Jerry De La Cruz was born and raised in Denver and first expressed his artistic talents by winning a coloring contest at the age of seven. Although his solo at the Museo de las Americas, A Road Well Traveled: An Art Life Retrospective: Jerry De La Cruz, doesn’t go back that far into his art career, it comes pretty close, starting with a selection of works done when he was a teenager in the 1960s. It moves on from there, with about ninety pieces displayed in chronological order.
The show was organized by Museo director Maruca Salazar, but De La Cruz had considerable curatorial input. He also oversaw the publication of an impressive catalogue, which features an essay by Mary Chandler, images of the pieces in the show, and what is essentially a memoir. Though De La Cruz has spent most of his life in Denver, he is also widely traveled, and currently spends winters in Miami with his life partner, Diane Young; they still maintain their primary residence here, however.
There are a number of revelations that emerge from the enormous exhibit. One of the most obvious is that De La Cruz’s oeuvre doesn’t follow a linear stylistic development. That’s because he’s shifted freely among various styles, including traditional realism, surrealism, various pop-related approaches and even neo-dada.
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Despite these wild swings, the skillful depiction of the figure — typically the female — or the self-portrait are the central concern in most of them. This has been the case throughout his long career, from the ’60s, when he created the examples of juvenilia at the start of the show, through to the digitally based works on view at the end, done in the past few years.
Perhaps the most surprising revelation of the show, however, is the fact that despite his Hispanic heritage, De la Cruz has not, for the most part, created work related to the Chicano art movement. Moreover, that was his intention: In the catalogue, he’s quoted as saying, “I didn’t see myself as being a Chicano.” This is especially interesting considering that the show is being presented at the Museo, which was founded a quarter-century ago, in the wake of the rise of Chicano power, and which specializes in promoting Chicano art.
The show has had a long run, so I regret that I’ve only gotten to it now; it closes on January 16. The Museo is located at 861 Santa Fe Drive; call 303-571-4401 or go to museo.org for more information.