Jerry’s Kids

John Hernandez

Exhibition: Dec 7, 2000 – Jan 14, 2001

A mix of sculpture, painting, and cartoon, John Hernandez’s work is a dynamic journey into the artist’s singular view of the world around him. At Artpace, he presents several intricate new works, all dizzying combinations of images from popular culture, science fiction, and biotechnology.

In the center of the room is Lovecraft, a large-scale model of a phage virus that injects DNA into bacteria. Looking like an alien spacecraft, it is covered with ornate layers of cartoons. With spider-like legs, it appears to be spinning out of control, yet it is still, allowing the viewer to take in its detailed imagery.

Beyond it is an exaggerated hot-rod flame painted directly on the wall, which is next to a large cut-out painting on plywood. DUH! is a blown up word, based on a decal one would find on a teenager’s notebook or on the back of a car window. Iconographic and humorous, it taunts the viewer with a rhetorical answer.

Cartoon imagery and popular culture also collide in Jerry’s Kids, one of Hernandez’s largest constructions to date. In it, multiple figures metamorphosize into a one-eyed, monster-like form, connected by a swirling line of fire. Even the most innocent, well-intentioned events—Jerry Lewis’ annual telethon—are turned upside-down in Hernandez’s world.

Humor and playfulness are the immediate hallmarks of Hernandez’s work. A second look affords a darker view. Beginning with seemingly innocent sources for his imagery, specifically children’s cartoons, Hernandez brings out the grotesque in his baroque reformulation of popular culture. Drawing on science and science fiction, Hernandez crafts a new vocabulary, where familiar images are simultaneously mutilated and beautified—a transformation the artist describes as “mutafication.”


John Hernandez

San Antonio, Texas, USA

John Hernandez was born in 1952 in San Antonio, where he currently lives and works. He received his M.F.A. from the University of North Texas, Denton, after studying at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1989) and the Mid-America Arts Alliance (1988), he has exhibited his work throughout Texas, the U.S., and Europe. Solo exhibitions include DW Gallery, Dallas (1983, 1985, 1988); Moody Gallery, Houston (1984, 1985, 1987, 1992); Plus-Kern Gallery, Brussels (1989); Dallas Museum of Art (1992); Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, TX (1994); Otto Schweins Gallery, Koln, Germany (1994); Blue Star Art Space, San Antonio (1996); Sculpture Center, New York (1998, with Kaleta Doolin); Dallas Visual Art Center (1998) and Sala Diaz, San Antonio (1999). In 1988, his work was included in Contemporary Art From Texas at the Groninger Museum, The Netherlands.
Drawing on popular culture, John Hernandez’s paintings and sculptures seem caught in a psychedelic moment. His dynamic polychrome forms confront the viewer with familiar yet fragmented forms: a virus, a cartoon figure, a carnival.

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Photo by Dominik Gigler

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