A Moment in Time with Alberto Aguilar

By JB Pravda

Alberto Aguilar’s website statement should be read, heard, felt, and tasted, redolent as it is of Gertrude Stein’s lyrical repetition, one word organically seeming to prompt the next sentence.

And, after this thought-provoking fashion, Aguilar delves deeply into the nature of our collective time or shared moments — something most overlook, never truly observing the people, places, and things within their space; it is an invisible dimension, spoken of by theoretical science. A moment, a happening, an event in time that passes with slow sadness and fades away to nothing more than a memory.

But for this artist, it is a thoroughly artful social force. In taking up his gift of sharing a moment in time with us, we discover the beauty of the now, the uncertainty of each unstructured act, and the meaning assigned to randomness.

Picasso, Alive, & Influences Closer to Home Out

Alberto Aguilar Portrait Timely Artst 2It wasn’t until Aguilar was perhaps 18 that he finally visited the major art museum in Chicago. While he had become aware of his desire to pursue art as a career, he had something of a moment (a key facet of his multi-faceted work) when he beheld a cubist work from 1906. This work—with its interplay of various planes and facets—seemed alive, organic, and new each moment of its beholding and by each beholder. That in flux sensibility has stayed with him ever since and informs his  “re—having of moments” thematic.

“My father was always very aware of how music from a certain era marked that time and its passing,” allowing how experience of art informed momentary time, even eras, with meaning. This development, detection, and depiction of signifiers has characterized much of his past work, and that in progress. One instance concerned a widow friend and her transition time since her spouse’s passing—that term itself leading back to time’s meaning.

“Carla was changing from a lot of antique chairs and things to more modern furnishings … as part of a project I arranged some of her things into sculpture which lent a sort of double meaning, a kind of accidental or unintended poetry to those things, a kind of therapy, a giving without effort or intent for her to stop that time for the moment.” And in his own home, as a result of the inconvenience of storing many unsold pieces, he aimed to create new work via recombining even ordinary things into sculptures of meaning. “I like playing with social media in a similar way by how much I share, sometimes distilled down to just one image, like a photo album, but this one image carries and encapsulates the whole experience.”

Authoring vs Merely Capturing Moments: Making Them Momentous

Alberto grew rather animated when we turned to the business of creating, and shared some quite unique monuments to memory he called extreme; we’re betting you’ll find them the very essence of what some call performance art in his sense of “being present” in his art work, especially with his family. In many ways this was his intentional rebuttal of what he’d been taught in art school about how family and art cannot mix.

The Pizza Parade is an example notable not simply for its imaginative mixing of family experience with time’s capacity for memorability but also because to Aguilar, “it was during a summer when I wasn’t feeling quite so adventurous. So we stayed home, planning a long walk down our main stretch, Archer Avenue, it’s called. So I needed to give it some meaning, deciding to call it that and mapping out all the pizza parlors along it and stopping at each asking for one free slice, then documenting the parade’s experiences. My daughter made buttons with Pizza Parade written on them, my son wore an old pizza costume which we got at Old Navy, and, well, it is an experience they will remember forever.”

Wait till you hear about Spain and Colorado. Invited to teach and speak, respectively, he decided to take the whole family, including Archer the family dog named after the street which Pizza Parade took place. “I was asked to teach in Spain for ten days, but I decided to make it a five-week trip, all across Spain … there was risk, but it took on meaning we couldn’t have fully realized then.”

Colorado: Moments, momentous moments, years in retrospect, with meaning’s maturation.

“We decided to make it a road trip, across the West, then the West Coast. I’d been asked to speak at a convention, and, then, we went on the road, not knowing where exactly or if we’d make it to such and such a place,” his voice taking on the momentousness of discovery and, in so doing, meaning through memorability.

One more experience was related that we shouldn’t neglect: Cuba.

“I was part of an art exchange. I just got back; it was unlike any place I’d ever been, so I created work there which was in the moment but in retrospect gave my experience meaning.”

Of Impact & Legacy for Others, Known, & Unknown

“Of course, for my family it’s important for me to be present, to make that family home experience a part of my work, and my work a part of it, by including them in my strange albums, as you can see on my site.”

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Alberto Aguilar teaches art at Harold Washington College in downtown Chicago. Please visit albertoaguilar.org for more.