Jason Pulgarin opens his first solo exhibition with CASS Contempory at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa on January 13 with his signature female portraits. We caught up with the artist on the eve of his big night.
Juxtapoz: Give us some background on where you’re from and some of the first moments that you remember gravitating towards wanting to make art?
Jason Pulgarin: I was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I remember gravitating toward art since I was a young boy, maybe five years old. My grandmother bought me my first art supply kit that came in a little suitcase, I loved it. I would draw for hours and hours, desperate for someone to sit down long enough so I could draw their portrait—from there, I was doodling in all of my notebooks at school and then I stumbled into graffiti and it was over—I was hooked.
How has this new body of work been different than your previous ones? What’s a concept or idea that you’ve focused on?
CASS Contemporary has given me total freedom and support to create this body of work and to do what inspires me for my first solo show. I started with small watercolors as that's what people know me for and I didn't want to abandon that style. Instead, I just painted them larger while also displaying my new gradient style next to them. As for my gradient style, that's when people started really catching interest and saw that I can actually paint with other mediums. These creations evoke a curious combination of melancholy, erotica, and the juxtaposition of strong feminist empowerment battling a troubled and fragile masculine ego. We are living and experiencing a time where women of all backgrounds are standing up for themselves and, for so long, there has been this ideology that women have to live up to, and I think that's bullshit.
What do you think influences your choice in using bright neon colors? Have you used these consistently throughout your painting career?
Bright color and soft pastel colors definitely pop more on the canvas, I've tried a couple test paintings with only darker colors with my gradient style, and they don't pop as much. Using the bright colors with dark colors in the mix, or using darker colors in my watercolors with bright backgrounds so they pop more… it's all trial and error.
What do you prefer about making smaller paintings vs working on larger murals?
One thing I prefer about making smaller paintings is that I'm alone in my studio, so there's no pressure. I can just put music on and zone out, knowing if i make a mistake or if I want to change it, I can. Working on a large mural is so much pressure. The wall is bigger than you, so that’s pretty intimidating, also people w coming up to the walls asking questions while you’re trying to do your work is distracting. All in all, I love doing both.
Speaking of murals, how do you think working with Tristan Eaton has influenced your work, and what was one of your favorite projects to work on with him?
Tristan is a huge influence and a big part of my life. Not a lot of people know that I've worked for him since I was fifteen years old. He’s helped me refine my work, gave me style, substance and priceless knowledge along the way. We've done some fun and crazy projects all around the world, but I have to say my favorite project was in Aalborg, Denmark. I helped him paint a huge collaboration mural with his brother Matt in the courtyard of the KUNSTEN Museum.
What is something you love about being in New York?
Hanging out in the Lower East Side. The culture that makes the Downtown scene is so rich in history from rock stars like the Ramones, to art stars like Jean-Michel Basquiat is so inspiring. I can feel it walking through that neighborhood more than anywhere else.
What is one project you’d like to pursue in the future?
Tristan and I have been talking about it and he's obviously been rooting for it, and that's getting me into the mural game. I want my art to be seen all over the world, but most importantly, every time I'm on a project with Tristan and we finish a mural, it brings the community together and everyone is so happy. It brings new life to the whole neighborhood, and the fact that a piece of art on the wall had that effect is a huge satisfaction for me.