Xhico is a Jack of all artistic trades. The Los Angels native has his own idea of true artistic creation and expresses it through video art installations, graphics, videos, and any other media that crosses his path.
A once graphic designer for record labels such as Interscope Records, Capital Records, and Maverick Recording Company, and Art Director for album packages for internationally known artists such as Janet Jackson, the young artist has also created motion design for television and film, and—with the help of his friends, made the cult-indie film, “The Boys and Girls the Guide to Getting Down”.
He has also showcased video art installations with solo exhibits in Los Angeles and San Francisco, directed music videos, and recently completed a fashion film for Privé Salón.
His particular area of expertise is in making things come alive, a skill he discovered early in his art education. “I remember we had a project to create color relationships with pictures,” recalls Xhico. “Most students turned in images in overtones of blue that were color blocked with orange, and such.” His, on the other hand, was a DVD video that contained the image of a headless statue, which the artist had painted blue, and that moved slowly across the screen in front of a pink backdrop. “My instructor was totally blown away by it!”
That was the 90’s; a time when Los Angeles was the center of the nation due to the 1992 Rodney King Riots and a time when Los Angeles graffiti emerged with force. For one reason or another during that decade, Angelenos demanded to be heard. There was a discharge of emotions throughout the city that changed the way many people saw it and life in general.
On a recent trip to Colombia, Xhico came across that same type of civilian frustration, which also came in the form of graffiti art. The experience inspired him to create “Street Art Colombia”, a photography book about the street art that colors the South American country, which according to the artist, has more depth than the art that is sometimes found in L.A.
Below is an excerpt into the art of Colombia and a peek into Xhico’s state of mind.
The Polyamorous Affair: “Whoever Controls the Groove”
Directed by Xhico
Would you say you were an artistic child?
I think I was more of an observer. I was fascinated by nature and could pick up a rock and look at it for hours admiring its color, texture, and shape. As a teenager my dad took us on vacations to the desert and because of that I was able to appreciate the Native American culture and its way of seeing patterns, colors and textures as well.
You’re part Native American, correct?
I’m a mutt. I have Swedish, Scottish, Native American, and Mexican roots, all of which influence my work. Growing up I often had to switch around from those cultures and I think that in doing do I created a feeling of constantly trying to find my fit in the world.
How did that translate into your work?
When you grow up as an artist embracing all cultures and nations, you quickly learn to express that understanding in various forms. Somehow, using just one medium isn’t fitting. In my case, I learned to create through photography, video, graphic design, and whatever else I could get my hands on.
As someone that’s deeply involved in various levels of the arts, what’s your elevator pitch?
That’s definitely the most difficult question to answer when you meet someone, especially in L.A. where the first two questions are always “what car do you drive?” and “what do you do?” To the second question I always reply that I’m an artist; that usually leads to the person wanting to know what kind of artist I am. Then, I find myself answering, “well, right now I’m working on this…but I’ve also done this and this…” It’s like a dance of words trying to describe what I do exactly. My life is different from day to day, literally. I may be working on a film one day, designing a logo, branding a video or working on a photography book the next.
Your most current gear is an interesting one, and a first for you, I believe. Tell me about your book, “Street Art Colombia”.
During a trip to Colombia I was faced with simple, yet confrontational street art, which I didn’t expect to see at all. These were bold designs that had a lot of unrest behind them; it was obvious that people wanted to be heard. They were simple designs that delivered a message immediately. In Cartagena, for example, artists colored the walls of these building that were like hundreds of years old; they created murals on these beautiful walls with so much history to them and the images looked as if they were decaying but they were really fresh. In Colombia, there is a celebration of color and of expression that can be felt through street art. So, my book is just that. It’s a book of artistic photos that I took of these amazing murals. It’s a celebration of life.
How would you compare that to the street art in L.A.?
Although we do the same thing in L.A. in the sense of giving people a voice, I think a lot of the work here is very tongue-in-cheek. People try to be witty and clever in making statements against corporate America by playing with corporate icons but it doesn’t always have a clear, strong message. Also, I think because it’s Hollywood Town, several artists want to get noticed as quickly as possible so they end up creating imagery that has no depth.
And then there are those that do the opposite.
Definitely! Lydia Emily, for example. She’s a great political artist that uses powerful imagery to communicate her stand on war. It’s very intense stuff that creates emotion immediately.
Does your work satisfy your need to create immediate reaction?
You know, when I was young my work was more personal. It was based out of emotional energy. Since then, I consider it more refined. For example, where I used to play with the beauty of light in the form of shadows, now I approach it in the form of life. But I’m still dealing with the daily struggle of an artist.
Trying to sell something that doesn’t sell. Of course I don’t do this for the money; no true artist does. But there comes a point when I’m done with a project and then I’m left wondering “what do I do with this now?” People really can’t buy my video installations, for example, and put them in their living room or hang them up on their walls.
And that’s where the ingenuity comes in…
Yes. I’ve found ways to add more life to certain images from my video installations or photos, for example. I create screen scarves, magnets, buttons and prints that are, in a sense, offspring of a previous project. It’s my way of adding life to my work, and of course, staying true to all my artistic intuitions.
Xhico’s book, “Street Art Colombia”, is currently available for $35 through Xhico.com.
*Photo credit: Xhico.