Tattoos and tartans, doves and demons, flora and fauna, sun, moon and stars — Marcel Alcalá works across painting, sculpture and performance in an eccentric style to depict a whole universe of fantasy, allegory, and inquiry. With equally deep roots in art history and surrealist tropes, folkloric, archetypal symbolism, and intimate character studies, Alcalá gets at emotional, witty expressions of their own pluralistic identity and an exciting, evolving sense of self. At times painted ruggedly with texture and chromatic gymnastics, at others simplified to an almost childlike state, Alcalá’s tableaux have the energy of fables and raves, cautionary tales and dreams of enlightenment. These magnificent, mischievous works are on view by appointment and in an online viewing room at Night Gallery through January 16.

Marcel Alcalá, Luchador hasta el final (Courtesy of Night Gallery)

L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist? 

MARCEL ALCALÁ: When I was a 6th grader my brother took me to an opening of John Waters at OCMA and a Basquiat show at MOCA. Both those shows influenced me tremendously. They helped me realize that I was a queer punk who was destined to make work forever.

What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?

My work comes from my body, a body with recent and past histories of queer Mexican-American truths. The work is a process of understanding my body in this current space and time.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?

Social work. The best artists are those who help others and not always are creators of objects. I idealize those people.

Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?

I did! I went to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A big reason why I went was to come out as queer in a supportive creative environment and move out of Santa Ana, CA to Chicago, IL. My father wasn’t supportive of the queers, so I had to get out. Plus Chicago was an amazing incubator for discovering who I was.

Marcel Alcalá, Segura por la noche (Courtesy of Night Gallery)

Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?

L.A. has always been good to me. Amazing friends, incredible Latino artists, and I grew up in Orange County so being close to family is ideal.

When was your first show?

My first solo show was at this Chicago gallery called The Hills in this now burnt down warehouse in Garfield Park. I hired friends to perform as clowns surrounded by surveillance cameras. In the main gallery there were some paintings and a male clown getting whipped by a female clown performed by Natacha Stolz.

Marcel Alcalá, Lucy (Courtesy of Night Gallery)

When is/was your current/most recent/next show?

My most recent show is Solita up now at Night Gallery. Solita, which means Alone in a cute kind of way, is almost a subconscious rendering of the feelings I felt during this historic time. The show consists of mostly oil paintings and a couple ceramics made in 2020 during this pandemic. The exhibition will be up until January 16th.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?

I’m definitely listening to all the iconic trans musicians right now like Arca, Sophie, and Kim Petras. O and Missy Elliot on repeat.

Website and social media handles, please!

IG: @marcel_alcala

Marcel Alcalá, Solita, installation view at Night Gallery

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