Originally from South Bronx, Moncho1929 currently lives and works out of Los Angeles. His practice expands to London, Milan, Los Angeles and Seoul. Being deeply influenced by global aesthetics and the urban artwork that surrounds his daily life Moncho1929’s practice continues to evolve yet stays true to challenging contemporary societal notions.
Today, his artwork can be found in the multiple private, city, and corporate collections; from Google to the French Consulate of the US, and from Paramount and Universal Pictures, to the Public Art collections of cities like Glendale, Los Angeles, and West Hollywood. Most recently, Moncho1929’s work was acquired for the permanent collection of The Figge Museum of Art and he was included in the juried BP Portrait Awards for The National Portrait Gallery in the United Kingdom.
“I believe I am the only artist to do an entire sports stadium alone (Audi Field) and DC United are a fantastic club and organization to give me the freedom, trust and belief in my work to do their brand new stadium.”
You have done work for Warren Buffett, Google, DC United and your paintings can be found in the Figge Art Museum. Can you elaborate on each of these accomplishments and tell our readers how they impacted your art career?
I’ve had great experiences in my career so far.
The Warren Buffett Berkadia offices mural was a great opportunity. Not long after the mural was done they acquired about 7 works for their collection as well. It was a nice balance between my mural work and canvas work to be in the same collection.
I believe I am the only artist to do an entire sports stadium alone (Audi Field) and DC United are a fantastic club and organization to give me the freedom, trust and belief in my work to do their brand new stadium. It was an honor and a massive undertaking (Almost 80k square feet).
To be acquired by The Figge Museum of Art was huge for me. To be told and know my work is hanging permanently alongside Warhol, Haring and Basquiat was humbling to say the least.
I was honored to do a work for one of Google’s campuses, and in a historic building as well. They gave me artistic freedom and trusted my vision which was fantastic and they have an amazing collection of works.
What inspired you to start painting and at what age did you get interested in art?
I was always interested in art from an early age. I lived in a multilingual home, and didn’t speak English or Spanish much, so I found art to be a way I could talk.
I spent hours drawing at the kitchen table and that translated to drawing at school, and everywhere I could.
How did you decide to become a full time artist and was that a difficult decision?
It was and wasn’t. It’s hard when you don’t have a patron or the financial resources to give you that time to fully invest in yourself.
I found myself laid-off from my full time employment while at the same time I was just in my first group show in NYC, so the choice was semi-made for me in a way. It was the belief that the work I was doing in the studio was more important than the career I had. I “might” inspire someone indirectly and change the world at my former work, or I could definitely do that in my personal work.
Did you have a game changing artwork or event that made your art career a success?
I don’t think there was just one. I work in series of paintings, and when I’m done with that conversation, I move on to the next. I was having commercial success with a pop art series I was doing, but I felt that there was another conversation visually I wanted to have so I moved on. I see a lot of artists stay in the same work, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I personally felt that my work was changing and I wanted to grow with it, so I walked away from some galleries who didn’t share my journey as an artist.
When a collector buys a work, they are buying not just paint on canvas but a moment in time, and a moment of an evolution of work. Some works appeal to some and some appeal to others.
What is the artwork you are most proud of?
I’m a personal fan of the work I did that was in the running for the BP Portrait Awards in the UK a few years ago.
What is the most expensive painting you ever sold?
That’s subjective. I’ve done commissions for $50k to $10k. A project for a big corporation or commercial might not seem expensive, but for an individual it might seem very expensive.
What makes your artworks unique?
My experiences as an artist I would say is what makes my work unique. I’ve been an apprentice sculptor at St. John the Divine, I’ve apprenticed tattooing, I worked on a comic book with a writer for DC Comics, I was one of the first artists outside Korea to show at the Insadong Art Center, I’ve gone to a few art schools and I’ve done illegal work on the street. All the experiences we go through as artists filter our vision and we bring these into our works.
How would you define your art style and what materials do you use?
My art style at the moment is figurative/abstract. I use oil, acrylic and canvas for the most part.
Your artworks are quite large, why did you decide to go with this format?
With this series I wanted the works to have a conversation with the viewer and I wanted the size to reflect that. With a small work sometimes we as people take scale into the overall impact of the work. I wanted the viewer and the work to share the space together so scale was not a factor in the experience of the work.
How do you decide what size a painting will be and what is the typical size of your art?
All of the works in my current series are all the same size around 44″ x 58″. Together they share equal space with each other and don’t compete for attention based on scale. The subject matter is what is the focal point of the attention.
On average, how long does it take for you to create an artwork?
Anywhere from a week to a month.
How do you come up with new ideas for your art?
Observation and looking at how things communicate narrative-wise and visually.
How do you price your artworks now and how did you value your work in the beginning?
I price my work based on career growth. I don’t arbitrarily price works based on peers or emotion.
It’s hard for artists to price work, especially in the beginning.
What business lessons did you have to learn as an artist?
How to respect your work as a career. Of course loving what you do for a living is a great thing, but to undervalue it is doing a disservice and disrespect to those who collect your work as well as the work you’ve done to get there.
How and where do you sell your art, and is there a particular strategy that works for you?
Galleries mostly. I do occasionally take on commissions and have collectors who reach out to me directly.
What type of clients buy your paintings, how old, and where are they from usually?
All different. There’s no “one” collector and I enjoy that immensely. It’s always interesting to see what works resonate with which people.
Do you have to actively look for clients or do they find you?
I’m an absolutely horrible self-promoter so my skill at finding clients is not that great. For the most part they find me.
How do you deliver your art to clients? Personally?
For some I do, but I usually ship or have the works delivered.
What difficulties have you encountered in your art career and are there any sacrifices that you had to make to succeed as an artist?
I feel as an artist, we sometimes sacrifice security for freedom. There has to be an element of surprise and change to inspire work.
How has COVID impacted your business and what changes, if any, did you have to make?
I’ve had to move my studio and acclimate to zoom, but I’m a natural hermit when I work so it’s been an easier transition that it should have been.
Before the pandemic hit, most would complain about not having enough time in the day to do things they wanted to do. I saw this as an opportunity to work on things I’ve been meaning to and try to make the most of the forced isolation.
Do you have any advice for new or young artists who are just starting their journey?
The work will and should outlive you if you’re doing it right. When I started out, there was much less “marketing of the artist” as there is now, so the challenges are different.
I had to make slides of my work to show galleries on certain days of the week or month for review, so the landscape has changed drastically. I would say that challenging your work and yourself is the best advice.
What are the most common mistakes artists make?
Listening to bad advice, be it from bad galleries or even family.
I had a bad gallery once tell me that they “thought I might have something” when seeing my work, and that I needed more graffiti magazine interviews.
This was after my work was acquired by a museum’s permanent collection, and long after my 2 separate features on CNN.
Where do you see the art world in the next decade?
That’s hard to say, things are moving so fast information wise that it’s more of a river than a road.
What are your thoughts about NFTs?
I think it’s an interesting space and it’s still in it’s infancy. But it’s a natural evolution in a way. Digital photography overtook film. Streaming video replaced DVD’s. Mp3’s replaced CD’s. It’s only natural that things move into a digital space from an analog space. I think once the art component of digital art becomes stronger things will mature. There are some great digital works and some “screensavers” right now, but that’s only indicative of the beginning of a space.
What are your top three favorite artworks and artists of all time and why?
Cy Twombly stands out to me at the moment, but there are so many works and artists that I enjoy at different times.
Are there any books that inspired or helped in your art journey?
“The subtle art of not giving a f***” by Mark Manson.
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