Pomona, California, situated east of downtown Los Angeles, between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains, in what was once known as the citrus triangle, is a bit of a gateway into the Inland Empire. It suggests the perfect cinematic backdrop for stories about cars, freeways and commutes, its university campuses and sprawling city plan buzzing with the hallmarks of motion to and fro. Jaime Muñoz calls Pomona home, and throughout his career, this intrigue with commutes and cars as symbols and inspiration, has created intricate and layered acrylic and airbrush paintings that present the panoramic culture clashes that exist in the fabric of southern California iconography. His work often examines the vehicle as a symbol for class and race, function and support. Emerging from UCLA to the studio of Chris Burden, and now enjoying a burgeoning and blossoming fine art career, Muñoz found time, after a trip to EXPO Chicago, to chat with me over the course of a few weeks in Pomona. He shares a broad, nuanced view of the sprawling span of California’s rich history.
Evan Pricco: I didn't imagine starting this way, but as I wondered about how we were going to do this interview, I thought a lot about car culture, and cars in general, and the theme of mobility hovers over. Is this a good place to start?
Jaime Muñoz: Yes, movement does resonate with me. It makes me think about my experience commuting to work. I get a lot of inspiration for my paintings when I’m on the road. Initially, I worked for a structural concrete company called Slater Inc. in Fontana, California. In those years, I would commute from Fontana into different areas of the high desert. A little later, from around 2012 to 2019, I was commuting from Pomona to Topanga Canyon, when I worked for Nancy Rubens and Chris Burden as a studio assistant.
This narrative around commuting started in my work in 2019, in the painting, Morning Commute. In that work, I was just interested and drawn to R-series Toyota mini trucks that I saw commonly used as utility trucks for different laborers. I was thinking about making something from my experience, which in this case, was a commute. The back of the vehicle is emblematic of the commute because that’s what you stare at when you sit in traffic for long hours and I guess that image has been ingrained in my mind.
I had read about Toyoteria and how that plays into your work, so I wonder, could you explain that? And where did the term come from?
I'm not sure what’s upcoming, but when you are in the early stages of prepping a show, what does your research look like? What is in the Jaime Munoz research lab right now?
Currently I’m working on a show for Francois Ghebaly LA in the Fall and I’ve been exploring narratives around decorated utility trucks. I’ve been drawn to the Dekotora truck culture in Japan and have been watching videos and reading books. Similar to the Toyota R- series work truck and Toyoteria, I've been attempting to expand the dialogue by finding the working class aesthetic of all work trucks on the West Coast that is not limited to just Toyota pickups. Spending time on the road is still a component to my research process. I've also been working on a lot of drawings that aid the composition process of the paintings.
All images courtesy of the artist and Juxtapoz.