha (feminine) are pejorative slang for Mexican Americans with little or Mexican language and cultural knowledge. In America, Cruz and members of Mexican-American communities could be called 'wetbacks'. Both terms denote a place beyond, or outside anything Cruz and his family, and his Chicano community could easily access from their hyphenated position. 

Both Cruz’s grandfathers married women who were born in California, making Cruz's parents true Chicanos. Common to both Cruz's parents is their entry into trade-related post-high school professional training. Cruz's mother trained as a beautician, and his father was a tool and diemaker. Following a common intergenerational migration story, Cruz is the first person in his immediate family to enter higher academic education. Cruz is the first person in his family to enter and graduate from art school. Everyone who enters art school at some point crosses a threshold and understands that images have the power to transport us to hitherto unimaginable places, from which there is no return. Each image we make navigates us through unknown spaces and new ways to know ourselves and the world. Jerry Saltz describes this as a "memory/thought system … that travels telepathically and by osmosis between the maker" Cruz, and his work, and the people who experience these images. Inscribing this experience in the material form, as Jerry Saltz states "we transmit experience and memories that replicate and mutate culturally changing people and culture" (Saltz ibid). With this knowledge can transport ourselves for brief periods of our former lives, but we can never stay there. Cruz talks about the uncertainty about how to describe himself. In some contexts, he would describe himself as Mexican-American. In other contexts as Chicano. In conversation Jimenez, (Messenger conversation, 23/10/2022) asks if he is now “among the other migrants moving here?’.  Pico Iyer refers to a process of continual reappraisals of the self, endless shape-shifting adjustments, and an understanding that code shifting is a  requirement for ever-changing contexts. The outcome from constant change is in the visual grammar Cruz employs to strategically describe himself and his continuous shapeshifting in these new artworks.

The colour of one place after another - light from distant worlds 

Remembering his childhood home, Cruz refers to popular culture, the never-neverland of Southern California contrasting against the interior spaces of houses. The world undergoes a process of alluvial accumulation. Painters see certain colours, experience certain textures; particular shades and tones and these become markers. The history of colour becomes resonant. It is how painters must mark years and places. Writers like, Rebecca Solnit describes the blue horizon as the distance, colour and place that exists, but one that is impossible for us to reach even as we yearn to grasp this elusive space. Whatever is in our future, we sense that it will begin there. This particular blue colour is something that we can never grasp it slips away from us. Ever distant. It is the thickness of the air-bending light at the horizon. But here, sometimes the air is pink as autumnal dust blows from Australia blows across the Te Moana-tāpokopoko-a-Tāwhaki (Tasman Sea) making Aorangi (Mt Cook) blush pink. In December the streets bleed Pohutukawa red. Red and black green and blue sky are so specific it tenderly stabs at the heart, we dream of the unfolding summer. Colour kisses our eyes. Colour whispers its secrets to us. Colour forms and re-forms us. Colour offers us differentiation and particularization against the homogenising, sanitizing, vaporising, and globalising technologies required to feed an ever-expanding capitalist order. Colour, remembered, or suppressed, or articulated runs counter to the alleged prominence of the colour of the year. In 2023 this colour is Pantone’s Color of The Year, Viva Magenta 18-750, an allegedly vibrant companion, a visual pox spreading chromatic conformity.

Cruz opens his chromatic archive "The colour knowledge that I brought with me to re-populate these paintings is both remembered and forgotten. It starts in my childhood home, which was all mustard and brown colours. It was a weird brown though. And there was amber, turquoise, and orange coagulating in the lounge. Burnt orange and gold in the bathroom. Somewhere there was baby pink and bluish-maroon, perhaps on a TV show. These colours pop against darker backgrounds, matching my mood; matching the black couch in the lounge, everything stained-lit by the yellow/amber glass. Pink and greens, hanging around from the previous decade, partying in the green kitchen. My aunties dressed for backyard parties in the summer in blue blouses and green capri pants against the artificially green lawn". (Cruz Jimenez in conversation 20-9-2022). Cruz recalls specific colours, as if they were something to taste, their hue and timbre imparting fresh and sour, sweet and sharp flavours. Each painting appears as a rough archaeology of chance and gestural nuances that tracks back into my history and painting itself. Painting the night sky raises interesting questions for Cruz, about remembered and surrendered skies providing him with the memory of difference. Cruz recalls an unstable painting, that started with a black ground. As Cruz applied each new layer of colour was swallowed by the black ground. Each new layer of colour reactivated the black ground, the Huay Chivo in the tain of the night skyscapes, in these dark paintings swallow what we know reflecting our current uncertainty.  "These remembered rooms, colours, tv shows seem to be made of light that travels an enormous distance, I look back to where I've come from." (Cruz Jimenez, 20-9-2022, ibid).

Cruz pauses, thinking back to the beginning, how painting  started, “I like black and for me, black is very formal. You can't hide in black. Whereas for me, as an artist and a painter, I can hide in colour. I can hide, and I can hide in, compositional games involving light and shadow, colour strategies played out in my head for decades since art school . . . . I kind of enjoy having those awkward marks on the canvas. For me it forms a kind of intransigent writing-drawing- speaking, almost a space between figuration and its opposite. These are notations of unnatural looking marks emphasizing a sense of being out of place, out of context. And to be contradictory, since I am in a new place (to me at least) I can look back and say now, that I loved the pinks, the baby blues and the yellows, that titanium white is like a drug, a visual hit taken in the dark ” (Cruz Jimenez, 20-9-2022, ibid).

Cruz talks about the  television shows of his childhood, as the memory of carnivalesque, mythmaking. Cruz talks about fantasy as an antidote to an America at the triumphant edge of the abyss. As Watts burned, Nixon lied, Bundy fried, and the Kool-Aid was passed around television provided escape routes for Cruz to alternative ways to understand himself as a young, closeted gay Chicano. Cruz was discovering a dissonant reality between the images in his head and with what he was being shown. The Liberace Show (1952-1969); The Twilight Zone (1959–1964); Bewitched (1964-); Lost In Space (1965-1968); Star Trek (1966-1968). Cruz explained that these shows, mostly then in re runs, were way to metabolize cultural influences, make a visual atlas, and remap WASP culture. Central to the credits of Bewitched, is a bright 'star' that twinkles brightly as Samantha parks her broomstick. The brightest light in the sky is Venus. Venus is not a star. Venus is a planet so close to the sun as to reflect much of the sunlight that strikes it. In the northern hemisphere, Venus appears in the dawn sky, as the sun is rising. In the southern hemisphere, Venus appears at dusk, lighting the night sky. Venus is a shapeshifter, whose true identity is presented in multiple codes. Cruz says that what he absorbed and identified with as he watched television shows “was the positioning of the characters as both insiders and outsiders. The shapeshifting, code-switching of the characters, living in a culture that was as uncertain about the place of Cruz, and his family in America as it was about previous waves of migrants”. (Cruz Jimenez, 20-9-2022, ibid).  The anxiety about who can enter America and stay has not abated. What underpins the experience of all migrants into unfamiliar cultures is the space of memory and its counterpart forgetting. It is necessary to forget, syllable by syllable, where we have come from because we never return there. And yet we are also not yet here. We carry inside us the memory of other skies. 

For Cruz images of space and stars become the destination unknown, a place to journey towards. “If we think about these things physically, whether we have shooting stars falling from heaven, or we have these distant portals of light, these paintings appear as something that the James Webb Telescope has shown us” Cruz Jimenez, 20-9-2022, ibid).  The light from these worlds travels some enormous distance to reach us, glimmering elusive and persistent. The colour-memory of that specific blue of Endora's eyeshadow, seen on television in the lounge with the coagulating colour invades these new paintings. Cheaper and more immediate than the joy of Giotto's blue, yet transmitted through the same long light wave lengths reach out to us from the past.  Anne-Marie Fortier suggests that we "explore the connection between exile, displacement and migration-as-homecoming found in some discussions on queer diaspora" (Coming Home, 2001). What travels with us from place to place is chromatic index overlaying the near with the faraway. Colour forms a temporary home that remains a valise that opens out the limitless spaces of chromatic memory in ceaseless motion.  Cruz tells it like this, “I just put the paint down and dragged it across the surface, like a light tracking through this blackness. I could travel up that beam of light, like I was on Star Trek and I could be beamed to somewhere new through a star map of limitless blues”. Cruz paints a connective thread between a mythical then and the now, where we are tethered. Like the star maps of the Tongva people and Cruz’s own Mezzo-American ancestors these paintings unspool the present, we are  free to feel the weight of just this breath and be still, measure and hold the exactness of time and space. 

Demonised, celebrated, or cynically exploited migrants have a well-documented place in  Aōtearoa / New Zealand. Artists who choose to immigrate here slip into the narratives of the Whenua, and imported cultures. They can find themselves displaced, demonised, or to become far from willing immigrants, finding creative exile and renewal here. They bring the freshness of an outsider's view. As they slip among us, gifting us a new visual anthropology of this place and the places they reconcile with memory. We are gifted a reflection on our processes of remembering and forgetting. In these paintings, geographic circumstances and filtered influences show us worlds we know and those we can only imagine. To navigate around the circle, as Greville Texidore suggests we do, Cruz alerts us to an understanding of connections and dislocations constantly in flux, each new exchange potentially rewriting our understanding of visual narratives.


Cruz Jimenez: Across the Sea of Memory

“My dear, dear Friend... in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart.”

William Wordsworth

In the paintings of Cruz Jimenez, atmospheric abstractions flutter like veils across still lifes of memory and mark-making. Several of his most recent works contain emotionally evocative imagery like doves and white roses that are rich with poetic, spiritual impact. But even in the absence of such figurative directives, the penumbric, dappled contours of the abstraction tells the same tales, in tenors whispered and true.

Jimenez’s studio has seen the unfurling of a single narrative arc across some three decades, a lyrical hero’s journey which continues to unfold and find direct expression in the evolution of his style. Jimenez possesses a special gift for translating the narrative of his inner life into the visual language of the natural world -- and at times along the way this has not always been so lyrical, so lovely, or so light in its step. There was a time, long ago, in a far-away homeland, when matters of both art and soul were darker for Jimenez -- when secrets were buried in deep shadow, and truth was buried in heavy impasto. But things change, people change, even homelands change, and with them, our fates.

The Welsh word hiraeth, for which his most recent series is named, is one of those luxurious words with no direct English translation. It describes a longing for one's homeland, but it's not mere homesickness. It's an expression of the particular idealized bond one feels with one's home (or with the past) when one is away from it. It hints at the paradox of missing a place that may not ever have existed, and the ghosts of guilt for the freedom one has chosen, and the active disappearance and unbidden return of memories over time. And all the layers of this esoteric, existential palimpsest are visible in Jimenez’s mixed media works. The way a person is built is also the way a painting is built -- bit by bit -- and he leaves it all inside the finished images, whose many layers enumerate experiences and wishes in a physical, optical method.

Stones, plants, birds, white roses, wary washes, wide gestures, and glimmering points of light are activated and informed by the role of language as reflected in his titles, like Mother’s Brandy, Sophie’s Dove, A Sea Without Its Tide, The Moon Lured Me, and Under the Moon I Planted. His lexicon of drape, oval, sweep, and orb hints at connections to the spritely world of spirits and fairies. Not just painted shapes, these lights are nearly beings, beginning to become alive. Jimenez describes a personal affinity with aspects of New Zealand’s culture which honor an earth-energy nexus through an iconography of pattern and abstraction. His reserved, gradient palette of mainly gold, black, white, and matte or silvery grey further expresses this contemplative manner of being in the world.

In his use of mixed and unconventional mediums, as in his technique, Jimenez’s sources and materials carry meaning in themselves. Working in ink, oil, and powdered pigments like charcoal and graphite, Jimenez relies on classically won academic techniques, the fundamentals of drawing, and the manipulated accidents that come with the practice of water-based mediums.

The formal, technical part of his process is as important as its inspiration, in an honest metonymy of light and shadow enacted with the self-reliance and laidback confidence that comes with maturity. The photography frequently layered inside his currents of pigment are derived from old negatives taken from the house he grew up in. Roses from his mother’s garden, a pet bird inherited from a family friend, and other prompts for meditations on mortality. In this way Jimenez’s theory, concept, and form all become a convergent poetics, spoken in the language of his once and future heart.

Shana Nys Dambrot