Often sculptural, Monica Curiel's work is the result of an intuitive, visceral process that is never pre-planned. Each panel is like a map of creativity in motion, defined by a monochromatic language of rich textures and layers of abstract marks.
Born in Texas to immigrant parents from Jalisco who made their living as labor workers, Curiel spent her formative years assisting them on job sites, where she was introduced to construction materials like plaster, house paint, and grouting tools. Now, these materials form the basis of her palette, drawing the artist back to her cultural roots with each sweep of the trowel. Plaster is humble but it is also magical, capable of being manipulated into any form. Though contemporary in nature, every Monica Curiel work is, at its core, a celebration of her Mexican heritage and every sacrifice made in pursuit of a better life.
My work explores the connection between materiality and movement. Using humble construction materials, I create each piece through a visceral process that seeks to push the boundaries of painting into a sculptural space. To construct each composition, I work on the floor with a trowel in hand, sweeping layers of plaster across wooden panels in an intuitive process of discovery. I mimic the grouting techniques that I learned at an early age while assisting my father during ‘el trabajo,’ at work. I work on my hands and knees for 6-12 hours a day because that is what I know: labor, intensity, sacrifice. Each piece is a meditation on where I come from, rooted in my desire to both celebrate and elevate my heritage as a Mexican American woman. The language of minimalist abstraction that defines my work may seem at odds with what is typically thought of as Latin Art — and it’s a language that, for a long time, I thought was off-limits for someone with my background. I draw on inspiration found in the built environment and my surroundings to add layers of meaning into my work, which is fundamentally spatial in nature. As I work, I am always envisioning a piece within its end environment, how it will interact with furniture and light, the moods and feelings it might help create. It all starts with my story, but by the time I’m done, I hope each piece speaks a universal language.
“I look at my hands and I see the hands of my father and my grandmother, a worker’s hands. The very techniques I was taught when helping my father grout tile now help to elevate the voices of people like him—immigrants and people of color—through each piece of art.”