Juan Cruz: A Retrospective
On View May 4 – August 4, 2019
Syracuse-based artist Juan Alberto Cruz (b. 1941, Puerto Rico) combines rich symbolism with a bold and colorful abstract style to create work infused with his Caribbean heritage. Moving from Puerto Rico to Manhattan’s Lower East Side and subsequent travels to Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and Central America have had a major impact on Cruz’s work, which reflects a mixture of his cultural heritage and life experiences. From his earliest portrait paintings to recent abstract collages, Cruz uses the emotional realities of his past to articulate his feelings about economic inequality and systematic injustice.
As a child, Cruz taught himself to draw by copying the comic
strips from discarded newspapers onto brown paper grocery bags, and later he drew
portraits of everyday people that he sold for pocket change on the street. It
was not until his thirties, when he enrolled in an art program led by
then-Everson Director Jim Harithas that Cruz learned art could be more than
replicating the world around him. Harithas taught Cruz how to paint and
introduced him to a world of modern artists, which led Cruz’s drawings and
paintings to evolve into a complex amalgamation of figurative and abstract
forms. For the past five decades, Cruz’s boundless creativity and production
has led him to compile a massive body of work.
Since moving to Syracuse in 1975, Cruz has made a significant impact on the local community. He has painted numerous murals throughout the city, including on the Onondaga Commons building, in Skiddy Park, and several in the Near West Side. He also completed a new mural with the Everson Teen Arts Council currently on view on the Museum’s Lower Level. Cruz served as artist-in-residence for the Near West Side Initiative for five years and ran the Patch-Up Studio, a community center that provided children and adults with a safe space to make and learn about art. By choosing to live and work in Syracuse, Cruz has brought together a multigenerational community inspired by his public art initiatives and workshops.
Juan Cruz, Manchas, 1986, oil on canvas, 48 x 72 inches Everson Museum of Art; Gift of Mr. John Dietz, 86.89
Juan Cruz, Untitled, 2018, Oil on canvas
24 x 24 inches, Courtesy of the artist
May 23, 2019
FREE with Museum admission
Screening of the Film 1803 Miles, by Enrique G. Figueroa-Cabrero, chronicling the story of artist Juan Cruz.
$60 Members | $75 Non-Members
An introduction to communicating in Spanish in the context of the visual arts.
Free with Museum Admission
Join artist Juan Cruz in the galleries as he discusses his work.
The audio tour for Juan Cruz: A Retrospective features snippets from a vivid conversation with the artist about his work, life, and practice, and interviews with community members for whom Juan’s work has made an impact. Audio is available on SoundCloud and corresponds with numbered labels throughout the galleries.