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Hugo Crosthwaite

Allowing the act of drawing to organically dictate his compositions in works that range from intimate drawings to large scale murals, Hugo Crosthwaite juxtaposes a wide range of textural and tonal ranges against spaces that alternate from dense and atmospheric to flat and graphic. Two seminal series of drawings, titled Carpas and Tijuanerias, pay homage to Goya's "Caprichos" with its depiction of grotesque and surrealistic figures and themes executed in an informal, sketch-like style. His subjects—the everyday men, women and children that populate the border region of San Diego/Tijuana—are presented in a non-idealized documentary style that allows them to appear in their humble familiarity and authenticity. 

Crosthwaite alternates between mythological subjects and contemporary ones, often combining the two.  Francisco Goya, Eugene Delacroix, Gustave Doré, Jose Guadalupe Posada, and Arnold Böcklin are among the many artists that have inspired his work. He also includes an exploration of modern abstraction in his compositions, which he approaches in a totally improvisational manner. The joining of abstraction with classically-rendered imagery creates a feeling of spontaneity and vagueness; each work becomes an enfoldment of personal vision in which reality, history, and mythology collide as he explores the complexities of human expression.

Hugo Crosthwaite was born 1971 in Tijuana and spent his formative years in Rosarito, Mexico.  An American citizen with family on both sides of the border, he graduated from San Diego State University in 1997 with a BA in Applied Arts.  Crosthwaite lives and works in San Diego, CA and Rosarito, Mexico.  

Crosthwaite is the 2019 winner of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition.  His works are included in the permanent collections Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; San Diego Museum of Art, CA; Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA; Boca Raton Museum of Art, FL; the National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, IL; The Progressive Art Collection, and numerous private collections around the world.

The title references the original Tijuana bibles which were small, cheaply made pornographic books showing popular cartoon characters such as Popeye and Mickey Mouse having sex. They were produced and sold in the USA and were called Tijuana bibles, although they were not created in Mexico or Tijuana. They were an entirely American invention and were given this moniker to evoke the exotic notion of having come from the lawless border city of Tijuana (the city where Crosthwaite was born and raised).


“For my project I wanted to play with the notion of the Tijuana bible by creating my own book of hand drawn images as a kind of Sacred/Profane book. The narratives deal with issues of the border, immigration, narco culture, and idiosyncrasies of the city of Tijuana, playing with old stereotypes of how Americans see Mexico and Mexicans, especially with the current rhetoric from political figures…” -Crosthwaite


The videos show a stop-motion animation of the creation of Crosthwaite’s “Tijuana Bibles,” where the images begin appearing mysteriously on the page “as if they were drawn by God, the common notion of a sacred book.” Crosthwaite’s hand appears only when he turns the page.

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