Carlos J. Tirado (born on April 3, 1964 in Caracas, Venezuela) is an artist, painter and sculptor who has developed a very personal and precise line of work linked to Neo-Pop art. With plenty of personal art exhibitions, Tirado has participated in numerous collective exhibitions, receiving different awards such as “III Premio de Escultura” del Certamen Aires de Córdoba in 2004 and other recognitions, among them, at the Venezuelan Embassy in DC (2005), and the X Latin Art Festival of Atlanta (2005).
Tirado grew up in an upper-middle-class family environment. His inclination for the arts started from an early age. At 8 years old, he was already experimenting with tridimensional forms, creating molds out of cast lead from pieces previously gathered on the streets. These first artistic experiences led by his inquisitive nature, provided the ground to continue exploring the possibilities with different materials like wood, waste and plaster. His childhood games were centered around painting and sculpting, which played an important role that ranged from recreational to aesthetics.
When Tirado turned 12 years of age, his parents agreed for him to attend private art classes with professor Javier Hernandez in Caracas. Later on, he realized that Art was a profession that required investment in materials, reason that led him to work at a furniture store painting landscapes and figurative art to decorate the exhibit room. He created numerous paintings of Caracas’ famous mountain: El Avila, and other art pieces that not only served as a source of income, but more importantly, led him to deepen his figurative expression.
In 1985, he started drawing comic sets for a renowned newspaper El Diario de Caracas, alongside Jorge Blanco. This is when “Alfredo” was born, a cartoon character that has been part of Tirado all of his life. “Alfredo” has been featured in other newspapers like El Venezolano (in Miami, Florida). His presence in El Diario de Caracas was the beginning of a series of other comic characters that later were chosen by private companies as images for personal improvement and corporate safety programs.
After finishing High School, Tirado decided to study Art. However, that was not part of his parents’ plan, to which he agreed to study Law at the Universidad Santa Maria in Caracas at night, at his parents request, while attending Art School at the Escuela Cristobal Rojas during the day. He graduated from Law School in 1991. His art studies have never stopped.
He moved to South Florida in 2.000 and started working with materials that were very different from what he used in Venezuela, which in some cases were very restrictive and different: the river sand found in his country was substituted in his art work for a fine, white sand from ground coral, that resulted in a totally different outcome from the art pieces created in his native country.
From this point on, a new series of Black and White artwork is born. With the use of coral sand mixed with black resin over different objects, Tirado recreated the objects and people found in the ruins of Pompeii, covered in ashes and lava, soaked by time. These pieces have a calcified look with an intense black hue that resembles raw petroleum. This art evokes the look of a city that could be covered in ashes from a Volcano, and at the same time, it is a metaphor for Caracas and its oil-covered society.
Tirado agrees that he feels an attraction towards Pop-art . One of his major impulses has been to humanize those mass-reaching characters like comic characters, with common problems as any individual living in an everyday environment. Nevertheless, his major contribution has been his personal language representing these themes, which indeed resembles Pop Art, but with a twist that Tirado has been able to accomplish after years of investigation and research. In search of his own expression, he decided to recycle an already existing man-made material, changing its original purpose.
He opts to use an approximate 600-pantone-color chart from exterior paints at home improvement stores. The strategic combination of these samples based on the principles of collage: cutting and pasting produce a marvelous pixel-like image of outstanding beauty and allure. In the digital realm, a pixel is the smallest chromatic unit of an image. In Tirado artistic expression this concept is inverted creating an interesting game as a result of his investigation. He manually cuts one-color pieces, positions and pastes them over the canvas, looking to create a desired image. In some instances, he applies small touches of color over the canvases. This technique, also known as “anti-pixel” by some art critique, simulates the pixelated look of an over-zoomed digital picture; however, when viewed in detail, is clear that the process is very different in Tirado work, as he begins breaking the digital logic: instead of taking the image to its minimum chromatic expression, he builds off that minimum expression. In fact, they are not realistically minimal since the materials (paint samples) used by the artist measure approximately 10 x 10 cms.
Using this technique, Tirado has created portraits of internationally recognized characters (presidents, renowned politicians, and artists) and pop culture icons (Marilyn Monroe, Monalisa, and cartoon characters, among others).
Tirado has participated in numerous collective art exhibitions, like Nobe 67 Art (Miami, 2008), Art Shangai 2004 and 2011, Florencia’s Biennal (2011), Mérida-Mexico Biennal, among others.