Alfredo Arreguin

Morelia, Michoacan, 1935 -

Photo Archive



Alfredo Arreguin’s pictorial works inhabit an elusive zone that lies between the real and the marvelous, between dream and wakefulness. All that is magic, the ungraspable, acquires shape, form, and color on his canvases. Yet mystery never ceases; something always remains hidden there.

To fully understand his paintings, one must be willing to explore them with great diligence and infinite patience. One must read, again and again, approaching it from various angles, the world of symbols that the artist has traced with a firm and masterful hand. One must search every corner, and even guess, using the intuition, what lies hidden beneath the surface of each finished work. Under each finished painting there are many others that Arreguin has modified, transformed, and ultimately “erased” with his last strokes.

Thematically and aesthetically, Arreguin’s art establishes a beautiful and harmonious bridge that connects human experience with the dreams and concerns of individuals from diverse cultures. Although born in Mexico, Arreguin developed as an artist and consolidates his professional career in Seattle, Washington, where he has lived almost continuously since 1956. His early childhood and adolescence, as well as later experiences that led to his maturity as a genuinely American painter, in the real, hemispheric sense of this term, endow him with a unique perspective on life and the world. Many of the intricate and exuberant elements that stamp a distinctive character on his works are generated by his memories of his country of birth. Mexico’s alternately vibrant and ascetic culture-its exquisite ceramics, textiles, and wood handicrafts; its tumultuous and glorious history, from the cosmogonies and sacred rites of the Tarascan (Purhepecha), Mayan, Aztec, and Olmec civilizations to the wars of conquest and independence; its verdant and torrid nature and landscape-eventually overlaps and blends, dreamlike, with his experiences in this serene and beautiful corner we call the Pacific Northwest of the United States. But his creative vision goes even beyond these influences and derives inspiration from a multiplicity of sources that include, as we shall see, some art forms from Korea and Japan, where he served in the U.S. military. (Source: By Lauro Flores in "Alfredo Arreguin, Patterns of Dreams and Nature.")

Before one of Arreguin's jungles we become freshly aware of the tactile sensuality of our reaching, its sighted caressing, our pleasure in color, pattern, and discernible animal and human shapes emerging from the density. It is density itself that ensures a nonlinear reading of these paintings, for the eye must leap, must search, even lose itself, since the narrative is airborne and lyrical.

If Federico Garcia Lorca developed the notion of “deep song” from the ballads of the Andalusian gypsies, Arreguin has invented a form of "deep painting" that is emotional and sensual, splashed with the sapphire water of his dreams of a world in harmony. We are mighty instructed and delighted by the way everything holds and supports everything else in his paintings, by the interdependence and dynamic implosion of life at every corner of his canvases.

I’ve been visiting Arreguin’s studios over many years and have seen paintings metamorphose into the encyclopedic catalogue of impulse and intent so rich in their final result. For every finished painting, literally dozens have dissolved under Arreguin’s brush as he embellished and explored his canvas with the meticulous care of a cell biologist. Even the intricacies of his ornamentations are like waves washing the shore of sight clean.

Much has been said to place Arreguin historically at the head of a movement in the early 1970s called "Pattern and Decoration" and, more recently, "American Pattern Painting."(Source: By Tess Gallagher in "Alfredo Arreguin, Patterns of Dreams and Nature.")

The line is a basic component of those frequently enigmatic symbols that accentuate the sense of mystery in Arreguin’s works, and that simultaneously imprint a profound sense of movement, freedom, and grace on his best creations. Examples abound and can be seen almost anywhere in his work: in the leaves and vines of "Frida’s Messengers" (1992) and "Frida’s Mariposas" (1998), in the water of "The Last Salmon Run" (1990), in the "Froth" (1991), and in countless other paintings.

Although critics have tended to place too much stress on the brief hiatus during which Arreguin privileged drawings over painting, it is important to point out that "Emerald Island" (1970), one of Arreguin’s most important paintings, dates precisely from this period. The title is quite appropriate because, as the painter himself puts it, this work, in which he tried to combine abstraction with patterns, was indeed an island between periods. And yet, in this painting, the melodious timbre of Arreguin’s authentic voice had already begun to ring. A true grid composition resembling a wall of beautifully colored tiles, this painting appeals strongly to our visual pleasure and seems to have a purely ornamental purpose. With it, Robert Wilson vigorously argues, Arreguin unwittingly-and independently of developments that were about to take place elsewhere in New York and the other art meccas of the United States-inaugurated the mode that has come to be known as American Pattern Painting (at the time, "Pattern and Decoration"). Although the canonizing attention has always focused on the important work that other renowned artists-Joyce Kozloff, Kim McConnell, Lukas Samaras, and Miriam Shapiro among them-carried out in the mid 1970s, and although Arreguin has never received due and appropriate recognition in this regard, Wilson affirms that "Emerald Island" is "the earliest clear and unequivocal example of American Pattern Painting that I have seen."

In 1981, several years before Wilson made his remarks, the art critic David Schaff had already written that Arreguin’s "Development of a ‘pattern’ style as early as 1974 firmly establishes him as the first American painter in this mode." Nevertheless, he judiciously added that "in contrast to frankly decorative work . . . Arreguin’s work employs patterns to reveal a synthetic, unique context distinct both in inspiration and in continuity." (Source: By Lauro Flores in "Alfredo Arreguin, Patterns of Dreams and Nature.")

Click to read article about recent Arreguin's exhibition at "Museo de America" in Madrid, Spain. Read article




1967 BA, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

1969 MFA, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

1979 Selected to represent the U.S. at the "11th International Festival of Painting at Cagnes-sur-Mer", France, where Arreguin won the "Palm of the People Award"

1980 "National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship"

1988 In a competition that involved over 200 portfolios, Arreguin won the commission to design the poster for the State of Washington Centennial Celebration. The image was his painting "Washingtonia"

1988 Invited to design the "White House Easter Egg"

1994 His triptych "Sueño (Dream): Eve before Adam" was acquired by the National Museum of American Art through the Smithsonian Institution.

1995 "Ohtli Award". The Mexican government’s highest honor for a civilian living outside of Mexico who has devoted part of his/her life and professional activities to "forging a new path" abroad for their country men and women.

2006 "The Alfredo Arreguin Scholarship", established by the University of Washington Multicultural Alumni Partnership.

2008 "The Tomas Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award", University of California, Riverside.

2008 His painting "The Return to Aztlan" is acquired for the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

2013 "Homage to Alfredo Arreguin", organized by the State of Michoacan, Mexico, through the Michoacan State Department of Culture and El Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Alfredo Zalce


Main Solo Exhibitions


1977 "Arreguin", The Mexican Museum, San Francisco

1977 "Arreguin", Polly Friedlander Gallery, Seattle

1978 "Exhibition of Arreguin’s Works", Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (formerly known as Caiman Gallery), New York

1979 National Council of la Raza exhibition, Washington, D.C.

1981 "Retrospective", Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, Washington

1982 "John James Audubon / Alfredo Arreguin", Boise Museum of Art, Boise, Idaho

1983 "Arreguin’s Retrospective", The Mexican Museum, San Francisco

1984 "Arreguin", Foster White Gallery, Seattle

"The Canadian Club Hispanic Tour", El Museo del Barrio, Aug 2 - Sept 12, New York 
"The Canadian Club Hispanic Tour", San Antonio Museum of Art, Sept 22 - Oct 2, San Antonio, Texas 
"The Canadian Club Hispanic Tour", Plaza de la Raza, Nov 8 - Dec 9, Los Angeles, California

1985 "Arreguin", Fine Arts Center of Tempe, Tempe, Arizona

1985 Chicano and Latino Artists in the Pacific Northwest

1986 "Alfredo Arreguin", MARS Art Gallery, Phoenix

1987 "Arreguin’s New Work", Foster White Gallery, Seattle

1988 "Alfredo Arreguin: Works", Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, Washington

1989 "Works on paper", El Museo Regional Michoacano, Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico

"Designs of Magic", Foster White Gallery, Seattle 
"Designs of Magic", Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fresno, California 
"Designs of Magic", Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago

1992 "20th Anniversary", Galeria El Centro, El Centro de la Raza, Seattle

"Viva la Vida", Sunrise Museum, Charleston, West Virgina 
"Viva la Vida", Kansas State University, Manhattan 
"Viva la Vida", University of Kansas, Lawrence 
"Viva la Vida", Clark Collage, Vancouver, Washington 
"Viva la Vida", North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks 
"Viva la Vida", Tacoma Art Museum

1996 "Viva la Naturaleza", National Academy of Science, Washington, D.C.

1997 "In Praise of Pattern", University Gallery, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington

1997 "In Praise of Nature, exhibition of Arreguin’s paintings", and dedication of The Froth, a stained leaded-glass work (120 x 240 in), commissioned for the Washington State Department of Ecology by the Art in Public Places program of the Washington State Arts Commission

1998 "Las Navidades con Alfredo Arreguin y Sus Amigos", Galeria El Centro, El Centro de la Raza, Seattle

1998 "La Casa Azul, Arreguin’s images of Mexican icons Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo", Tule Gallery, Seattle

1999 "Jaguar Eye", Tule Gallery, Seattle

1999 "One Window-Two Views", Larson Gallery, Yakima Valley Community College, Yakima, Washington

2000 "Patterns of Seduction", Art Gallery, Lower Columbia College, Longview, Washington

2000 "Calligraphy of the Spirit", Fine Arts Center, Washington State University, Pullman

"Patterns of Dreams and Nature", Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, WA 
"Patterns of Dreams and Nature", Mexican Heritage Plaza, San Jose, CA 
"Patterns of Dreams and Nature", Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner, WA 
"Patterns of Dreams and Nature", Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane, WA; 
"Patterns of Dreams and Nature", Holter Museum of Art, Helena, Montana

2003 "Frida, Flora and Fauna", Linda Hodges Gallery, Seattle, WA

2005 Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA

2006 "Alfredo Arreguin: Selected Works 1992 - 2006", Jacob Lawrence Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

2006 "Nature Alive", Linda Hodges Gallery, Seattle, WA

2008 "Portraiture Now: Framing Memory", National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC

2008 "Canciones de la Terra", Linda Hodges Gallery, Seattle, WA

2008 "Artists Without Borders, Alfredo Arreguin and Guillermo Gomez-Pena", Museum of Art, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

2009 "Natural Patterns", Skagit Valley College, Mt. Vernon, WA

2009 "Universal Patterns", Kokoon Gallery, Cleveland, OH

2010 "El Esplendor de la Selva", Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Salem, OR

2010 "Alfredo Arreguin, Art in Ecology", Washington State Department of Ecology, Olympia, WA

2011 Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, “Seattle as Collector.” Celebrating the Seattle Arts Commission 40th Anniversary

2012 Handforth Gallery, Tacoma Public Library, Tacoma, WA

2013 " Diseños de Cultura", Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, CA

2013 "Homage to Alfredo Arreguin", organized by the State of Michoacan, Mexico, through the Michoacan State Department of Culture and El Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Alfredo Zalce

"Arreguin, Diseños y Naturaleza", Palacio del Conde Luna, Leon, Spain 
"Arreguin, Diseños y Naturaleza", Museo de America, Madrid, Spain 
"Arreguin, Diseños y Naturaleza", Museo de Cadiz, Spain