Moncho 1929, was the first artist to contribute to Essex Modern City. Being the first artist who came out to San Antonio for this project, he has become familiar with the area and those in the community. He grew up in South Bronx in the 80’s spending most of his time with his cousin and friends around abandoned buildings and creating graffiti.
After growing his skill, and passion through street art Moncho later became involved in gallery works. He wanted to make sure that the gallery art that he created be enjoyed by everyone, stating he “I wanted to do fine art but I wanted to do something for everybody. There was and still is a stigma where if you go into a gallery you may feel kind of weird because you don’t have a lot of money or you may not know about art.” From seeing the way that some people had reservations about going into galleries and viewing the art, Moncho created art that is accessible in the same way street art is.
Making the move from street to gallery art, Moncho discovered the transition was difficult. While transferring from street art to gallery art or vice versa, there is a narrative shift. “It’s hard to go from the street into the gallery, you have to scale down a little bit and you have more time with the narrative, so all of a sudden the narrative becomes more of a thing. When you do art work outside a lot of people don’t have the time to sit there and look at it and think about it, it’s a quick visual blurb. Where a painting in a gallery you can take the time to really sit there and digest it, you can digest it over days or weeks or whatever.” When working in an artistic environment outside the narrative needs to be quick and visual; whereas art in a gallery provides the artist the opportunity to expand the narrative of the piece.
While creating within each of these spaces Moncho discovered that doing murals pieces gave him the ability to be more meditative within his work. “When I do murals it’s a very different mindset it’s a little more meditative…it’s really about color play and about how your eye travels from one line to another and another, and it’s how to just keep your eye moving. So for me I can kind of meditate a little more when I do those.”
While working on so many amazing pieces of artwork, he discovered that there is a focus and determination needed for making art. He explained that “a lot of people don’t realize that with anything, art, music, whatever passion that you do there is work involved, there is a work ethic. There is a little bit of talent but a lot of it is how hard you work at it, and if you aren’t fully invested it’s going to show in how far you go with the piece and how much work you do. I think it’s a mental thing in how you challenge yourself.” Being an artist that loves what he does provides Moncho the ability to use his pieces as a driving force to continue creating and challenging himself.
Moncho learned from those around him, and was also able to attend art school. He explained that he was very fortunate in being able to have this experience and work with great people, while finding some amazing mentors. “Sometimes it’s just, you’re giving people exercises but you can’t teach how to think critically or how to think as an artist. How to look at something as an artist and think why does it exists. I’m lucky to have had some really good mentors along the way…There’s so much in art that you really can’t teach in school and you learn from art, you learn from people who have been doing it for a long time…. at the end of the day you can’t teach someone to think critically, and how to make something and make it for a reason. There’s a lot of stuff that looks cool and that’s great, that’s its own kind of thing but it’s the why you’re doing something that’s really important.”
Pulling from his years of experience and artistic skills, Moncho offered up this advice to his younger self, as well as any other artists starting out. “Put in the work and trust the process. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in a goal and you don’t enjoy the actual journey…You lose sight of you really enjoying what you’re doing and at the end of the day there is a lot to be said for that, and it shows in the work. All the mistakes and everything I made in the past got me to where I am now. If I didn’t have the frustrations and everything else I wouldn’t have the work, I wouldn’t be where I’m at…You have to f*ck up numerous times and own the f*ck ups because you’re going to build those stepping stones and you’re going to keep going and then that’s part of enjoying the journey…at the end of the day I’m still fighting with myself, I’m still trying to produce my best work because I don’t think I have produced my best work yet. I don’t think anybody who’s creative is going to be completely satisfied with the work they have produced because if you are what’s the need to keep going. My best painting is the next one, it’s always the next one, I can be doing one and I can like them but the next one is going to be really good.”