Jorge Pardo is the kind of artist whose practice is hard to neatly fold into a single sentence, unless it’s a run-on. He has reinvigorated, and fully furnished, a 19th-century hacienda in the northern Yucatan jungle, “Tecoh”; added Minimalist yet vivid decor into a liturgical parish in Leipzig; suffused undulating forms into the Latin American Galleries of LACMA; sprinkled bubblegum-bright tiles throughout the ground floor of New York’s Dia building; created towering public sculptures in Liverpool whose stalks were punctuated by illuminated Plexiglas spheres. His impactful early work was a single-story residential structure at 4166 Sea View Lane made for the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA, which he later moved into.
Born in Cuba and raised in the US, Pardo’s home base for the past 10 years has been Merida, Mexico. This locus has influenced Pardo precisely because “there’s not a lot of art here,” he said. The polychromatic work he produces can evolve without distractions in the immersive tropical context (barring his regular jaunts to New York City to see his daughter).
His relationship to pattern — the optics he fashions using a vibrant palette — is based on perpetual experimentation. Rearranging and rearranging paint chips in a way that imbues an inherent playfulness, “I’m always looking at color relationships,” he said.
On the phone from his studio, the affable Pardo refuses to intellectualize his work, recognizing instead the meandering curiosity that motivates his creativity. He studied at Art Center College of Design in California (Mike Kelley was one of his advisers) but, he countered, “I read so much theory when I was a kid, it was ridiculous,” adding: “we were forcefed.” Instead: “I tend to privilege what I was thinking, not necessarily what I was trying to achieve,” he said. “I don’t like the artist being an ‘authority.’” Although his aesthetics evoke something beautiful and whole, cohesion is not his priority. “I wanted to make an object that would resist a certain critical formalization,” he once told author Lane Relyea during an interview. “I wanted to make a work that would impose a lot of different critical modes.” He reiterated: “I’m not particularly interested in formal questions — I don’t know how to believe in that.” As an artist, “your only contract with the viewer is to literally just show them something,” he said.