Born in Tijuana in 1971, Hugo Crosthwaite grew up in the coastal town of Rosarito, Baja California, 10 miles south of the international border. A graduate of San Diego State University in 1997 with a BA in Applied Arts and Sciences, Crosthwaite is a draftsman, often using pencil or charcoal, who focuses on the figure. He works in a linear fashion, allowing drawings to develop with great detail. All the work is created with improvisation; narratives developing as works are created.

Crosthwaite combines portraiture, comic book references, urban signage, commercial facades, and mythology in dense, layered compositions. Working primarily in black and white Crosthwaite brings characters from allegory and popular media to the stage of the human condition, interacting with the architecture of Tijuana and dreams of the border. The work reflects the character of frenetic urban settings, a border in flux. Fear, hope, pain and celebration are represented together as Crosthwaite elevates the ordinary person to heroic levels showing the trials they endure while surviving in contemporary society.

In 2019 Crosthwaite was awarded First Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC for the fifth triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition, American Portraiture Today. Crosthwaite's prize-winning stop-motion drawing animation, A Portrait of Berenice Sarmiento Chávez (2018), recounts a woman's journey from Tijuana, Mexico, to the United States in pursuit of the American dream.

Whereas stop-motion animations and public mural-making capture Crosthwaite's creation process, the artist's IN MEMORIAM series and other temporary, monumental murals highlight the deconstruction of his work. These are murals that have short lifespans—narratives, that once complete, are deconstructed slowly, piece by piece.

Temporary, monumental, site-specific works include: Column A and Column B: A Continual Narrative Performance (2018 on view through 2020) at Liberty Station, San Diego, California; IN MEMORIAM: Los Angeles (2017) at the Museum of Social Justice, Los Angeles; IN MEMORIAM: Cuenca (2016) at the Cuenca Bienal, Ecuador; Child's Tale (2015) at the San Diego State University Downtown Art Gallery; and Las Carpas (2013) at the Orange County Museum of Art.

A partial list of solo exhibitions include: Tijuas! Death March, Tijuana Bibles and Other Legends at Luis de Jesus Los Angeles (2019), Tijuana Bibles at Pierogi Brooklyn (2018), Residency at Mana Contemporary in Chicago (2016); Tijuana Radiant Shine featuring Shattered Mural at Luis de Jesus Los Angeles (2015); Carniviorall at Pierogi Brooklyn (2012); Tijuanerias at Luis de Jesus Los Angeles (2012); Drawing Theresa at Noel-Baza Fine Art (2010); and Brutal Beauty at the San Diego Museum of Art (2010) where the artist completed a monumental drawing entitled A Tail for Two Cities over a two-week period in the museum's gallery.

Crosthwaite's work has been included in numerous collective exhibitions throughout the United States and Mexico. Most recently: American Portraiture Today (2019) National Portrait Gallery, 20 Diálogos de Pintores Contemporáneos (2018) El Museo de Arte de Querétaro, IN MEMORIAM: Cuenca (2016) Cuenca Bienal de Ecuador, The House on Mango Street (2015) National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, 2013 California-Pacific Triennial at the Orange County Museum of Art, and Morbid Curiosity - The Richard Harris Collection (2012) at the Chicago Cultural Center.

For a complete list of exhibition history and press, please download the Resume (PDF) below.

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I create works of art that are beautiful. Not a beauty that duplicates the commonplace aesthetic molded by advertising and mass media imagery but a personal intimate beauty. The depiction of human suffering and violence permeates my works. The works themselves are not violent, rather thoughtful and rife with seductive imagery. I explore the complexities of human expression, everything from alienation to acceptance and even celebration.

I alternate between mythological subjects and contemporary ones, often combining the Two. Francisco Goya, Eugene Delacroix, Theodore Gericault and Arnold Bocklin are among the many artists that have inspired my work. I also include an exploration of modern abstraction in my compositions. The joining of abstraction with classical imagery creates a feeling of spontaneity and vagueness within each work. I consider each work to be a vision of mine in which history, mythology, and abstraction collide. This combination creates a timeless and beautiful product.

I love the immediacy and tactility of drawing, the breaking of the white surface with images from my own personal narrative. I let the act of drawing dictate my compositions. My works are completed using graphite and charcoal. This medium allows me to seamlessly combine classical figurative representation with modern abstraction. This mixture creates feelings of chaos and spontaneity, reminiscent of Tijuana, Mexico, the city from where I came. In my depiction of figures, I am dedicated to using classical technique, minute in detail. The absence of color allows each work to be viewed as an objective documentation of events from which the spectator's involvement is forbidden. It is not my objective to create compositions to which viewers can relate. It is my intent to create works that maintain their mysteriousness in spite of their classical figurative representation.

Artist Statement (PDF) >
Resume (PDF) >