Luis Jiménez (sculptor)

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Luis A. Jiménez Jr.
Born(1940-07-30)July 30, 1940
DiedJune 13, 2006(2006-06-13) (aged 65)
Cause of deathBlood loss from an artery severed when a piece of Blue Mustang fell on him
Alma materUniversity of Texas
Known forFiberglass sculpture, prints
SpouseSusan Jimenez

Luis Alfonso Jiménez Jr. (July 30, 1940 – June 13, 2006) was an American sculptor and graphic artist of Mexican descent who identified as a Chicano.[1][2] He was known for portraying Mexican, Southwestern, Hispanic-American, and general themes in his public commissions, some of which are site specific. The most famous of these is Blue Mustang. Jiménez died in an industrial accident during its construction. It was commissioned by the Denver International Airport and completed after his death.

His most extensive exhibition, a retrospective called Luis Jiménez: Man on Fire, which had 331 works, opened at The Albuquerque Museum in New Mexico in 1994. It was subsequently seen at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C.. Luis Jiménez: Working Class Heroes: Images from a Popular Culture, another large exhibition, opened at The Dallas Museum of Art in 1997, from where it traveled to other national venues.


Born in El Paso, Texas, he worked at his father's neon sign studio as a child, which prepared him to make public art.[2]

He studied art and architecture at the University of Texas in Austin and El Paso, earning a bachelor's degree in 1964. He moved to New York City in 1966 after completing his post-graduate work at Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City, D.F.

He became an accomplished artist and taught art at the University of Arizona and later the University of Houston.


As a sculptor, Jiménez was known for his large polychromed fiberglass sculptures, often of Southwestern and Hispanic themes. His works were often controversial. They are eminently recognizable due to their themes, his original sculptural style, and the colorful, undulating surfaces the artist employed. The finish of his sculptures had more in common with commercial products than with conventional fine art sculptures.[2]

Man on Fire (1969) at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2023

Jiménez was influenced by the murals of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. He was very much a contemporary artist whose roots were in pop art, as much as they were in both the modernism of the Mexican muralists and the regionalism of Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood.[3] Heroic sculptures were Jiménez's forte, championing the common man in his work.[4] By working in his father's shop on neon signs and sculptures, he was brought in contact with popular culture, which also included lowrider car culture. The brightly painted fiberglass bodywork, often accented with glitter, served as a particularly relevant artistic influence.[5]

While he is best known as a sculptor, Jiménez also made remarkable color lithographs and color drawings in pencil, pastel, and oil stick. He made preparatory drawings for his sculptures, some of which were very large. Most of his sculptures were made of fiberglass, which were cast in a mold, after which they were painted with multiple layers of paint and coated with epoxy.[6] One art expert has noted, "There was no surface on any Luis Jiménez sculpture that was ever any less than six different colors, each airbrushed separately adding a slightly different tone." Jiménez would also often use flake, that glittery quality often seen on lowrider cars, in his paint.[7]

In 1993, Jiménez was a recipient of the New Mexico Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts.[8] In 1998 he received a Distinguished Alumni award from the University of Texas in recognition of his artwork.


As a child, his left eye was shot by a BB gun. Surgeries corrected his vision, but he developed persistent migraines and got a glass eye later in life.[9]

As a young adult who was then teaching art at a junior high school, he was temporarily paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident.[6]

In his later years, he had a heart attack and required hand surgery.[9]


On June 13, 2006, Jiménez died in an accident at age 65 in his studio in Hondo, New Mexico, when a large section of his 32-foot-high work Blue Mustang, intended for Denver International Airport, came loose from a hoist and severed an artery in his leg.[10][9]

Governor Bill Richardson ordered flags in New Mexico flown at half-staff June 15–16, 2006, in Jiménez's honor.[10]


Jiménez's daughter Elisa is a multimedia artist and fashion designer and was a contestant on season four of Bravo's reality television series Project Runway.[11][12]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nava, Yolanda (2000). It's All in the Frijoles: 100 Famous Latinos Share Real Life Stories Time Tested Dichos Favorite Folkta. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780684849003.
  2. ^ a b c d Cordova, Ruben C. (March 16, 2022). "Luis Jiménez's Man on Fire: From the Olmec Were-Jaguar and the Vietnam War to Spiritual Self-Portrait". Glasstire. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  3. ^ Yau, John (1994). "Looking at America the Art of Luis Jimenez"/Man on Fire. p. 41. ISBN 0-8263-1551-8.
  4. ^ Kutner, Janet (June 1, 1997). ""Art and Soul: Luis Jimenez"/Dallas Morning News".
  5. ^ Questions and Answers about Luis Jimenez' Southwestern Pieta - Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State University, 2001
  6. ^ a b "Luis Jiménez | Smithsonian American Art Museum". Archived from the original on August 4, 2021. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  7. ^ Wolf, Stephanie. "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Blucifer, The Demon Horse Of DIA". Colorado Public Radio. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  8. ^ "The Award Winners". New Mexico Museum of Art. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Daurer, Gregory (October 12, 2016). "Rhapsody in Blucifer". Confluence. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Belcher, David a. (July 31, 2013). "Luis Jimenez, Sculptor, Dies in an Accident at 65 - New York Times". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 31, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2021.
  11. ^ "Project Runway Official Biography". Bravo. Archived from the original on December 17, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2007.
  12. ^ Willard, David (September 1998). ""Sculptor Luis Jimenez Receives UT's Distinguished Alumni Award"/Department of Art and Art History".
  13. ^ a b "Art. History. People". City of Albuquerque. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  14. ^ Ford, Lauren Moya (November 23, 2021). "Inside Luis Jiménez's American Southwest". Hyperallergic. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  15. ^ "Border Crossing". New Mexico Museum of Art. Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  16. ^ Agresta, Michael (November 9, 2021). "Portrait of the Artist as a Borderland Working-class Hero". Texas Monthly. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  17. ^ "Luis Jiménez's Man on Fire: From the Olmec Were-Jaguar and the Vietnam War to Spiritual Self-Portrait". Glasstire. March 16, 2022. Retrieved May 8, 2022.
  • Laguna Gloria Art Museum, Luis Jimenez, Austin, Texas: Laguna Gloria Art Museum, 1983
  • Landis, Moore, et al., "Man on Fire, Luis Jiménez, El Hombre en Llamas, The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1994
  • McHenry, Deni McIntosh. Luis Jiménez: Working-Class Heroes: Images from the Popular Culture, Kansas City, Missouri: Mid-America Arts Alliance, 1997
  • Ramos, E. Carmen, "The Latino Presence in American Art," American Art 26 (Summer 2012): 7-13
  • Storey, Natalie, Artist Dies in Studio Accident, The Santa Fe New Mexican, June 14, 2006, page 1

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