Q & A with GABRIEL DELGADO
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Political Passions of Artist, Gabriel Delgado
Burgess Modern + Contemporary, a private art advisory located in South Florida, is adding Political Artist, Gabriel Delgado to its expanding roster.
Gabriel Delgado creates themed artwork that explores aspects of contemporary social and political events. His PEMDAS driven, conceptually solvable Order of Operations mathematical equations bring to light the elegance of numerical and text-driven logic via an expressive scientific chalkboard aesthetic.
Burgess Modern + Contemporary caught up with Gabriel Delgado to discuss his recent gallery representation and new body of artwork.
BM+C: Can you give us a little bit of history about you and how you got involved in the artworld.
G.D: Growing up in a Cleveland, Ohio suburb, I was always drawn to art. My father is a Dada Artist and is in the Smithsonian Institution National Postal Museum’s Permeant Art Collection. He used to have a darkroom photography studio in our basement when I was a kid and would often be making artwork at all hours of the day. It seemed like a good fit that I would go on to study Art in Undergraduate School at Kent State University in Ohio. I earned my B.F.A. in Painting in 1998. As I developed my own artistic voice and building out a more mature portfolio of artwork, I was simultaneously advancing my curatorial career at a museum in Texas.
BM+C: What was your first museum experience like?
G.D: I was hired as a museum preparator and quickly rose through the ranks to work with the Director and Assistant Director as a Co-Curator organizing exhibitions. One of the first political exhibitions I curated by myself was right after the first WTO protests in Seattle. I was trying to preserve the street art created by the protesters from multiple organizations. People were in jail, in hospitals, and activists were missing. My staff and I acted as messengers to family and friends, helped locate colleagues, and tried to visually archive this event. This curatorial position, investigating artwork being made in times of political turmoil would force me to travel internationally, seeking those who shared my affinity for political art.
BM+C: As your own art was beginning to flourish, so was the controversy surrounding your work. Can you tell us about your first run in with the F.B.I. as a political artist?
G.D: My artwork was in a group exhibition titled “Secret Wars” at the Art Car Museum in Houston, Texas. It opened the week of Sept 11. The planes had just hit the towers, and we were watching the tragedy unfold on live television as we installed my art. There was a meeting with the museum administration to cancel the exhibition. Under the circumstances, this was a legitimate discussion due to the political tone of the exhibition.
Shortly after the opening it became apparent that some visitors were offended by the content of the exhibition. An anonymous tip, reported as a viable threat against then President George W. Bush was submitted to the FBI, prompting a field investigation. The FBI investigated all the artists included in the exhibition going so far as to visit their studios and interview their employers and colleagues.
BM+C: Tell us about your first major national museum exhibition.
G.D: I was invited to participate in an exhibition titled: “Texas Rangers”, consisting of Texas Political Artists for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Washington D.C. (MOCA DC), curated by Michael Clark Fox. I installed 7 large mixed media works in that exhibition that focused on the Middle Eastern turmoil utilizing reclaimed billboards, collage, and political imagery.
BM+C: You were in a group show at the Drawing Center in New York? Can you tell us about this?
G.D: I was in an exhibition titled The Intuitionist, curated by Lisa Sigal, the Open Sessions Curator. The exhibition explored the relationship between progress, technology, and difference. I displayed a very large 120 x 96 in. raw canvas drawing that explored the mixed heritages of today’s populations.
BM+C: You often talk about your international travels and political activism. How have you been influenced by these journeys and more specifically, the Middle East?
G.D: In early 2000’s I was on a month and half-long expedition to Jordan, Syria, Israel, and Palestine, where I met with a variety of Political Artists, some living in exile or refugee camps, to discuss social unrest and the historical implications of Middle Eastern Affairs. As a result of my meetings, I was deemed guilty by association, detained, strip searched and jailed on suspicion of International Terrorism. Having an M-16 pressed to my temple served as a catalyst to make art that spoke not only of my own experiences, but that calls attention to uncomfortable aspects of contemporary social and political issues. When someone is repeatedly yelling “Tourism or Terrorism” at you, and threatening your life because of your artworld associations, it shows how influential art can be.
BM+C: Can you tell us about your equations?
G.D: The equations are conceptual drawings that focus on issues, events, or circumstances. I break down the information into parties, characters, subject, causes and effects, and relationships. I work through the information as if building out a legitimate algebraic equation, using order of operation rules (commonly referred to as PEMDAS) and assign a certain amount of logic to the breakdown as well as coded vernacular.
BM+C: Are these solvable problems?
G.D: Yes! If the viewer reads through the equation and digests the words, I believe they will come to an understanding of the issue. It is not a left or right thing. I present facts…people, places, and events with outcomes. I think the best Contemporary Art should make people think. I want to facilitate thought and engagement, not soapbox politics.
BM+C: As you work through these issues, and maneuver within the current international political unrest, What’s next?
G.D: I think the exploration of contemporary political and social issues will not slow down. In these times of civil unrest, my to-do list of ideas keeps growing. My art creates a bridge, a means to encourage discussion and thought on some of today’s most difficult topics. I feel a need to place myself in different situations, experience not only war, hunger, and death, but Empathy. I must witness for myself the horrors as well as the survivals of humankind. These first-hand experiences become the influences for my artwork. While uncomfortable at times, I create art for more than shock value. My sincerest intention is to facilitate dialogue on contemporary issues… from all points of view.