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Julio Morales – Artist, Curator and Executive Director of MOCA Tucson

June 19, 2023
Julio Morales - Artist, Curator and Executive Director of MOCA Tucson

In this episode we feature Julio Morales, artist, curator, and the Executive Director of MOCA Tucson. Julio takes us on an exploration of his personal life, recounting his upbringing in Tijuana, where he was deeply immersed in the border culture and surrounded by a family of creatives.

Julio Morales’ artistry is not only a reflection of his talent but also an embodiment of his multicultural upbringing. In this episode, he shares fascinating anecdotes about his family life, where creativity flowed freely among his relatives, instilling in him a deep passion for self-expression and the power of visual storytelling.

Throughout our conversation, Julio reveals how the border culture left an indelible mark on his artistic voice. The interplay of languages, customs, and identities that define the border region found their way into his work, creating a compelling visual narrative that blurs boundaries and challenges conventional notions of identity and belonging.

We gain insight into his curatorial endeavors and the impact of his work at MOCA Tucson, where he continues to nurture emerging talent and push the boundaries of contemporary art. Stay tuned for an engaging conversation that will undoubtedly leave you with a fresh perspective on the transformative power of art and the importance of embracing diverse cultural influences.

To listen to all this and more, access the full episode above. To listen the the mini version, click below.

Day Dreaming, 2019, permanent pigment print on Hahnemühle 350 gsm paper, 8 x 10 inches.
A series of images of the border wall between Tijuana and San Diego that references the “dreamers” struggle to remain in the US. The photographs also samples graphic colors of debris such as water bottles, clothes, ID cards and items left behind while people attempting to cross the wall, are transformed into abstracted landscapes.

Subterranean Homesick Cumbia, 2016, HD Video with Sound, 15:09 mins.
Shot in the Amazon and is the videographic keepsake of the artists’ journey to trace the mythological birth of Cumbia music, one of the first Latin American hybrid musical form. In the origin myth, a German merchant ship crashed upon the shores of Colombia, spilling its cargo of accordions. These instruments were retrieved by local communities of free people of color and incorporated into their musical tradition to form a new vernacular sound. The relationship of the accordion to the landscape tells the story of the unstriated flow of social exchange and the unpredictable ways in which we engage with our environment.

La Linea, 2022, 4 neons, 6×60 feet.

A neon series that is a neon line-drawing of the southwest border starting in 1622 (Before Europeans), 1845 (Before Mexican-American war), Present 2023, Future 2028 (After New Mexico and California leave the US and open their borders).

Undocumented Interventions, Watercolor and ink on paper, 2012, 30×40 inches.
A series highlights the harrowing conditions migrants endure for clandestine passage into the United States. Rendered in hand-drawn lines and watercolor, these works reference the “interventions” employed by migrants while highlighting their ingenuity, determination, and dedication—qualities the United States purports to seek.

Constelaciones Cayendo/Falling Constellations, 2023, photograph, nc-acrylic, graphite and plexiglass, 20×30 inches.A series based on failed drug traffickers who are “regular people” such as teenagers, abuelas, and teachers that are forced to traffic drugs in exchange kidnapping of family members.

About Julio Morales:

Julio César Morales is an artist, educator, and curator working for over twenty-five years in the contemporary art world. In curatorial practice, Morales has a range of experience: senior curator at Arizona State University Museum (2012-2022), adjunct curator for visual arts at Yerba Buena Center for The Arts in San Francisco (2008-2012), and founder and director of Queens Nails Annex, an artist-run project space in San Francisco (2003-2012). In 2013 he was a contributing curator for the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale and currently executive director and co-chief curator at MOCA Tucson.

In Morales’ artistic practice he employs a range of media and visual strategies to explore issues of migration, underground economies, and labor, on personal and global scales. He works by whatever means necessary: In an indelible series of watercolor illustrations, Morales diagramed means of human trafficking in passenger vehicles, while in other projects he has employed the DJ turntable, neon signs, the historical reenactment of a famous meal, or the conventions of an artist-run gallery to explore social interaction and political perspectives.

Morales’ artwork has been shown at Lyon Biennale; (Lyon, France), Istanbul Biennale; (Turkey), Los Angeles County Art Museum (Los Angeles); Singapore Biennale; (Singapore), Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt, Germany); Prospect 3 (New Orleans, Louisiana) SFMOMA (San Francisco); Perez Art Museum (Miami, Florida) and The UCLA Hammer Museum (Los Angeles) amongst others. His work has been written about in Flash Art, The New York Times, Artforum, Frieze, Art Nexus, and Art in America. His work is in private and public collections including MoMA, The Los Angeles County Art Museum, The Kadist Foundation, The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Art, and Deutsche Bank amongst others. He is represented by Gallery Wendi Norris.

Want to learn more about Julio and his work? Access related links:


La Nueva Frontera: The New Tijuana Brass

A sculpture shown at LACMA ended up on Craigslist. A DJ turned it into a sound studio

Migrant Dubs 2023: Evedencia de Magia

Subterranean Homesick Cumbia_Remix




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