A Chicano in Brooklyn: Artist Alex J. Reyes    

By Jay Sanchez

Mexican-American Painter Alex J. Reyes has been in a creative space since late 2019; his studio has become a space of creations unlike those decorating galleries in the Nashville area. His unique visual approach has created comparison to other greats that came before. The years he spent in Nashville found him in a state of mind that allowed his passion and vision to transcend from touring as a musician to becoming the visual artist that he is today. I recently caught up with Alex and got to conversate about his creative beginnings, his work, his time in Nashville, New York, and mental health. This is a small glimpse to his genius; Raw and Uncensored….

 

“Don’t let your Ego feed your fantasies”

Alex J. Reyes

 

NumberINC: What inspires you as an individual, as an Artist?

Alex J. Reyes: Oh shit, that’s a good question! Lately I’ve been thinking about that, I believe that relationships are the root of my inspiration. Currently, I’m in a bridge walking towards my next creative space which embodies my relationships with others. I’m very close with my family and the bond I have with them, the experiences, the memories, have totally inspired how I embrace my creativity. The friendships that revolve around me, the connections, deep conversations have created strong feelings that inspire my work and me personally.

 

 

NumberINC: Speaking of inspiration, tell us how the Artist known as Alex J. Reyes came to be? Were you always living in the current dimension of creativity?

Alex J. Reyes: Fuck no bro! I’m a musician at heart. Music was and still is a big part of what I am, who I continue to be. Music is what brought me from Texas to Nashville, TN. I joined a band back in 2017-2018, it took me from dropping out of college to touring cities all around the United States. That season of my life exposed me to a new avenue, a creative space that I always envision myself making a part of. I was all about being in a band, creating music, “rock and fucken roll man” and living with my bandmates on the road. That eventually brought me to Nashville, a move that forever changed the course of my life.

 

 

NI: How so?

AJR: Once we became exposed to the all the business bullshit in the music industry, I noticed a change in the dynamic amongst the bandmates an I. WTF bro! here I am living my dream touring Chicago and other Midwest cities, then all of the sudden shit gets way too tense for me. At this point I was over the fucked-up situation created by outside noise and knew I had to move away from that. I locked myself in my bedroom for about 3 months, had no interest in music at all man, I put that shit on the shelve! I became a slave to my thoughts, my anxiety and depression where at an all-time high. “I was in a dark, dark, crazy, and scary space.” I reached out to friends and family with this pain, I felt a lot of fucken guilt bro. Like I was a fucken evil person, selfish to my needs and controlled by my own ego. My relationship with bandmates and my girl at the time was crumbling before my eyes, like a fucken demon was attacking me and destroying everything around me. 

 

 

NI: What brought you back from that dark space? What Changed?

AJR: Bro, I started watching this show that focuses on building relationships and love! Literally watched this the entire time I was in my room, until the level of boredom started to kick in. Then I asked myself, what else can I do now? “what is the point of life?” I started thinking of other shit I was into! I loved drawing, sketching, and creating images when I was younger, so I got back to it. Started drawing again, but quickly lost that feeling and emotion. That is exactly how I started painting, and bro the moment I did that something magical took over me. At one point I felt as if the hand of God himself was holding me, this became very therapeutic to me. Family and close homies also played a big role in getting me back in to the light. It was late 2019, my life as I knew it changed forever at that point.

 

NI: You’re no longer a musician at this point, you’re creating visual art?

AJR: 100 percent.

 

NI: Take the reader through that experience?

AJR: I was creating pieces daily, I totally locked myself in complete creative mode. Working at a coffee shop got me back outside and experiencing the world from a new perspective. My focus was in creating my own style, making my own identity. I started finding inspiration from contemporary and abstract paintings, honestly the Art Scene in Nashville was nonexistent to me. “Relationships” started to guide my inspiration as I dove deep into my work, but I was still not content with my style. Then the great Jean-Michel Basquiat blew my fucken mind bro! His work gave me a unique perspective and totally different outlook on my own purpose, his inspiration influenced me forever. My work started to take an identity of its own, eventually what I define as “My Style” came to life man. 

 

NI: Define your style at this very same moment? 

AJR: My style became a representation of the streets, meets abstract! I was in a season of abstract impressionism. My full focus in that season expanded all the way through the first year of the pandemic. A big shout out to Living Waters Brewing, a lot of my work was created around the time of employment at that place.

 

NI: Define your identity at that point?

AJR: It was fucked up homie, who I was at that moment in time was influenced by those around me. “I did not embrace my roots and my true identity.” My life was at “copy and paste” when it came to relationships and friendships at this time.

 

NI: Who are You?

AJR: “I’m a Mexican American,” a Chicano. A Chicano in Brooklyn.

 

NI: A Chicano in Brooklyn? How did that become a reality?

AJR: By late 2020 I had created a vast number of paintings and sculptures, Basquiat’s influence inspired me to consider moving to New York. I felt like moving to the big city was in a near future, I also wasn’t getting much interest in my work in Nashville. (Enter Clarence Edwards) After meeting him I approached him with the idea of a one day pop up at a gallery he was in the process of opening. The gallery was called Ce Gallery in Madison, TN. I was working on making opportunities happen, no galleries were showing any interest in my work in Nashville. He agreed to hosting my pop up, but in the process of cleaning and getting the gallery together he changed his mind. Clarence decided to turn my pop up into a month-long residency at Ce Gallery, my first solo show was also the first at his new gallery. Thinking about it still blows my fucken mind bro. I’m forever grateful to him, I love that dude, he’s a homie for life.

 

 

NI: What year did this take place?

AJR: February 2021. That time was fucken magical, some of my favorite memories were made around that time. Soon after, April 2nd to be more exact I loaded up a Penske moving truck, hit the fucken road, and drove my ass to New York. I finally did it. The excitement at that time was also a very unique feeling. 

 

 

NI: Describe your arrival to the big city? How has your experience in the big city been so far? 

AJR: It has been a bit of a rollercoaster bro! I was homeless for the first couple of weeks here, my living arrangements got turned upside down a day prior to moving. My constant battle with anxiety and depression has also been a factor the last year I’ve been here. I thank God every day for having the most wonderful parents. I miss my familia, and all those I had relationships with back in Nashville. Love New York man, I’ve had some awesome times here and met some fabulous individuals. My work has gotten a lot of attention here, multiple shows in the last year and more to come still. The Art Scene has inspired me in ways beyond my understanding. The MoMA has forever changed my life bro, to the point where I’ve gotten a bit out of my comfort zone! My previous work was heavy on mixed media and acrylic, oil paint has become my new best friend. One other change has also been my level of inspiration to create has diminished in comparison to the years spent in Nashville. 

 

 

NI: Has the move to the big city affected your creativity? Are you still inspired by your relationships? 

AJR: The internal battle and death of my ego did create a bit of an inspiration roadblock. The pieces I was creating before moving to NYC were totally influenced by all sort of relationships, currently I’m finding inspiration elsewhere. My current series is inspired by dreams! During the first couple of months, I was empty when I first moved here. Exceptional Artist from previous times became my relationships in those first couple of months in New York. (Enter Salvador Dali) His work inspired me to take a stroll down a more surrealist path. Francisco Goya has also become a big inspiration in what I’m doing. My work has taken a completely different path, this season finds me in a better physical and mental space. 

 

 

NI: This being Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve noticed your touch on mental health and how it’s a part of your everyday life. Does your work intend in creating conversation focused on mental health? 

AJR: I’ve felt like I’m crazy and a bad person many times in my life! My work is very “subliminal” in the sense where I may be creating a very violent moment yet could be creating something of peace or full of love. It brings me joy to hear that someone has found a connection to my work in that sense, and that the connection helped in overcoming moments of darkness. I want people to know they’re not alone in that battle, I go through shit all the time bro. My work could be somewhat of an advocate for greater mental health, creating is my therapy.  

 

 

NI: What’s next for Alex J. Reyes?

AJR: I just finished my latest series man, walking in a new season, a season of love. Love is something I’m allowing more into my personal space! Life currently has me in a zone where creating isn’t taking all my time, building on my current relationships is my priority. I’m getting out more to enjoy the city in good company, soaking in all the good energy that’s always been available to me. My work has taken much of my time the last couple of years, I’m about to take a vacation and spend some quality time with my family. Looking forward to building on my personal growth by allowing organic flow out of my comfort zone. Nashville is still on my mind, looking forward to having some shows in Nashville, the south, and all around the United States. Currently focused on a more DIY approach in how I present my work to the world, got a show coming up in June so stay tuned. Overall, I’m just excited for what life has ahead, turn 26 this coming December! I’m just getting started…. 

 

 

find alex here:
@alex.j.reyes
alexjreyes.co