Willo North Gallery's "Generations: Inspiration of Bird City" Shows Three Artists' Influences
Courtesy of the artist and Willo North Gallery Joseph "Sentrock" Perez's Leaving the Nest
"Generations: Inspiration of Bird City" is about influence.
The exhibition, on view at Willo North Gallery, presents works from three prominent Phoenix artists (though two reside outside Arizona currently): Martin Moreno, Luis Gutierrez, who now lives in the Bay Area, and Joseph "Sentrock" Perez, who's currently based in Chicago. Influences explored include the artists on each other, Phoenix, and Latino culture.
Willo originally planned on hosting a solo show of Perez's work, but he proposed that they make the exhibition a group effort that paid tribute to some of his biggest artistic influences: Moreno and Gutierrez. There are about 20 years between each of them, and though their styles have street art roots, each is markedly different.
Photo by Becky Bartkowski Luis Gutierrez's hero works at Willo North Gallery
"We paint from the same place," Perez says of the artists' shared Phoenix connection. "We all have the same heart. But we express it differently."
Perez says he's consciously trying to move past his street art beginnings and into a more emotionally vulnerable realm of work with his new pieces like Leaving The Nest. Moreno's politically charged work straddles the two worlds with bold colors on large canvases. And Gutierrez looks at Latino culture and pop culture, painting his childhood heroes, including Superman and Wonder Woman, as looking like him.
"I grew up when there were no heroes who were Mexican. In the media and movies, all the Latinos were drug dealers or really just bad people," Gutierrez says. "So I looked to Superman and Super Mario Brothers. These are my heroes. In my world, it's like they become you. If they become like me, they become Mexican."
Seeing the saturated works together is fascinating, but the background story of Moreno and Perez provides more color than any of the paintings or drawings could hold.
To hear Perez tell the tale: Moreno came to his school, Esperanza Elementary in Phoenix, to paint a mural with a group of students. It was Perez's first experience with art, and it made him want to be an artist.
"Whatever this is, I want it forever," he says he realized while working with Moreno on the school project. "For art to come at that age, it meant so much"