John de Heras looks to a variety of cultures for inspiration in his recent work. Latin American, Asian and local Los Angeles influences combine in his complex paintings. This confluence leads to a merging of modern abstraction, ancient motifs, folk art and contemporary culture. His work is smart, meticulously executed, engagingly humorous and profoundly observant.
The artist writes of his work,” My imagery stems mostly from visual information gathered while traveling through Mexico, Guatemala, Southeast Asia, and India, and, not surprisingly, from our sprawling, heterogeneous, and ethnically varied city of Los Angeles, where I was born and have lived for most of my life. This information is compiled through on-site drawings, notations, and photographs. Other fleeting and intangible experiences are often recollected while working in the studio, processed, and given expression and form.
“The archaeological ruins of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica that in present day Mexico combines its rich historical heritage with an equally rich and varied cultural and natural landscape offers abundant material waiting to be transformed by one's imagination into art. The sense of color and folklore; the importance of ritual and spiritual intensity as divine excess has greatly influenced me. Both Mexico and India exhibit a deep sense of tragedy, comedy, despair, and a universal tendency for irony and the absurd that I find fascinating as well as disturbing.
“Traveling has also offered me opportunities to collect objects which I incorporate into my work such as Mexican tablecloths, bark paintings, and a wide variety of packaging materials. I am especially fond of cardboard boxes used to preserve and ship mango fruit. These become part of my materials and surfaces on which I paint.
“I use the circle and the square as a formal device to organize space. The circle suggests cyclical recurrence. Both the circle and the square are symbols of contemplation and meditation in Buddhism and Hinduism, as archetypes that have appeared in many cultures throughout the ages. Although my work has symbolic references, my main concern as a visual artist is maintaining the formal integrity of purely abstract relationships of geometric shapes that combine to emphasize the literal, flat picture plane as well as to suggest the illusion of a three-dimensional space.”
John de Heras is a graduate of U.C.L.A. and long-time professor of art at California State University, Long Beach. He has exhibited his work extensively since the early 1960’s and has curated numerous exhibitions.