Gaspar Enriquez is the quintessential Chicano Texas artist and a fine example of what focus, commitment, and puro corazon can do to conquer early disadvantages of language and economics. His art– powerful, acrylic, air-brushed portraits of people who interest him, from former students to celebrities– asks us to perceive our fellows with clarity, without bigotry.
Born in 1942 and raised in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio, Gaspar credits some of his courage in pursuing his art to encouragement from his mother and two sisters, his fifth-grade teacher at Beall Elementary, and his now-deceased wife, Anne Garcia-Enriquez. He left home for California at 18 to earn money as a machinist, helping support his family and simultaneously taking classes at East L.A. Junior College. Returning to El Paso in the late ‘60s, still working fulltime, he earned a BA in art from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1970 and an MA in metals from New Mexico State University in 1985. Gaspar chose to teach in order to remain independently true to his vision. Along the way, he inspired art students at El Paso’s Bowie High School for 33 years, until his retirement in 2002. Many former students are now artists, art teachers, and/or art administrators.
Gaspar’s dramatic portraits range from works on paper of writer Rudolfo Anaya, artist Luis Jimenez and artist John Valadez for the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to 24-feet high commissions for the San Antonio Convention Center (the cholos) and illustrations for Rudolfo Anaya’s Elegy on the Death of Cesar Chavez. No matter their size, his powerful, acrylic, air-brushed portraits reveal his subjects’ dignity and demand the viewer’s attention. The works’ intensity has earned Gaspar a national reputation.
His solo exhibition, Metaphors of El Barrio January – March 2014, at the El Paso Museum of Art was a great success, holding record attendance. Another successful exhibition was Una Página Más, which ran March – May 2006 at the Tucson Museum of Art. Group exhibitions include the nationally touring Chicano Visions, curated from actor “Cheech” Marin’s private collection. Museums purchasing Gaspar’s work include the National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian, the Tucson Museum of Art, the El Paso Museum of Art, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, and the Albuquerque Museum of Art. His art was part of Chicano Art/Resistance and Affirmation, curated by the Wight Art Gallery at UCLA, which toured museums all over the US. His work has been reviewed in newspapers, art magazines and catalogues.
He received the Father Rahm Segundo Barrio Person of the Year Award in 2016 and was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas at El Paso in 2015. He served on the Texas Commission on the Arts Visual Arts Advisory Panel 1991-92, was awarded a Mid-America Arts Alliance Fellowship in 1994, and juried a Midatlantic Arts Foundation-Fellowship Advisory Panel in 1999.