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Painter Ariel Vargassal combines stylistic cues from Pop, Surrealism, and magical realism in crisply depicted micro-fables of the human condition. In each tableaux the figures are accompanied by domestic and wild animal counterparts whose presence signals a deeper meaning. Each detail of costume, creature, and sometimes confection signals that the scene is a metaphor, despite its plausible rendering. Color is saturated and thus emotional. To be enjoyed for their beauty, puzzled upon for their strangeness, and wondered over for their significance of message, an exhibition of new works for the modern moment opens at Building Bridges Art Exchange in Santa Monica on September 4.

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?  

ARIEL VARGASSAL: Since I was a kid. At the time I didn’t know the concept of being an artist, but I was very excited about creating, molding, drawing, etc. I still remember the first time I saw The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch in one of my uncle’s art books, and I was mesmerized. From that moment on I became obsessed with creating visual stories. I was an introvert child so art gave me a voice, it does something very deep, makes me feel complete.

What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about? 

I’m a social commentator. I paint people and animals to create metaphors about social and political issues.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

A chef, or fashion designer. But the truth is most likely an architect. I went to college for it, but I dropped after a year.

Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?

I did, to the University of Mexico. I was so hungry for knowledge, I wanted to learn as much as I could. I’m in love with the philosophical concepts attached to the arts, the different mediums. It was a great experience discovering myself, while being around people with like minds.

Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?

L.A. is magical, I love the geographical setting of the city, and if it wasn’t enough we have people with many cultures, and backgrounds, personal experiences to be inspired by. And don’t forget the art, and many creators living here, and the philosophical and social movements that come with the city, it is so rich. L.A. is generous.

When was your first show?

I had others prior, but the one that validated my career was in Salt Lake City, Utah during the 2002 Winter Olympics. I showed my work among many other artists around the world, representing the visual arts from Mexico.

When is/was your current/most recent/next show?

My next show will be at Building Bridges Art Exchange at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, opening September 4. Fábulas: Fables Of Emotional And Physical Displacement curated by Marisa Caichiolo.

What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?

There are so many but Hieronymous Bosch, Salvador Dali, Diego Rivera, Leonora Carrington, Kehinde Wiley, Francis Bacon, Kara Walker, Francisco Toledo… the list can go on.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?

I love music, and I have a very eclectic taste, but lately I have been listening to: Residente, Calle 13, The Irrepressibles, Elian Quezada, and Albert Hammond Jr.

Website and social media handles, please!

Instagram: ArielVargassal


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