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May 13th - June 3rd 2023

Opening Reception:
Saturday, May 13th
Free & Open to the public

Black Book Gallery is pleased to present Julio Alejandro’s fifth solo show with the gallery, entitled “Childish Prodigy Don’t Smoke In Bed.” The exhibition opens on Saturday, May 13th from 7-10pm and will remain on view until June 3rd. The opening reception is free and open to the public, the artist will be present.

Since his fine art debut at the precocious age of fifteen, Alejandro has been instinctively challenging the precedents of self-taught, or “outsider” art—and his latest body of work is no exception. “Childish Prodigy Don’t Smoke In Bed” features more than two dozen new paintings and mixed media works that coyly reference iconic scenes from art history, rendered in the artist’s intentionally primitive style.

Denver art critic Ray Mark Rinaldi observes that “there’s a playfulness” to Alejandro’s works “that undermines their seriousness,” adding that “his art does follow its own path,” even when remixing recognizable settings with pop culture characters, logos and brands. The childlike quality of Alejandro’s brushwork and mark-making is also deliberate, offering a counterbalance to the currents of violence and anxiety that underscore each composition, not to mention daily life in the 21st century. By pairing these disparate contexts, Alejandro makes dark subjects palatable, giving viewers the option to ignore the works’ heavy existential subtext and focus instead on the artist’s signature theme: play.

Unlike his previous paintings, which relied heavily on scrawled text to convey meaning, this new body of work employs chaotic linework and frenetic gestures as its main vocabulary. It’s a hyperactive retelling of art history, scribbled and scrawled in primary colors and neon spray paint with seemingly reckless abandon. The sum of these parts both disavows and reinstates the well-worn legends of art history—Diego Rivera, Frida Khalo, Matisse and Manet, among others. Viewing these titans of visual culture through Alejandro’s enfant terrible lens injects a much-needed dose of adrenaline and post-millennial humor into an otherwise traditional tableau of classical and impressionist tropes.

Academics will immediately recognize these works as a critique of the art historical canon, but even viewers without a formal art background can appreciate Alejandro’s takedown of the fine art establishment. “Coloring outside the lines” implies subversion, both in art and in life, and the new paintings that comprise “Childish Prodigy Don’t Smoke In Bed” are thus emblems of the artist’s pervasive DIY ethos and rejection of the art world’s entrenched hierarchies.

Julio Alejandro was born in Juarez, Mexico in 1991, and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1993. His work has been widely exhibited since his first show in 2006, and was selected by Adam Lerner, the former director of Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), for the collection of Denver’s Hotel Born in 2017. Today, Alejandro’s art can be found in important private collections worldwide. The artist lives and works in Denver, Colorado.