Juan Carlos Román


About a month ago, two “children,” perhaps not so childish, spoke of their respective imaginary worlds on the telephone. It was a normal, natural conversation, like the chats we had in past times when all of us boys wore shorts and we magnified what we knew or what was closest to us.


This was a time, not so far off, when many of us, while playing with our colourful plastic horses, made them almost indefatigably gallop along the back of the sofa, or we discovered that we could perforate the living room floor with the tip of our top and make the grain of the wood stand out. It was a way to play that acted as a mantra to speak of our parents' jobs, or the size and supersonic speed of the latest SEAT 600 that they had just purchased. One month ago, those two children-adults spoke of their memories and the delicious nuances provided by the current moment.


We reach the conclusion that the present as a whole implies a solid dose of uncertainty, but art, unlike reality, gives us a "place" where we can explore and allow our curiosity to seep through the cracks of our life stage. This circumstance led Judas Arrieta to be enveloped by art, perhaps because he was already living under the whisper of images which, like suggestive signs, hung on the walls of his childhood home, and also due to the curiosity that stories and images sparked in him as they evolved from traditional cartoons to mainstream comics. What appears certain is that Judas Arrieta is a “symbolic container” of stories who represents a broad generational spectrum like none other. This consideration must be borne in mind, given that we are headed toward an overexposure of images that no longer are or belong to the reduced field of fine art. I am referring not only to the “traditional” methods of creating, appreciating and contemplating art, but rather the proliferation of issuers and the multiplication of channels for visibility.


Until a short while ago, art was the patrimony and legacy of the Western world, circumscribed to “Old Europe.” As a result of the changes taking place after the WWII, it expanded. This circumstance propitiated a reinterpretation of aesthetic codes under a new pragmatic iconoclasm. Today, this modern duality must live side-by-side with different competing emerging communities that incorporate their iconographies in an agora which is already saturated, and whose retinas cannot take in a single image more. As if this image saturation were not enough, we must also mention the hybridisation of several activities which, due to lack of categorical definition or multiple marketing interests, seek to form part of art, or at least the large family of culture. Blurred limits that grow and develop as the population has greater access to information and is more motivated to define and propagate its respective imaginary worlds.


But what are the characteristics that makes Judas Arrieta’s work so hyper-generationally significant? I must confess that I truly do not know. It must be because my brain cannot process all of the brain cell connections it needs to handle the speed at which the images appear and disappear from his works. If I regard “Amazing heroes,” “Rarescope” or “keep moving,” paintings from 2013, these works appear encyclopaedic to me in terms of visual culture, since literally everything is depicted in them. By everything, I mean images drawn from Japanese comics, mainly Anime and Manga; along with them, and a few centimetres away, overlapping and superimposing, the icon of Ben Hardaway’s Coo Coo Bird, blended with Alan Davis’ United States eighties-style comic, Mazinger Z, plus Vickie the Viking, and many more, share the stage. Yet we are merely observing the surface. If we go deeper into the works, we see that inverted images are created, not only as a discontinuous proposal, but rather as an entity belonging to this range of iconographic work. The difference lies in not having to mean what it represents, and this similar to the generation making the effort not to fall behind new technology, unlike the generation born with new technology who are digital natives. Clearly, the inverted image reminds me of Baselitz’s work, the chaotic and incomprehensible overlying of images brings me to David Salle’s work, and from there, with just a few more neuron connections, I discover that Martin Sheen’s hallucinations in Apocalypse Now are a sort of amalgam of painful images that arise in overlapping fashion, then leading me to Sigmar Polke who gently brings me to Robert Rauschenberg. Judas Arrieta’s genealogy is simple and massive all at once. If we regard his images as drawn from graffiti, we are quickly struck by names such as Blek le Rat or Speedy Graphito, but I also recall the trio: Basquiat, Warhol and Clemente, who “bombard” their respective images with a gesture of pictorial irreverence very similar to gestures from Parisian pochoir in the early 1980s.


This is when the brain, like a serpent, wriggles and coils to find another posture to unblock more points of reference in an attempt to adapt to the new situations brought about by the images. This cerebral plasticity has to do with the speed to re-orient, save and file the information that arises. Now, without looking at the images but contemplating how they were constructed, an alleged sluggishness is to be observed in the conclusion, due to a foreseeable knowledge of the final appearance. If the line provides the limits to the shape and gives meaning to the image, why complete and create a previous and analogical representational illusionism? It appears that the author is asking what purpose it serves to fill out a text when, with only one part of it, the viewer is already invited to mentally perform the "work." As such, far from focusing on the drawing and disorganised calligraphy, Judas Arrieta delves into the most complex fissures of cultivated painting, based on spilling over the discursive range (all topics and images are agglutinated) and a sprezzante attitude, which, acting with deliberate indolence, constructs and produces pictorial effects through clean, elegant brush strokes, free from all fear or respect. Painting like someone spreading tomato sauce on the pizza dough, thrusting out images, lines, calligraphies and texts in several different languages, a mishmash of ethereal iconographic codes that appear to be suspended in the medium’s immaterial air. As such, Judas Arrieta’s paintings appear to be logical evolutions of a certain Baroque, almost Rococo disdain, loaded with hermetic codes and symbolisms chock-full of similarities, like a discreet hieroglyphic treatise whose strains of intelligence can only be accessed by those in the know.


The subjects dealt with by the artist denote multicultural palimpsest, and how he constructs them could very well be compared with the emotional overflowing that regulates sensitivity and intelligence against the weight of reason, and doing so with all different mediums and objects is clear proof of his expansive curiosity and iconographic gluttony. His “Wall Painting,” “Toys,” “Shirts” or venerated skate and surf boards describe an artist who applies these characteristics, as stated by Eugenio D’Ors in his reflections on “The Baroque,” to new mediums with generational meaning. Surf and skateboards become the new “canvases,” and while they were fragments of whitewashed walls, the boards, in addition to acting as a means to navigate through the city or gallop over the waves, are devices of generational identity. And this quality does not go unnoticed for Judas Arrieta. In addition to being an artist that democratises and equalises the medium, he understands that painting on a shiny surfboard bears the same transcendence as doing so on a canvas. This equality in meaning leads to a proliferation of an interesting multiplicity in mediums where, in addition to the aforementioned boards, different actions on walls, both façades and exhibition spaces, takes place. As such, works on T-shirts once again bear these layers of seductive iconography, or even on a car, where the body flaunts a new skin, now “tattooed,” with the same care as on any other medium. There are no distinctions, only expansions of an image which, like a story, seeks to project itself and communicate.


Art, as a statement of synthesis of our contribution as a society is, above all else, a language that invites us to feel. The resulting emotion that comes about with the transfer of symbolic information between the objects and images we contemplate, and as an emotion that makes us vibrate, art inflates its role to mutate into a strange device that informs us of our very experience itself. Judas Arrieta is an artist that communicates and makes us feel this vital experience. This, which seems apparently simple and easy, is difficult and complex to achieve. Contemporary art requires constant categorical meaning in order to deem that it is still art; and this is where, as a symptom of time, permanent servitude to updating elevated discourses supported by auxiliary sciences come about. This emergence of cultivated art flies in the face of pop culture’s standardisation of codes and images that appear to leak through, due to the porosity and discursive weakness of an integrating discourse. Rehabilitation and maintenance of the art palace is even more of a priority when its categorical perimeter is being assaulted by the lifeblood of an art brought outside to the streets and squares, manifesting itself wherever it springs up. The high and low culture addressed by Varnedoe and Gopnik in “High & Low” did not bear in mind the affluence of a society that increasingly, and in interactive fashion, wishes to use its voice, as opposed to the passiveness of previous generations that were merely defined as being heard.


Being a voice and being heard, being everything, being like Judas Arrieta, an artist who distributes and materialises his images with liquid naturalness.