The Prince of Artaud

Perhaps as much as any of the artists at Project Artaud, Pico Sanchez embodies the spirit of the storied San Francisco artists’ commune.  The original live-work artist space in San Francisco has been around since the early 70’s.  When you enter the building from Alabama Street and walk past pico-sanchez-mission-district-murals-san-francisco-2007-06-08-121the Building Manager’s office (appropriately enough, that would be Pico, who is also the ten-time President of Artaud), your senses are immediately assaulted by a joyous cacophony of color and shape.  The courtyard is Pico’s playground.  Pico has been a fixture here for twenty-five years; moving here from Wisconsin and living in the parking lot for three years while waiting for a studio to open. It was and is the place where he was always meant to be.

I asked Pico to describe his art.  He said it was sophisticated and naïve.  It is his goal to be as naïve as possible, but it is a constant battle because of his years of training as a professional artist, or as he put it “contamination”.  pico-sanchez-mission-district-murals-san-francisco-2007-06-08-54From as far back as he can remember, Pico has always been mesmerized by the colors, shapes and shadows surrounding him.  He grew up in Mexico City and many from his mother’s side of the family were artists in one way or another.  There were constant gatherings filled with music and art.  There were also a few oil paintings hanging on the wall in his house that had been purchased in Europe.  As Pico described them, it was almost as if he was looking at them at that moment:  sunset in the coliseum in Rome; a caravan of camels in the desert – these were the original images that captured his imagination. 

As a young man, he went on to study art formally at the Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City.  He was also a “Muralista Mexicano”, an experience that we are all beneficiaries of when we walk in the Mission around 19th Street, where many of the buildings have been painted by him.  For years, Pico has been talking the shop owners of “his part of the Mission” into commissioning him to beautify their buildings.  The photos in this article are a sample of those murals. pico-sanchez-mission-district-murals-san-francisco-2007-06-08-126

 After graduating the Academy of Fine Art, Pico attended the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay.  As he noted, he moved from the tropics to the tundra.  He studied art there and stayed for thirteen years, finally moving to San Francisco in 1984.  Interestingly, for one of the January internships, Pico returned to Mexico on a field trip to the Yucatan.  It was his first real encounter with Mayan art.  He was the only Spanish-speaking member of the group and this lead to him guiding that tour for eleven years, an experience that has greatly informed his art.  He loves the way objects are simplified and abstracted in Mayan art; the way that their meaning morphs depending on context.  His folk art is filled with ritual and illusion.  If you take the time to really look, there is a world to be discovered. 

pico-sanchez-mission-district-murals-san-francisco-2007-06-08-101Project Artaud is open Saturday & Sunday, 4/25-26, as part of the Mission Spring Studio Stroll.  Come and celebrate Spring Open Studios.  And, be sure to pause in the courtyard among Pico’s creations- it was Pico’s birthday on the 24th.  Feliz cumpleaños!

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7 Responses

  1. […] Michael Yochum added an interesting post today on The Prince of Artaud « SF Art NewsHere’s a small readingIt was his first real encounter with Mayan art. He was the only Spanish-speaking member of the group and this lead to him guiding that tour for eleven years, an experience that has greatly informed his art. He loves the way objects are … […]

  2. […] Michael Yochum created an interesting post today on The Prince of ArtaudHere’s a short outlineI asked Pico to describe his art. He said it was sophisticated and naïve. It is his goal to be as naïve as possible, but it is a constant battle because of his years of training as a professional artist, or as he put it “contamination”. … […]

  3. […] in through the Alabama Street entrance and walk into the courtyard studio of Pico Sanchez, “The Prince of Artaud“.  I walk through his live-work space and enter into the maze of studios that is Project […]

  4. […] who described his artwork as both sophisticated and naive in a 2009 interview with SF Art News, earned degrees in fine arts in Mexico City and arts communication in Wisconsin. […]

  5. Now our beloved Pico Sánchez rest in peace, 1947-2010, we always remembered as a great artist father, uncle, brother, friend, wherever you are now, you take our hearts with you, with all our love your family said goodbye!… We gonna miss u so much.

    Your nephew… Alex

  6. It is with great sadness and embarrassment that I discovered the passing of my old friend almost 2 1/2 years later. Pico and I met in Green Bay and even lived together for a brief time. A kind soul whose art reflected his life and brought a simple joy in the same way he did. I have several of his early works and have always cherished them immensely. Although our paths took divergent routes, we would meet up every now and then (I live in Rocklin CA.) and pick up as though it had been a few hours, rather than a few years since we last talked. I was in the process of contacting him again when I discovered he had passed away and after a good cry I shared the news with my wife and kids. He touched each of us with his warm heart and inviting home, and although my kids were quite young, they were also shocked and saddened by his far to early departure. God Bless you my friend and thank you for your kindness and love, you will be greatly missed.
    Your friend….Tom Rose

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