Meet Sergio Gomez. Artist, gallery owner and director, curator, art magazine contributor, and educator - to name a few. Sergio Gomez is a creative tour de force and a man of many talents. From creating abstract, figurative paintings in his Chicago studio to collaborating with international art institutions, Sergio has a wealth of expertise. He recently founded Art NXT Level along with his wife, Dr. Yanina Gomez, to help artists excel in both their career and emotional wellness.
Sergio shares valuable knowledge he’s gained as a gallerist and tells us how artists can build their career one step and one relationship at a time.
Want to see more of Sergio’s work? Visit his Public Profile Page on Artwork Archive.
WHAT LED YOU TO MOSTLY PAINT ABSTRACT AND FACELESS FIGURES, UNRESTRAINED BY OBJECTS OR PLACES?
I have always been interested in the human form and figure. It’s always been part of my work and language. A silhouette figure could be a presence lacking identity. The figures are an abstraction of identity. And the figure is a universal language. I try to remove contextual portrait elements that might distract you from the figure - like the figure’s clothing or environment. I remove that completely so the figures are the only focal point in the work. I then add layers, textures and color. I love texture and layering as elements accompanying the figure. I started in this direction in 1994 or 1995, but of course there are exceptions. Certain themes, like the social and political themes I have represented, have to have other contextual objects. I painted a piece representing immigration and children left at the border, so there had to be visual indicators.
Some of my work, like the Winter Series, is very abstract. I grew up in Mexico City where the weather is beautiful year round. I never experienced a snow storm. I never experienced extreme weather until I was 16 when I came to the US with my family. The series of 41 Winters was based on a poem I read. It made me think of the winter season and how strong that is in Chicago. It is 41 Winters because I was 41 years old when I created it. It is one winter for every year. It is an abstraction of winter. The landscape completely changes with snow. I mixed coffee grains into the paint because coffee is such a winter drink. There is a warmth to coffee and it is a very American drink. This series is a reflection of winter and one I really wanted to do.
WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR STUDIO SPACE OR CREATIVE PROCESS?
I always need a big wall in my studio space for my painting. I love a white wall. Besides my supplies, I like to have my notebook. I’ve carried it for the last 18 years. It has images that I like and I take a look at it before I start a session. I have books too. I love to have music, but I don’t listen to a particular music style. It’s not related to my artwork. It’s more if I haven’t heard a musician for a long time and want to listen to them again.
I do a lot of dripping in my paintings and work with acrylic. And I do 95% of my work on paper. I then adhere the paper to canvas. I work hard to get the perfect surface so the paper and canvas have a nice, unwrinkled quality. Most of my pieces are quite large - the figures are life size. I roll up the pieces to travel. My paintings are adhered to stretched white canvas with grommets in each corner for nails. It’s a very easy hanging method and very effective. It makes the painting look like it’s a window or door with a figure on the other side. It’s both conceptual and practical. The border separates the figure in a nice, clean way. When a collector or individual buys my work, they can hang it like it is in the gallery. Or, I can sometimes mount the piece on a wood panel.
HOW HAS OWNING AND DIRECTING ART NXT LEVEL PROJECTS, FORMERLY 33 CONTEMPORARY GALLERY, ENHANCED YOUR ART CAREER?
I had always dreamed of having my own art gallery. I am interested in both the studio and the business side of the art world. Ten years ago, I asked a few friends if they wanted to open up a gallery together and we decided to do it. We found a space in Chicago in an 80,000 square foot building that the Zhou brothers had purchased. These two internationally-acclaimed artists purchased the building to create an art center - The Zhou B Art Center. We opened up our gallery in the art center and have grown together. I work in the art center as the Director of Exhibitions. We’ve rebranded our gallery, formerly 33 contemporary, as Art NXT Level Projects. We do an open house the first Friday of every month.
Owning and directing a gallery has helped me understand how the art world functions. I understand the behind-the-scenes, how to approach a gallery, and how to approach an institution. You have to have a go-getter attitude. Don’t wait in your studio. You have to go out and be present. You have to be where people you wish to work with are. Follow their accomplishments and get to know them. And give yourself time to build these relationships. It might start with introducing yourself, by showing up to an opening, and continuing to show up. Continue to be present and learn about their work. Then they will get to know who you are. It’s much better than sending someone a postcard.
YOU FOUNDED ART NXT LEVEL TO HELP ARTISTS ADVANCE THEIR CAREERS. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT IT AND HOW IT GOT STARTED?
I’ve had a lot of experience with the art world as a gallery owner for 10 years and as an artist. My wife, Dr. Yanina Gomez, has a doctorate in psychology. Just last year, we decided to join all of our expertise and create Art NXT Level. We help artists manage their art career as well as their mental health and wellness. If you are healthy and have a positive attitude, you feel better and have more energy. We develop online webinars to teach artists different concepts, like how to create an exhibition. Right now we are doing one on how to maximize your art career. We are building a community and we are growing internationally. We also do podcasts. They give us access to a huge audience worldwide that would otherwise be hard to reach. I had never done podcasts before this. I had to get out of my comfort zone and master something new. This is the kind of attitude we teach artists - you have to be a go-getter.
We create a new podcast every week featuring people like artists, gallery directors, and health and wellness experts. We also have one coming up with John Feustel, the founder of Artwork Archive. We include resources we think artists should know about. Podcasts are also great because you can listen to them while you work in the studio. One of our community’s favorites is with gallery director and artist Dan Addington. He owns Addington Gallery in Chicago and was my mentor when I opened up my gallery. He has a wealth of knowledge and provides fantastic insights into how galleries work.
YOUR WORK HAS BROUGHT YOU AROUND THE WORLD AND IS FOUND IN MUSEUM COLLECTIONS INCLUDING THE MIIT MUSEO INTERNAZIONALE ITALIA ARTE. TELL US ABOUT THESE EXPERIENCES AND HOW THEY HAVE ENRICHED YOUR CAREER.
It’s a wonderful and humbling experience to understand an institution recognizes your work and makes one of your pieces part of its collection. It’s humbling to see my work being appreciated and making a difference around the world. It takes time though. And if it happens overnight, it’s not always sustainable. It may be an uphill journey and you may have a long way to go. But, it pays off. Many dreams happen one step at a time and one person at a time. Remember to focus on the relationships built along the way, you never know where they may lead.
I have a strong tie with a gallery in Italy and they introduced me to Italia Arte Magazine - a monthly magazine distributed in northern Italy. It features museum happenings in the area and around the world. I share what is happening in the Chicago art scene. I go to Italy every year and do a cultural exchange program. And we host Italian artists in Chicago.
My travels have brought a conscious awareness about what is happening around the world. They have brought an understanding of cultures and how people work in art across the globe.
Want to Organize Your Art Business and Receive More Art Career Tips? Sign Up for Free Here.