The Breaking Point and Visual Storytelling: An Interview with Jairo Razo

Jairo Razo

By Max Gardner

Jairo Razo’s work is featured in our fall 2012 chapbook. His piece, “You Should Have Never Left,” set the tone for the issue as the cover image; his work “Memoir” also added a visual aspect to the short story “Sandra.”

The artist was born in 1990 in Houston, Texas. His introduction to artistic expression began when he was 14 in his technology class, where he made stop-motion movies out of clay figures. Later on at Spring Woods High School, where he was acquainted with Adobe Creative suite, he learned what he thought was “Graphic Design.” After arriving at the University of Houston School of Art, his mind was opened by his professors to a world where anything and everything could be a potential tool to create conversations with people through visual mediums. To help push his understanding of art and the world around him, he continually works in many fields, including photography, videography, and graphic design.

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In your piece “You Should Have Never Left,” the red splatters are startling on the black background and the piece immediately pulls you in. It’s almost as if the longer you stare at it, the more you realize that there is something new you did not see at first, such as the three-dimensional shadowing to the paint portions. The title is also very suggestive. What exactly were you going for with this piece emotion-wise, and how did you go about creating it?

“You Should Have Never Left” had been in my mind for a while, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I was finally able to sit down and actually create the piece. I tried to bring a lot of energy and movement onto the canvas and thought of achieving this by using a vibrant color that simply pops on the black background and further accentuating that vibrancy with highly erratic paint strokes. I went back into the piece later and added some transparent red in order to add some depth and allow the viewer to look in and out of the images main paint flow. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling. Many people often times make the connection of red paint is similar to the look of fresh blood, so I took that idea and just created a title that when juxtaposed with the art, would result in a provocative narrative.

The pieces you submitted seem to each fall into their own styles of art. “Memoir” and “Miamashi” are grungy, while “Mindscape” seems more structured and shape-oriented. When you begin a piece, do you have a specific style in mind, or does something particular to whatever piece you are working on dictate the direction you take?

All of my artwork can stem from different aspects of my skill set. I like to be a well-rounded person, and I’ve applied this mindset to art. So I have no trouble exploring different mediums to create work that I feel is reflective of my inner person. “Memoir” and “Miamashi” are grungy because they are derived from photographs, which capture amazing details and just give you an extra level of accents to work with. It just gives you a more earthly feel. “Mindscape” was created purely through computer rendering, so the style is reflective of that. It’s clean, efficient, lacks the imperfections given by regular hand-crafted material.

Still on that last thought of the stylistic variations in your pieces, what led you to putting together overlapping shapes of different colors and sizes for “Mindscape” and why did you think of it for this piece? It seems that it could potentially be speaking more to the digital medium–is this a piece you meant to be seen in both print and digital, or did you see it working better in one specifically?

“Mindscape” was inspired by a local graffiti artist in Houston—his name escapes me, but his work is very distinctive with bright colors and outlines of extremely organic shapes and forms. His work can be found around all over Houston, and one day after seeing it, I felt the need to create my own art with a similar feel but allude to “Starry Night” by Van Gogh. Thus, the darker color pallet. I feel “Mindscape” can transcend the boundary between digital and print because it can be easily recreated outside of a computer screen, so as far as preferring one form of presentation goes, I feel either one works fine.

What do you find inspires you to create art, and what do you have in mind when starting a piece? Do you feel art should accomplish a certain feeling within the spectator?

I’ve only recently been pulled into the world of art because I could never pursue it in the years prior due to obligations I had taken on at the time. But in the two years of creating and manipulating and discovering, I’ve learned that what inspires me is the world and people around me. I don’t create art because I feel a need to get all my ideas down on a piece of canvas. I do it because I want to explore different parts of things I only knew at a surface level. When I start a piece, I don’t intend on creating a piece of art. My goal is to push the boundaries of what idea I’ve developed to near a breaking point, pushing until you can’t push anymore. If I end up with a piece of art, that doesn’t hurt. Art will always evoke emotions depending on who’s viewing the piece and if they are able to connect with it. There will always be people who will simply look at a piece and say ” I don’t get it.”  ♦

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