NYC's CigArtist: Julio Aguilera
Artist Julio Aguilera has had his face pounded in bare-knuckle bouts around the world. He's also seen his works hang in the most prestigious homes in Manhattan. For the former world martial arts champion turned artist, though, there's nothing quite like a great cigar. Now solely an artist and no longer a fighter, Aguilera seeks relaxation, inspiration and even a market in the New York cigar community.
Elements of the cigar culture appear regularly in Aguilera's work. A number of paintings feature cigar smokers, including "General con Pipa" and "Harlequin con Cigar". Figures are sliced apart in the artist's signature geometric style and reassembled with perfect, though not evident, symmetry. In other pieces, the artist prefers to hide cigars on the canvas. "Still Life in Blue," for example, features a table stacked for a meal holding what could be a cigar or a large loaf of bread. The ambiguity is intentional, according to the artist. "I like to give a nod in one of my passions to another."
With Aguilera's enjoyment of cigars and the fact that they appear from time to time in his artwork, it is unsurprising that the community would have adopted him as its representative artist. Pieces from his sculpture series "New York Bull" have appeared in the windows of Davidoff Madison Avenue (where he has held a number of shows), and he regularly meets with collectors at De La Concha. In any mid-town cigar shop on any day, Aguilera suspects he would run into one of his collectors. "At least one," he laughs.
Gallery: The artwork of Julio Aguilera
"I enjoy this world," the artist says with a puff of his Davidoff Millennium. "We all have a reason to come together for a reason," he continues of the cigar culture. The artist bounces from social to contemplative and back with remarkable speed. With every cigar, though, he is ready to receive a new idea. "I have to tell myself that," he laughs. "Otherwise, I'd be spending too much time here!" The smokers behind Aguilera laugh, knowing what he'll say next.
"I've done 5,000 pieces," he begins. "Picasso did 80,000." Smiles get larger behind him. "Because, Picasso only did three things. He painted. He sculpted. He fucked." Aguilera looks at his cigar and says, "I should really be at my studio right now."
The comparison to Picasso is not coincidence. Aguilera's cubist elements are clear, though he takes it a step further by applying geometric techniques to suspend the foreground in three dimensions. Not only do his subjects pop from the canvas, they appear to be anchored in air by angles rather than positioned on a surface.
Aguilera doesn't need to worry about Picasso, according to his collectors. A loyal following holds his work in considerable esteem, and the crowd is growing.