Art History Homages

When I first began painting seriously during my first year as a college student, I developed an interest in artists, specifically painters, from art history. Now as an art instructor (I have been teaching studio and lecture classes since the Summer of 2000), my exposure to art and its history has not only flourished but intensified. Needless to say, as an arts educator, I present, appreciate, discuss and analyze images to eager students while simultaneously continuing to revisit art historical images that have, over the years, appeared in my own work yet, of course, with a "twist". Recently, since 2011, along with my "app" series which I bagan in the Fall of that year, I have intermittently been creating paintings that are not only parodies but, more accurately, homages to some of my favorite famous paintings. In my versions, of course, the iconic and, in many instances, art history "masterpieces", involve a preoccupation, prevalence, and dependence with and on technology; thus, through my paintings, I continue my "post-information" age awareness, explorations, critiques, and celebrations. Artists that have "appeared" in my art history homage series include those that have inspired me over the years: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Mel Ramos to name a few.

Frida Kahlo

this is my homage to Kahlo's The Love Embrace of the Universe painting where she holds baby Diego Rivera
"app 4 reawakening the 3rd eye"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2011 Gabriel Navar

"The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Diego, Me and Señor Xólotl" by Frida Kahlo, was painted in 1949. The piece is about interconnectivity within ourselves, with our loved ones, with nature, with the universe and often, through the media, but more specifically, through technology. In my homage, I reconfigured Diego Rivera's "third-eye" forcing it's glances and attention on the smart phone held by Rivera himself. On the bottom right of the painting (which is fashioned as a smart phone in terms of composition and visual reference), I included an "app" for art which features and is a "nod" to Jean-Michel Basquiat posing as a boxer. I have paid homage to Frida by creating both a parody in my painting of 2003 "Felizmente Casados" ("Happily Married"), and as a protagonist (along with the Morton Salt Girl) in my cross-cultural, "hybridized" celebrations in my painting of 2011 titled "app 4 mexibiculturalizing".

Salvador Dalí

My homage to Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory originally painted in 1931
"app 2 retain memories"
acrylic, pencils, ink, & oil on paper
18 x 24 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

Salvador Dalí's "The Persistence of Memory", painted in 1931, in the MoMA collection in New York City, served as an inspiration to "app 2 retain memories". In my version I have replaced the biomorphic creature centered in the painting which resembles Dalís face in profile with an image based on myself losing track of time while obsessing and gazing into a "smart" gadget.

Grant Wood

My homage to Grant Wood's American Gothic
"app 4 gothic fun times"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

Grant Wood used his sister and dentist for the models for his classic painting "American Gothic". In the picture he painted the dentist holding a pitchfork. In my parody I have given the pitchfork to the woman who now has control over that object. Both are discretely looking towards an iphone. They are slightly modernized, she has a Tumbler brooch, while he looks fashionable in his dark sport coat and flashy Dr. Pepper t-shirt.


My homage to Raphael's The School of Athens
"app 4 schools of thought"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, better known as Raphael, was an Italian painter of the High Renaissance. I have taken a detail of the center of this masterpiece, "The School of Athens" (or Scuola de Atene),located in the Vatican, painted around 1510. I have included and appropriated "Oscar the Grouch" (from Sesame Street), replacing the head of the notoriously "grumpy", short-tempered Michelangelo (representing ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus). The painting's subject matter are the branches of knowledge depicting various luminary personages interacting with books as people of, and engaged, in "learning". I have replaced their books with smart-gadgets (including iPads and laptops) since they are our predominant mode of communication, knowledge-gathering, and learning; depending on your what one believes, these technological "facilitators" may be making us "numb". This painting "app 4 schools of thought" is the newest addition to my Sesame Street gallery.

Leonardo Da Vinci

My homage to Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa (La Gioconda or La Joconde, or Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo)
"app 4 distractions"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2011 Gabriel Navar

In my parody version, I explore the idea of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" (also known as La Gioconda or La Joconde, or Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo) being distracted (while sitting for the artist) by a received text or social-media update (on her iPhone device) on twitter, facebook, or youtube video feed. This painting has been featured in the past under Featured Painting. The original painting was believed to have been painted sometime between 1503 and 1506 and it is one of the most visited paintings. It can be found in the Louvre in Paris, France.

My homage to Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper
"app 4 spiritual moments"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on board
22 x 28 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

"The Last Supper" by da Vinci is a mural painted in the late 15th century. It, of course, has become a widely popular, mass-produced image. During my childhood, for example, in my home, I remember my family had a "Last Supper" kitchen clock. It is, I believe without too much exaggeration, a must-have image in most catholic homes. In my version, I have Jesus sharing the "good news" to his disciples (and, potentially, many, many others, as he checks and makes updates through his iPad and iMac). Some ubiquitous tech-giants join the ranks of Christ as highly-recognizable, iconic "entities" (of faith, religion, technology, and societal consciousness and pervasiveness) including Apple, Facebook, and Yahoo's "emoticons".

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

My homage to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holoferness
"app 4 distractions 2"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
18 x 24 in © 2011 Gabriel Navar

"Judith Beheading Holofernes", painted in 1598 by Caravaggio, can be found at Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica at Palazzo Barberini, Rome, Italy. The subject matter, the beheading of Holofernes, was a popular subject and has also been painted by Donatello, Sandro Botticelli, Andrea Mantegna, Giorgione, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Lucas Cranach the Elder, to name a few. My take on the grizzly scene has Judith being distracted - while in the act of beheading Holofernes - by a text from "mom" reminding her that when she has completed her "deed", to not forget to pick up bread and milk from the market.

Michelangelo Buonarroti

detail of The Last Judgment by Michelangelo showing St Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin... this is my homage
"app 4 distractions 3"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2011 Gabriel Navar

Michaelangelo's detail from his "Last Judgment" fresco on the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City done between 1536 and 1541 shows Saint Bartholomew holding his flayed skin. It is believed that the flayed skin is a gruesome self-portrait of Michelangelo himself. In my homage, detail of the fresco has Saint Bartholomew as "wallpaper" on a smart phone surrounded by available "apps" I envisioned, for instance, an "app" for injustices to help those who have "underwater/upside-down" loans on their homes, while another "app" is available to aid in ego repair.

detail of Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco Creation of Adam by Michelangelo... this is my homage
"app 4 spiritual moments 2"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
18 x 24 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

Michaelangelo's "Creation of Adam", arguably the most well-known section from the Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco in Vatican City (created between 1508 and 1512) shows the moment of the creation of the first man, Adam, according to the Old Testament's Book of Genesis. In my homage, I have replaced the "life-sparking" hand of God by an iPad, where Adam reaches to the screen to update his Facebook status and perhaps "foresees" humankind's millennia of knowledge through technological communications, innovations and advancements. The "cute" cherub holds Adam's iPad but "floats" with complete indifference and nonchalance, since he too yearns to go and check his own latest "status".

Francisco Goya

my parody of Saturn Devouring His Children by Francisco Goya
"app 4 extreme times"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

The figure on "app 4 extreme times" is based on a detail of a mural painted by Francisco Goya on one of the walls of his house near Madrid called "Quinta del Sordo" (Villa of the Deaf Man). In his mid-forties, Goya developed a debilitating illness that caused him to not only go deaf, but also withdrawn and introspective. Goya later became engaged in repainting the walls of the "Quinta del Sordo" with a series of images now know as the Black Paintings. This is a series he did not name and were not meant for public display. Therefore, this detail of the mural is also known simply as Saturn, Saturn Devouring One of His Sons, Saturn Devouring his Children or by the Spanish names Saturno devorando a su hijo or Saturno devorando a un hijo. In my painting, I have Saturn obsessed with and emotionally-driven by his smart gadget (instead of devouring his children)... perhaps he doesn't like what is trending through his social-media feed.

US President Barack Obama texting, while in the background there is my homage of Goya's The Third of May, 1808
"app 4 extreme times 2"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

I have painted US President Barack Obama interacting with and being preoccupied by his smart phone/Blackberry; perhaps texting or tweeting about recent (and on-going) international conflicts? In the background there is a reference to Goya's "The Third of May, 1808", a painting found in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Goya's painting captured the Spanish resistance to Napoleon's armies during the occupation of 1808 in the Peninsular War. I appropriated Goya's "masterpiece" as a sort of metaphor for humanity's ongoing struggles, wars, atrocities, oppressive, destructive acts, and so on. How poignant it is to today's occurrences in the Gaza-Israeli border ?

Diego Rivera

my parody about Diego Rivera's In the Trenches where revolutionaries fight oppressive landowners
"app 4 earning instant street cred"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on board
28 x 22 in © 2011 Gabriel Navar

My painting "app 4 earning instant streed cred" is a tribute to Diego Rivera's "In the Trenches", painted between 1924 - 1928, and located on the third floor of the Court of the Fiestas in Mexico City's Ministry of Education. The fresco shows peasant revolutionaries preparing to do battle with wealthy and oppressive landowners. In my version, the "99%" are rising, organizing, and communicating, often through social media, to fight for rights and equality. In Oakland, CA, my home town, the Occupy movement began on October 10, 2011.

Albrecht Dürer

my parody of Albrecht Durer's print, Adam and Eve
"app 4 paradise"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

According to the Holy Bible's Old Testament's Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were the first man and woman created by God. Images of Adam and Eve have been created by numerous artists including Albrecht Dürer, a German artist of the so-called Northern Renaissance. I took inspiration from Dürer's print titled "Adam and Eve" from 1504. As a child attending Catholic School the story from Genesis was imprinted in my mind. Recently I have created a painting where apples growing from the "forbidden" tree are actually icons from Steve Jobs' Apple (Macintosh) company, and the "evil" snake (a representation of or messenger of the "tempting" Devil/Satan, according to the Bible) is sharing an iPhone (an instrument and symbol of communication, sharing, knowledge, "tour-de-force" technological advancement and innovation) with Adam and Eve.

Mel Ramos

an homage to Pop artist Mel Ramos and his brilliant take on the seductive nude
"app 2 pay homage 2 Mel"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on paper
24 x 18 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

I studied under Mel Ramos in the early 1990s while working towards earning my Bachelor of Arts in Cal State University, Hayward (today known as Cal State University, East Bay). He inspired me to embark on an arts career and to pursue my Masters in Fine Arts Degree (which I did at San Jose State University in the mid to late 1990s).... In the Summer of 2012, Mel and I had a two-person exhibition at the Joyce Gordon Gallery in Oakland titled, "Pay It Forward". In my painting "app 2 pay homage to Mel", I have created a "spoof" and homage to Mel's voluptuous female nudes. I decided to paint in a male with breasts (a direct tribute to Mel's nudes) standing on a recognizable, "iconic" and, therefore, popular consumer product (in my rendition, a facebook button) The male, wearing "fleshy" pink slippers (more specifically, "chanclas") holds his smart phone/gadget but pauses to acknowledge and seductively face the viewers.

Bonampak Fresco

an ode to a great civilization that continues to inspire and ignite my imagination, the Maya
"app 4 reawakening the 3rd eye 2"
acrylic, oil, ink & pencils on board
28 x 22 in © 2012 Gabriel Navar

This painting, "app 4 reawakening the 3rd eye 2", is an ode to a great civilization that continues to inspire and ignite my imagination as I share my enthusiasm and knowledge with my students in a course that I've been teaching for several years now at Allan Hancock College (Santa Maria, CA), Mexican Art History.

Painting Galleries

Visit my Painting Galleries: navar For over twenty years, image-making for me has been a passion and avenue for exploring experiences, dreams and preoccupations, including issues of our dependence on technology, consumer culture, relationships, spirituality, politics, and the human "theatre". The paintings are arranged into different galleries, grouped, chronologically (the earliest from 1993 and spanning into the present) and "themes", especially when I find myself working in a series of paintings inspired from my life experiences, memories, nostalgia and personal interest, for example multi-generational, cross-cultural, popular consumer-based iconography and imagery, such as Chespirito, the Morton Salt Girl, muppets from Sesame Street, the Mexican Loteria, and Art History Homages.