Unframed Artist Speaks #4: (h)iram

The last Unframed semi-finalist to be interviewed is (h)iram.  We were lucky enough to get the chance to visit him in his art studio on the edge of Brooklyn, NYC

Tell us about the (original) design you submitted.  What inspired it?

I didn’t really put much thought into it. Lately I’ve been obsessing about my reaction to how Mexican culture is appropriated and easily recycled by companies and people in general. So my reaction to this is to attempt to shove Mexican culture/icons/symbols down people’s throats made by an actual Mexican. It’s been fun.

Did you have any other thoughts on designs that didn’t make the cut for this helmet?  

I was very invested on re creating a more in depth design representing Dia de los Muertos beyond the sugar skulls. I actually put a lot of time in to it. It was a giant death mariachi band, just a bunch of skulls playing different instruments. I ended up going for something that could be appreciated by basically everyone.

Where were you born/where did you grow up and how did that shape you into an artist?

My life or upbringing did not shape me into an artist. I actually don’t remember when I decided art was going to be my life. It’s alway been my only option. But I can tell you how that shaped my art.

I was born and raised until my mid teens in Guadalajara, Jalisco México. This established a very specific identity for myself giving me a sense of pride for my browness and diverse culture.

During High School my family decided to move to California. Becoming an immigrant changed my view of so many things about my environment and about myself. Unaware of my cultural self destruction, assimilation became my goal in order to get a chance to play “American Dream.” I woke up from that after a few years.

My identity as a whole shapes my subject matter. My art is about me and my experience as a Mexican Immigrant now living and working in NYC.

Additionally, I was lucky enough to be born in mural country. From a really young age I was exposed to Orozco, Siqueiros and Rivera. The mixture between this and graffiti created a complex idea behind how I see public art and its politics as a whole.

What is your goal as an artist?

There’s so many ways to answer this question. I make art to have a voice. I want to be able to change the Mexican stereotype. My art re-appropriates icons and symbols that have been used and stolen as cultural representations of the Mexican identity. My goal is to change the now expired view of the Mexican postmodern society. I want to put in my two cents and get rid of that stereotype.

Can you tell us about any fun projects you’ve worked on recently?

I’ve been investing some of my time creating an identity or brand outside of my art in order to make and share tangible objects like clothing, prints, zines. This has been a fun “get my mind distracted” type of project.

I’m also always working on pieces to wheat paste. Finding the perfect place for these babies is probably the most interesting part that goes behind the process of putting these out. Finding the right home for them is key in order to create a whole experience.

What’s your favorite thing about wheat pasting?

I like the ephemeral nature of wheat pasting. In a way it humanizes these pieces by giving them life. This allows them to interact with the people and environment around them. Public art is own by no one and everyone at the very same time. You could love one of my pieces, but the next person might feel the opposite and take it down. They simply create various experiences for different people.

Tell us about the “text bubble” piece of yours. 

Well this theme started years ago as sketches and small paintings. I finally decided to make one in bigger format and paste it. Which ended up finding a home in Portland, OR while traveling around the west coast.

Someone saw it, fell in love with it, and decided to get it tattooed. I like the idea of transforming a piece of art that was made to last momentarily, into a piece of art that this person will carry for the rest of their life.

Here’s the tattoo (h)iram found on Instagram.

Also this person didn’t know me or had ever seen any of my art. Someone on the street saw the tattoo and shared my Instagram. This is when I was contacted with photos of the tattoo. As expected this really inspired me to retouch the subject.

I made a giant piece along the same theme titled “Me, Myself and the Internet.” This piece concentrated on the idea behind the constant one sided negative critique the internet and phones have in our life. In short, “Me, Myself and the Internet” is about the connection we all have with the world thanks to the internet, while simultaneously feeding our self centeredness. This piece found a home while traveling to Cuba, which added to this whole subject, due to their constrictions with the internet and what is outside of the island.

Here’s the reworked “text bubble” piece wheat pasted in Cuba.

Where can we find your art online?  

Some random person that never posts on Instagram took “hiram” so now I’m stuck with four “h’s” for everything.

Website: hhhhiram.com

Instagram: @hhhhiram

Shop: mas.world

We’ll be announcing the finalists for the 4th annual Unframed design series in January.  In the mean time, follow (h)iram’s work online.  You won’t be disappointed!