Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists Gerardo Monterrubio

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists is a trio of solo exhibitions by Mexican-Californian craft pioneers curated by Emily Zaiden, Craft in America Center Director. This exhibition catalog focuses on the work of ceramic artist Gerardo Monterrubio.

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists is a trio of solo exhibitions by Mexican-Californian craft pioneers curated by Emily Zaiden, Craft in America Center Director. This exhibition catalog focuses on the work of ceramic artist Gerardo Monterrubio.


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October 14 – November 25, 2017

Craft in America Center

Los Angeles, CA

The second in a trio of solo exhibitions by Mexican-Californian craft pioneers

Curated by Emily Zaiden

Lepto, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22.5”h x 16”w x 13”d

ISBN # 978-1-5323-5108-2

© 2017 Craft in America

Printed in Los Angeles, CA

Designed by Stacie Martinez

Printed by Typecraft, Inc. in Los Angeles, CA

This catalog was published in conjunction with the exhibition:

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists

Craft in America Center

Los Angeles, CA

August 26, 2017 - January 20, 2018

Curated by Emily Zaiden

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino Artists is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a

far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles,

taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across

Southern California. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank

of America.








Pinches Borrachos detail, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22”h x 10”w x 9”d




Carol Sauvion | Executive Director | Craft in America

The Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA Initiative

is an opportunity to exhibit artists working in the

traditional craft materials of glass, wood, fiber,

metal and clay. Gerardo Monterrubio, who lives

in East Los Angeles and works in clay, has taken

that material to a new artistic place. He talks

about wanting to “bring something new, something

personal to the ten thousand year history

of clay,” and I believe he has. His segment of the

Craft in America NEIGHBORS episode is a

doorway into Monterrubio’s artistic practice and

the experiences that have formed it.

Working with both a sculptor’s and a painter’s

sensibilities, Monterrubio uses additive and

reductive techniques to form monumental ceramic

structures that then become a canvas for his

iconoclastic renderings of the cultures of his two

countries: the United States and Mexico. As he

says, “Some of us see ourselves as being from

both the U.S. and Mexico and maybe not having

too many distinctions.”

Monterrubio’s unsparing renditions of domestic

and social situations are influenced by his life

both in Mexico and Los Angeles. His refined

style as a painter belies the sometimes violent

subject matter with which he chooses to embellish

his complex porcelain forms. His career as a

teacher is an alternative reality, but it receives as

much of his experience, talent and passion as he

invests in his powerful sculptures.

When Emily Zaiden, the Director of the Craft

in America Center, was organizing three

one-person exhibitions for Pacific Standard

Time: LA/LA, she immediately decided that

Gerardo Monterrubio must be given the opportunity

to present his most recent work. Zaiden

has applied her curatorial skills to the exhibitions

and to the trio of catalogs she has written to

accompany them. The catalogs are an enlightened

consideration of the oeuvre of each artist

and a souvenir of this special time in Los Angeles.

The Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA Initiative

is an important moment for us; a moment of

reflection, celebration and sharing. It is my hope

that these weeks and months of intense artistic

saturation in our city from all of Latin America

will lead to more open, collaborative communication

through the arts. And no art forms are more

accessible or inspiring than the crafts. Certainly

this was the opinion of the scholars, politicians

and artists in post-Revolution Mexico who saw

the folk arts and the authentic indigenous art

forms of Mesoamerica as a path towards national

unity. Hopefully the crafts will have that same

influence here, almost one hundred years later.

Lepto detail, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22.5”h x 16”w x 13”d





Emily Zaiden | Director & Curator | Craft in America Center

Mano-Made: New Expression in Craft by Latino

Artists is a trio of subsequent solo exhibitions

by three preeminent Mexican-Californian artists —

Jaime Guerrero, Gerardo Monterrubio and

Consuelo Jimenez Underwood. Each artist employs

unprecedented formal approaches to material

and asserts conceptual perspectives that have

otherwise been excluded from the canon of the

contemporary art world. With prowess, they all

push the potential of their chosen media to new

heights of expression.

These three individual artists are unified by their

desire to communicate ideas and stories through

their works. For each artist, personal identity and

cultural heritage play a strong part in the narratives

that they touch upon in the art. Each uses craft

to articulate messages about American and

Chicano culture, personal experiences, Latino

and bicultural identity, and the ever-mutating sociopolitical

tensions that exist in California and the

United States as a whole. The significance of the

object as artifact and the role of the artist in

sculpting this legacy, is a fundamental pursuit

to all three.

In planning these three exhibitions, it was evident

from the outset that each artist would generate

powerful and timely elucidations, but their

Toward La Zona Pellucida detail, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18”h x 13”w x 13”d




commentary became even more pertinent over the

past year and a half as the global political climate

shifted. Each artist tackles the fiber of monumental

social struggles through their work, yet they scale

their approach to the intimacy of the gallery space.

The Craft in America Center, as an alternative art

space in the heart of Los Angeles, served as a

laboratory for their exploration and expression.

For Los Angeles native Guerrero, whose show

is the first in the series, reverence for the figurative

form, and the spiritual and metaphorical potential

of glass to represent a culture at any given time,

are pathways for investigation. Jaime is one of

the few and first artists in the world to hot sculpt

life-size figures in glass. For this installation of

his work, he created his most compositionally

ambitious group of figures yet. The inherent

nature of glass in its duality of strength, yet fragility,

mirrors the nature of the human body and gives

his work added impact.

He takes glass into untapped realms with his

remarkable ability to imbue his medium with

palpable emotion and spirit. Occasionally, the

end result is a lighthearted romp in street culture.

However, in recent work, as exemplified by this

installation, Guerrero wades deep into the

waters of postcolonialism to confront paradigms

of bicultural identity.

Monterrubio’s intense exploration of the ceramic

vessel and its trajectory of serving as a canvas

for transporting cultural narrative is a driving

theme in his work. Located between muralism

and street art, two realms of the art world that

have been linked with Chicano art, his approach

to imagery on porcelain taps into pan-global

traditions that span all of cultural history. Like

Guerrero, who is inventing relics for the contemporary

world and bringing to these the voices

of those who are normally muted or silenced,

Monterrubio’s brush records glimpses of life in

urban Latino culture with the same desire to document

modern society for the sake of posterity.

Recently known for her series of large-scale

depictions of geographic borderlines, Underwood

instills new meaning into the cartological representation

of various border states and American

cities. Incorporating various fiber materials, found

objects, wire, and nails, she creates powerful

works of dynamic beauty that spark discussion

about the boundaries that define place and

identity. Underwood’s art consistently reflects her

personal tricultural perspective and fundamental

belief in the interconnectedness of societies.

Beyond the identifiable cultural implications, she

is compelled to shed light on the detrimental

impact of the border wall on surrounding animal

and plant life. For Underwood, our imprint on the

natural environment is the most significant

artifact that modern society will leave behind.

Working in glass, clay, and fiber, these three

pioneers are using traditional, age-old materials

in visionary ways to voice the conflicts and

uncertainty that are at the forefront of American

culture in this unpredictable time.






Emily Zaiden

“I imagine these pieces surviving

and having a glimpse into our

times and our thoughts or at

least my thoughts in my world.”

Throughout the history of civilization, people

have used the resilient and transcendent

material of clay to document snippets of life.

In Gerardo Monterrubio’s East Los Angeles

studio, he picks up the tradition of the painted

narrative and executes ceramic sculptures

with condensed murals that capture modern

stories of struggle and survival. With his

brush, he interweaves portraits and scenes

from both lucid memories and visions of

cultural heritage across his ceramic surfaces.

Masculinity, mortality, worship, lust, and the

brutality of humanity — all ancient themes

that have been depicted on ceramics since

the Classical Greek era — are recast as a

personal mythology for the twenty-first century.

Monterrubio does not presume to speak for

a community yet his individual perspective

manages to illuminate key social concerns

of today including poverty, war, abuse,

violence, and gang culture. Much of what

he illustrates comes from what he has

witnessed directly while other aspects are

drawn from history. He is the first to admit

that he creates a window into a world of

existence in which, “It’s not all pretty.”

Juanito Alimaña detail, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

17.5 "h x 17"w x 14"d

In the aggregate of his painterly imagery,

Monterrubio juxtaposes past and present,

passion and pain, and reality and fantasy.

All of these moments and acts collide and

intermingle across his ceramic canvas.

Robust, rugged porcelain and terracotta

structures serve as anchoring foundations

for the proliferation of pictorial subjects




that Monterrubio pours across the

surface. Vividly detailed scenes with

splashes of color convey the dizzying

composite of stories and references.

Deftly crossing between cultures and

perspectives has been a means of

existence for Monterrubio, who came

to Los Angeles from Oaxaca when he

was ten years old in 1989. During his

teen years in the heart of Los Angeles

as a recent immigrant, he found a crew

of graffiti writers. In his twenties, he

discovered his path in art and academia.

His ability to understand the ethos of

each of these social environments feeds

his content and approach to his work.

Much of his childhood in Oaxaca was

spent playing outside, and he attributes

running around in the dirt as his first

introduction to clay. Experience in

Oaxaca gave him roots fundamentally

and spiritually. Each year, his family

would pilgrimage on foot for five to ten

days on their way to a town named Juquila

with a church dedicated to a virgin who

performed miracles. On these trips,

Monterrubio and his family would camp

under the stars and bathe in rivers,

reinforcing his connection with nature.

These hiking trips instilled in him a sense

of values based on endurance, faith,

communion, hard work, and family.

Monterrubio’s family on their way to Juquila

Monterrubio and his cousin Pechi

Throughout his artworks Monterrubio

frequently pays tribute to his grandmother

and the lessons she passed on

to him through her stories. Growing up

under the patriarchy of his famous

Oaxacan bull rider grandfather, Don

Gustavo Martinez, he formed his sense

of pride and autonomy. Having moved

away from his family as a child to Los

Angeles, and wishing to maintain his ties

to them and his heritage, he often reflects Detail of Monterrubio’s grandmother in Juquila, 2008


Detail of



in Smiley’s After

in process, 2016

on the perseverance of traditions in Oaxaca

and in more remote areas where Spanish

is not even spoken.

In 1989, Monterrubio and his mother left

everything in Mexico and came to Los

Angeles. They moved around the city,

living in Pico Union, MacArthur Park, and

parts of Koreatown. Instead of the dusty

roads around his family home in Oaxaca,

the concrete of L.A. became his playground

where he met other immigrant

kids like himself. While his mother worked

all day, he had his freedom, but life was

far from placid. As he grew older, he

witnessed turmoil, crime, and cruelty.

Drugs, drinking, and fighting were a way

of life. He saw his friends get mixed up in

gangs. Hardened by experiences as a

young teen, he learned to “take the good

with the bad and just hold on to the good.”

These encounters of the 1990s constantly

drift into his sculptures.

Monterrubio started writing graffiti during

that time, which was an alternative to

becoming part of the gangs. In high school,

he spent time at the famed Belmont Tunnel,

a legendary open yard for graffiti. Being

a skilled graffiti writer with a bus pass




allowed him to go anywhere in the city,

as opposed to the confined limitations of

streets and territories that gang membership

entailed. He thrived on the adventure

and thrill of writing illicitly. Despite the

nefarious acts, his underlying natural

talent in drawing earned him respect

and leverage from peers and adults.

“Subculture was my culture.”

Graffiti was his outlet, identity, and

community. He simultaneously took an

interest in prison art and tattoos, which

cross-influenced his drawing style. He

would read an underground zine called

Teen Angels that was known as the “voice

of the Varrio.” It included poems, lettering,

fashion, photos, prison art, and black

and white drawings from Chicano workingclass

communities in California and across

the Southwest.

Serrano Street, 2008

Porcelain, 11.5"h x 11.5"w x 7.5"d

As he got older, he saw people around

him making the wrong choices. He

learned from their mistakes and decided

to go to college. He was inclined to study

either botany or art in some form as he

started at Los Angeles City College.

He recognized that growing up in the

states rather than Mexico afforded him

with the freedom to pursue art rather

than a traditional profession. He made

his decision to become an artist.

He enrolled in a ceramics course on

somewhat of a fluke, motivated by his

pursuit of an attractive girl who was a

ceramics student. As soon as he began,

he fell in love with the clay, not the girl.

He eventually transferred to California

State University, Long Beach, where

he could study ceramics with Kristen

Morgin and Tony Marsh, who provided

meaningful encouragement. He met

other artists who inspired him to make

Rolldogs, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

26.5"h x 13"w x 14"d




La Matlazihua, 2009

Porcelain 8"h x 8"w x 8"d

beautiful functional ceramics with shiny

lush glazes. He quickly shifted his focus

once his fellow students began questioning

his motivations and pushing him to bring

something new and authentic to his work.

Discovering the underglaze pencil was a

turning point. It gave Monterrubio the

realization that he could create the drawings

he had been making for years in a new

context on clay. He found something that

could be organically his own and that

absorbed his entire identity. Recognizing

that his experiences growing up were by

no means rare, he knew that they had

been discounted and no one had put

them into art in the way that he intended.

He experimented with technique to create

his perfect ceramic surface. He found

that porcelain was the ideal clay body

to contrast with his dark underglaze

pencil. “One of the reasons why I work

with porcelain is because the surface is

like butter. Especially if you cut it with a

knife when it is bone dry, it just retains

this sort of buttery surface.”

His earliest drawings on clay were black

and white — more closely related to his




early interest in tattoos and prison art, which

were strictly monochromatic because

inmates rarely had access to color. Childhood

memories of a black and white

television also shaped his filtered lens. He

viewed tattoos as shields and equally, as

open wounds that speak beyond words.

He was simultaneously drawn to the rich

pictoral tradition of the great Mexican

muralists, who could seamlessly blend

together various figures and visual references.

His drawings were complex microcosms

with animated narratives.

Game, 2009

Porcelain, 3.25"h x 3.25"w x 3.25"d

The three-dimensionality of sculpture gave

what he had previously made in his art an

amplified physical shape. In the past, he

had only drawn or painted on flat surfaces

and the potential was staggering. Through

scale and select detail, he tried to convey

the essence of the stories in his meticulous

drawings. He soon found that the

narratives could also have a direct relationship

with the form of the piece. Sadgirl, a

teardrop of porcelain made in 2007, was

among his early investigations of using

form to heighten and reassert the subject

matter of his imagery.

Juquila, 2009

Porcelain, 15.5"h x 14"w x 8"d


His thesis work in 2009 included Juquila,

a sturdy cactus with pictures of grandparents

and those who made the winter pilgrimage

to the town every year. “I was thinking how

my art was like my grandmother’s religion —

she was devoted to it.” Those trips with

his family had been replaced by then with

Monterrubio’s personal expeditions to

museums and to works of art that would

provide his inspiration.

Among his travels, he spent extensive time

soaking in Diego Rivera’s masterful murals

and paintings in Mexico City. Rivera left an

indelible mark on Monterrubio’s mural-like

style, inspiring the calla lilies in one part of

the piece.


After finishing at California State Long

Beach, he wanted to start fresh with a

new approach in graduate school. He

started at UCLA and pushed himself to

reconsider why he needed to make art.

He experimented with abstract sculptural

forms, and briefly moved away from his

free-flowing, stream-of-conscious imagery.

The idea of examining masculine ideals

emerged distinctly at this time with work

related to growing up in Los Angeles’

gang-dominated neighborhoods around

the time of the Riots in 1992.

For his graduate thesis in 2013, he created

Valemadrismo, a figure named for a Mexican

phrase about an attitude of indifference.

The sculpture was intended to evoke the

body language of East L.A. and to consider

how physical mannerisms serve different

contexts. The piece holds a rigid posture,

an almost macho stance that conveys a lack

of feeling under a shield of belligerence.

The surface bears markings from being

struck by Monterrubio’s stick as he kept

in mind works by Hans Josephsohn and

Jean-Pierre Larocque.

At the core of the show, he created a

piece in the image of his grandfather.

El Corrido de Don Gustavo Martinez is

a massive lump of clay compressed with

a stick that hangs from a thin, red and black

cattle rope although it is very heavy. It

was an abstraction of a bull that hung

from red and black cattle rope above a

counterpart piece, La Ranchera de Doña

Marcelina de Martinez. Don Gustavo

Martinez is the colors of a fighting rooster,

red and black. The hefty bull was suspended

with the intention of forcing

viewers to look up to the piece with its

strong presence.

Aguantar a barra is a saying meaning,

‘one must endure the stick.’ The form


of Don Gustavo Martinez is a metaphor

for how one must stoically endure life’s

turbulent blows. In Monterrubio’s words:

“In the process of making the work, I

found a poetic moment when the blows

of the stick I used to compress the clay

made it strong enough to endure the

intensity of the kiln.” He began physically

smacking and beating the clay to eliminate

cracks, which in turn left “scars.”

This process for attacking the clay has

continued to define his more recent works.

The second component, La Ranchera

de Doña Marcelina de Martinez, is a

terracotta pile of liquor bottles, dedicated

to his grandmother. The bottles are

covered in written phrases that his grandmother

passed along to him in her mixture

of Zapotec and Spanish. The mound of

bottles was intended to mimic the shape

of the Incan Pachamama earth goddess.

The bottles rest on top of soil that his

grandmother had saved from the first

house she bought when his grandparents

were married. He fired that soil and it

turned a rich red. The soil was sacred to

him, signifying his family roots as well as

his evolution as a potter.

His grandparents, what they symbolize

to him, and the rectification of masculine

ideation, have reappeared frequently

as themes in works throughout transpiring

years, including the current body of work.

As a small child, Monterrubio remembers

feeling the necessity to suppress

emotions and fear. Un hombre no se

raja, which translates to, ‘a man doesn’t

crack,’ was a guiding principle. One

vivid memory, among many, appears on

the lower portion of Torito — a masterful

return to painted imagery that he created

soon after finishing at UCLA. Monterrubio

paints a group of boys surrounding a

man who is sacrificing a goat. The actual




Valemadrismo, 2013

Ceramic, mixed media, 69"h x 28"w x 15"d

El Corrido de Don Gustavo Martinez, 2013

Ceramic, cattle rope

La Ranchera de Doña Marcelina de Martinez, 2013

Terracotta on tierra bendita



event, and tremendous pressure to prove

his tough character by not reacting as

the animal was killed, required him to

take several shots of mezcal. He spotlights

the pitfalls of stoicism and apathy

and the toxic relationships that breed

and reinforce these beliefs.

Torito was largely inspired by Octavio

Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude and

his study of Mexican male identity. The

piece deals with how violence is used

communally by men. The central image

is a group of blue figures, including a

hidden demonic face, that looks down

upon an artificial bull. Lower on the piece

below the bull, an enraged mob strikes

at people with clubs. On another side,

seated on a patio, he paints a portrait of

his uncle, who Monterrubio believes

was paralyzed because he was beaten

for being gay.

De Mala Muerte, in which he had in mind

the ambience of a dive bar on the outskirts

of Mexico City, he further explores

machismo and the idea of repressed

behaviors. With this piece he questioned

the fundamental nature of the vessel

and stretched its furthest potential.

This mutated vessel thrusts and pushes

outward beyond its skin. Related in profile

and subject matter, Juanito Alimaña is

an abstract teapot shape dedicated to

the persona from a famous old song by

the same name. Hazy images of Mexico

City from a lost era, men with striking

fists and ‘187,’ the police code for murder,

is scrawled over a police car. Dogs with

mange roam across the surface and

toxic masculinity reaches a boiling point

in this piece.

This past year was one of loss for

Monterrubio, with the death of his grandmother

in Oaxaca and his beloved dog.


He thought about the cost of life and the

clear valuation of some lives over others.

In his epic Puño de Tierra (Fist of Earth),

created after his grandmother passed, he

incorporated a reference to Mimbres burial

ceramics. He copied characteristic black

animal figures and carved a hole in the

piece to mimic Classic Mimbres pottery

dated A.D. 1000–1250. Archaeologists

theorize that the act of piercing the hole

into the pottery and placing it over the

head of the deceased allowed the spirit

of the dead to symbolically escape the

body. Monterrubio embraced the idea of

forming a window to the cosmos

through ceramics.

Much of the other imagery in the piece

relates to his curiosity about the acceptance

of death and the afterlife in Mexican

culture. Yet the fixed narrative focus of

each piece, as previously played out

both in form and pictorial imagery, has

become less finite. The Pope offers

holy water to an overpowering Santa

Muerte, a reference to the Aztec goddess

of death Mictecacihuatl. Rats tunnel

through her midsection, which Monterrubio

included to signify people being treated

like rats during wartime. The piece

includes refugees on boats, an ominous

black dog slithering across a bridge,

escaped horses, and images of a bombed

skyline in Syria, all of which convey the

collapse of a world and the question of

what will transpire next.

The clown that appears in Puño de Tierra,

and in several others, is Monterrubio as a

Torito, 2014

Porcelain, under and overglazes

24"h x 14"w x 14"d


Puño de Tierra, 2016

Porcelain, under and overglazes

21.5"h x 14.75"w x 14.75"d


child. His aunts and grandma would force

him to dress up on his birthday, although

he hated it. He is carrying his grandma,

who is depicted in the pre-Columbian

Zapotec style of Monte Alban. “When

you grow up, you sort of appreciate the

things that bring you the most intense

memories. In this case, when my grandmother

passed away, I saw myself kind

of as a kid, carrying my grandmother.”

The virgin from Juquila appears above

them along with his somber grandfather,

who rides a bull and carries a bottle of

mezcal. A band marches in the background,

representing a saying meaning

‘bury me with the band’ (que me entierren

con la banda), and the idea that when

you die, you do not take anything with

you, just music.

Two dogs stand beside his grandmother

that represent Colima dogs, the native

hairless dogs of the Colima culture in

Western Mexico that had religious and

spiritual significance. Only after reflecting

on how his grandmother passed along her

love and respect for dogs did Monterrubio

learn that some of the pre-Columbian

cultures believed dogs were the companions

of the god of the underworld.

Others believed that dogs guarded the

souls of the dead as they traveled through

the dangerous regions of the underworld.

Dogs, like these, were placed in Colima

tombs to accompany and guard the soul

in the afterlife from 200 B.C. to A.D. 200.

The sudden death of his dog Smiley in

2017 was a profound blow and the



impetus for two pieces about mortality

and the rituals of mourning. Lepto is a

tribute to Smiley, who contracted the

bacterial disease, Leptospirosis. In the

funerary urn-shaped piece, Monterrubio

interlaces the church in Juquila, a traditional

Oaxacan calenda, or procession,

and a train moving into the distance.

With a touch of humor, he suggests a

highly plausible enshrouded saint for

dogs. From his consideration of Mexican

belief systems, Monterrubio drifts to

challenge the exaltation and idolatry of

idealized white beauty, as incarnated by

Barbie and posits the insecurities that

non-whites have when confronted with

this construct. Smiley’s After is a glimpse

at his dog’s imagined afterlife. A clown

figure carries a large ice cream cone

to him and he laps at a plate of mole,

prepared by Monterrubio’s grandmother.

Now working on several pieces at once,

Monterrubio no longer constructs each

piece as a singular, contained narrative.

He is more free to move between ideas

and between forms. Images that he

formerly used within one piece can be

dispersed to dialogue across several

sculptures. He is shuffling the deck,

scattering the images across the body

of work. His brush strokes are also more

broad and sweeping, less scrupulous

and more free to interpretation.

In the past he set out with specific themes

and representative forms and imagery

predetermined from the start. His process

was authentic to his experience but less

about discovery. More recently, he shapes

textures and movements into the form

and surface that then suggest imagery.

When not coil building, he starts with a

massive lump of porcelain that he smacks

with sticks to eliminate any air pockets.

He then maps out where he will dig a

Lepto, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22.5"h x 16"w x 13"d


hole and then he scoops out the clay

interior. “It kind of takes a mind of its own

and I’m just here to kind of help it along.”

As it is drying, he begins by looking at

the sculptural forms as though they are

“clouds,” in his own words, to be filled

with his images. When he begins to

paint, the form invites image and each

image invites and informs the next. Graffiti

taught him to draw fast but his process

for painting is slow and intimate. He often

wipes images out as he paints. The remaining

images have the permanence of

fresco paintings or tattoos.

Monterrubio makes no commitment to

any one style of painting, sculpting or

drawing, admiring Henry Darger’s ability

to lure and “hold the viewer’s attention

for a moment and make them question

where the artist is coming from.” The

amalgam of figures, text and landscapes

represents Monterrubio’s admiration of

the vases of Grayson Perry. He increasingly

contrasts the precise lines of realist

imagery with shaded, loose figures and

scrawling lines. His blurred and distorted

faces take inspiration from Marlene Dumas

and Francis Bacon. Some of his dense

assemblages have the intensity of the

paintings of Hieronymus Bosch.

His most strongly Bosch-like composition,

Towards La Zona Pellucida, is a reference

to the plasma membrane that must be

penetrated by sperm to fertilize an egg.

The piece was created after he learned

he would become a father, and it features

various metaphorical visualizations of



procreation, from horses charging on

the front lines headed into the Battle of

Waterloo to a mighty crested wave in

homage to Hokusai. A cow skull represents

the tenuous state of one’s immune system

during pregnancy. A lone male figure

swims across a turbulent sea and crystallized

glaze overflows down the neck of

the piece.

One of his most political commentaries

yet, Pinches Borrachos, is an abstract

bottle form covered in images of visceral

responses and decisions made based on

emotions rather than logic. The scrawled

images include monstrous figures wearing

red hats with the blurred white text,

“Make America Great Again.” A license

plate reads “SNITCH,” which is perhaps

the lowest, most punishable act on the

streets where Monterrubio grew up.

Nearby, a gun barrel points at the head

of a man who resembles Donald Trump.

In contrast to the crude texture, dripping

red glaze, and boorish figures of Pinches

Borrachos, Myrtillocactus Geometrizans

is refined and contained, almost so much

that the piece appears to contort within

itself. The serene coyote appearing on

the twisted torso-like Myrtillocactus

Geometrizans, is in many ways a self-portrait.

He is an animal of survival living in the

metropolis, fighting his way through the

fringe of the city. His eyes reveal strength,

shrewdness, and vulnerability. The cactus

for which the piece is entitled, is a fixture

in landscapes across California and

Mexico, and a symbol of resilience. The

piece includes a scene of WWII concentration

camp survivors based from a short

story — battle scenes and dead horses

from WWI images he viewed at the

Imperial War Museum in London. An old

man continues his antiquated, futile ways

and gathers a towering pile of useless



wood scraps as he has for decades, wearing

a traditional mask. The flimsy architecture

of Central American impoverished towns

appears in another corner. In a lower portion,

singing canaries symbolize musicians in

Afghanistan who were banned from playing

by the Taliban.

“Clay has been used by people

for thousands of years, before

there were even nations.”

Desvelo a Media is his second and

most recent Mimbres-referencing piece.

Hollowed out of a solid, it portrays what

was and what could have been. Monterrubio

includes photographic scenes of his

prior days and past loves — Smiley in his

Hollywood studio apartment, rapper

Easy-E, and others. A monk offers serenity

and a shepherd leads his flock. The wire

marks from where he trimmed the form

remain visible. Mexico City appears a hazy

mirage. After experiencing two miscarriages,

a fetus memorializes this loss. A ten-year-old

Monterrubio stares out the window of a bus

bringing him to a van, also pictured, that

carried him into his new life in the U.S. The

story is wholly Monterrubio’s, yet it opens

up to us across the surface, luring us in,

and speaking to us all with haunting clarity.

“But this type of work is ancient

...you could take up pots from

thousands of years, broken

shards of pottery, you’ll see

human beings dealing with

imagery, drawing elements of

the way they saw the world on

to their pots.”

Myrtillocactus Geometrizans, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

24.5"h x 12"w x 12"d






For millennia, numerous cultures have

used the ceramic medium to record

their existence. From these artifacts,

we can form an understanding and

various interpretations of the cultural

paradigms, sociopolitical practices,

mythologies, and the human experience

of the worlds that created them.

It is this anthropological aspect that

propels my work in its creative endeavor,

using the forms as vehicles to compose

linear and fragmented narratives.

Altered by the imagination, memory,

and the like, my work engages the idea

of recording selected aspects of contemporary

society, creating spaces

for mystery, speculation, and wonder,

in methods as old and universal as

human creativity itself.

De Mala Muerte, 2015

Porcelain, under and overglazes

17"h x 21"w x 13"d







1979 – Born in Oaxaca, Mexico


2013 – Master of Fine Arts, University of California, Los Angeles

2009 – Bachelor of Fine Arts, California State University,

Long Beach


2015-present – Assistant Professor, Ceramics, Long Beach

City College

2014-2015 – Instructor of Ceramics, Cerritos College

2013-2015 – Instructor of Ceramics, California State University

Long Beach

2012-2013 – Armory Center for the Arts Teaching


2011-2013 – Art and Nature Collective workshops, in collaboration

with youTHink, Zimmer Children’s Museum, and HOLA,

Heart of Los Angeles

2010-2013 – Teaching Assistant to Adrian Saxe, Nobuhito

Nishigawara, and Martha Ramirez-Oropeza, UCLA

2006-2009 – Teaching assistant to Tony Marsh, Debbie Kupinsky,

and Craig Clifford


2010 – Fused, Ferrin Gallery, Pittsfield, MA

2009 – Clay Street, Armstrong Gallery, Pomona, CA

2009 – Dreamy Nightmares, Archer Gallery, Archer School for

Girls, Los Angeles, CA


2017 – Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale 2017,

South Korea

2017 – Dark Progressivism: The Built Environment, Lancaster

Museum of Art and History, Lancaster, CA

2017 – Far Bazaar, Cerritos College, Cerritos CA

2017 – We the People: Serving Notice, American Museum of

Ceramic Art, Pomona, CA

2016 – Lineage: Mentorship & Learning, American Museum of

Ceramic Art, Pomona, CA

Pinches Borrachos, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22"h x 10"w x 9"d

2015 – SUR Biennial, Rio Hondo College, Whittier, CA

2015 – California Handmade: State of the Arts, Maloof

Foundation, Alta Loma, CA

2015 – Control + Release: Contemporary Ceramics in Los

Angeles, Biola University, La Mirada, CA

2015 – Cerritos College Faculty Art Exhibition, Cerritos

College, Cerritos, CA

2013 – Lesson Plan, dA Center for the Arts, Pomona, CA

2013 – MFA Exhibition #4, UCLA New Wight Gallery, Los

Angeles, CA

2013 – USPS LA, HCC Central Art Gallery, Earth/Energy:

NCECA 2013, Houston, TX

2012 – Facial Expressionism, Cerritos College Art Gallery,

Cerritos, CA

2011 – Exposed, American Museum of Ceramic Art,

Pomona, CA

2010 – Re-objectification, SOFA New York, Ferrin Gallery,

New York, NY

2009 – The Illusculptors, SOFA Chicago, Ferrin Gallery,

Chicago, IL

2009 – Art Auction XIII, Long Beach Museum of Art, Long

Beach, CA

2009 – Juried All-Media Exhibition, Palos Verdes Art Center,

Palos Verdes, CA

2009 – June Group Show, The Hive Gallery & Studios, Los

Angeles, CA

2009 – Insights 2009, University Art Museum, CSULB, Long

Beach, CA

2008 – California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic

Arts, Davis, CA

2008 – Insights 2008, University Art Museum, CSULB, Long

Beach, CA

2007 – Art Auction XII, Long Beach Museum of Art,

Long Beach, CA


Maloof Foundation

American Museum of Ceramic Art

Ronald Nelson, Executive Director of Long Beach Museum of Art

Arianna Huffington


2015 – Long Beach Museum of Art, Artist in Residence

2010 – Wonderful Ceramics Group, CO. LTD, Marco Polo

Tiles, Guandong Province, China




Lepto detail, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22.5"h x 16"w x 13"h

Rolldogs detail, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

26.5"h x 13"w x 14"d

Pinches Borrachos detail, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22"h x 10"w x 9"d

Towards La Zona Pellucida detail, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18"h x 13"w x13"d




Smiley’s After detail in process, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18"h x 15"w x15"d

Desvelo a Media in detail in process, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18"h x 13"w x 13"d

Juanito Alimaña detail, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

17.5"h x 17"w x 14"d

Myrtillocactus Geometrizans detail, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

24.5”h x 12”w x 12”d




Lepto, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22.5"h x 16"w x 13"d

Rolldogs, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

26.5"h x 13"w x 14"d

Pinches Borrachos, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes,

22"h x 10"w x 9 "d

Towards La Zona Pellucida, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18"h x 13"w x 13 "d




Smiley’s After in process, 2017

Porcelain under and overglazes

18"h x 15"w x15"d

Desvelo a Media in process, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18"h x 13"w x 13"d

Juanito Alimaña, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

17.5"h x 17"w x 14"d


Myrtillocactus Geometrizans, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

24.5"h x 12"w x 12"d


Torito, 2014

Porcelain, under and overglazes

24"h x 14"w x 14"d

De Mala Muerte, 2015

Porcelain, under and overglazes

17"h x 21"w x 13"d

Puño de Tierra, 2016

Porcelain, under and overglazes

21.5"h x 14.75"w x 14.75"d

Myrtillocactus Geometrizans, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

24.5"h x 12"w x 12"d

Towards La Zona Pellucida, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18"h x 13"w x13"d

Rolldogs, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

26.5"h x 13"w x 14"d

Lepto, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22.5"h x 16"w x 13"d

Pinches Borrachos, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

22"h x 10"w x 9"d

Juanito Alimaña, 2017

Terracotta, under and overglazes

17.5"h x 17"w x 14"d

Smiley’s After, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18"h x 15"w x15"d

Desvelo a Media, 2017

Porcelain, under and overglazes

18"h x 13"w x 13"d

Photography of exhibition artworks by Madison Metro

All other images courtesy of Gerardo Monterrubio


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