Alfredo Arreguín paints in planes of patterns.
The renowned painter’s portraits and landscapes in the Pattern and Decoration style are inspired by his Mexican roots and Northwest adopted home. Each of his paintings is comprised of intricate and colorful motifs that either hide or reveal the larger picture. Viewing his work is an exercise of the eye’s visual plane.
The Mexico-born, Seattle-based artist’s latest exhibition is at the Rob Schouten Gallery on Whidbey Island. “Alfredo Arreguín: New Paintings” featuring 19 of Arreguín’s oil paintings, will be on exhibit through Aug. 31 at the Langley gallery.
Arreguín was born in 1935 in Morelia, the capital city of Michoacán, Mexico. He developed as an artist in Seattle, where he has resided since 1956.
“I love nature and patterns, and I combine the two together,” Arreguín said. “I’m a very free painter because I didn’t adhere to the teachings of ‘You have to have a style.’”
At 85, Arreguín still paints every day in a Seattle basement studio he shares with artist-wife Susan Lytle. They met in 1974 at the University District’s iconic Blue Moon Tavern.
Credited as an originator of the Pattern and Decoration school, Arreguín explores Mexican and Northwest nature and mythology — from the jungles of Michoacán to the seas of Washington.
For inspiration, Arreguín goes for walks around the University of Washington, Golden Gardens, Green Lake and Magnuson Park. He brings his camera to capture “treasures of nature.”
“I do a lot of Northwest scenes now,” he said. “I wasn’t selling very many paintings of my jungles, but the minute I started painting salmon, all these collectors were buying them. I’ve lived here for 65 years — I love the Pacific Northwest.”
Arreguín also loves to paint Frida Kahlo (1907-1954). He said he’s probably painted the famous Mexican painter’s portrait at least 100 times.
“I fell in love with her gutsy way of representing her pain and suffering, as well as her enthusiasm and perseverance to be a painter,” he said. “She had a lot in common with me — I struggled as a Mexican painter to get exhibitions. Her spirit is very attractive to me. She inspires me very much.”
At 9, Arreguín became the youngest pupil at the Morelia School of Fine Art. He sold his first painting when he was 12.
“As a young student in Mexico, I had no favorite artists,” Arreguín has said to UW students who study his work. “I was mostly impressed by the folk art in the Mexican markets. My grandma used to take me to the markets where I was fascinated by the native crafts. The designs and patterns on blankets, baskets, pottery, jewelry and toys were my inspiration.”
Arreguín emigrated to the United States to attend the University of Washington, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art. He graduated from the UW in 1969 — around the time the Pattern and Decoration movement launched in America.
“He paints the energy of something more than the object, through a veil of patterning,” gallery co-owner Rob Schouten said. “It’s a very appealing style. Often, if you look at his paintings closely, there are patterns painted over patterns, painted over patterns. Animals or faces are hidden in the patterns.”
His work has been shown internationally, including at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco, El Museo Regional Michoacano in Morelia, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago, El Centro de la Raza in Seattle and the Museo de Cadiz in Spain, as well as La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, Bainbridge Island Art Museum, Bellevue Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum and the Seattle Art Museum.
Arreguín’s paintings are in the permanent collections of two Smithsonian museums: “Sueño (Dream: Eve Before Adam)” is at the National Museum of American Art and “The Return to Aztlan” is at the National Portrait Gallery.
He has won numerous awards, including a Humanitarian Award by Washington’s state Legislature, a Governor’s Arts Award from Washington, a Timeless Award from the University of Washington and two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships.
Rob and Victory Schouten founded the Rob Schouten Gallery in 2008. Husband and wife moved the operation from Greenbank to Langley about three years ago.
Rob Schouten has been a fan of Arreguín’s work since 1983, when he saw the painter’s exhibition at the Foster/White Gallery in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. After following Arreguín’s work for so long, Schouten asked — via Facebook — if he could curate a show of new paintings at the Langley gallery.
“I am really over the moon,” Schouten said. “We have a number of well-known and renowned artists that we show in our gallery, but we’ve never shown anybody of quite his caliber. It’s really a great honor to have his work in the gallery.”
The internationally renowned painter has a long list of accomplishments that span more than six decades. The following are some of the most noteworthy.
In 1979, Arreguín represented the U.S. at the 11th International Festival of Painting at Cagnes-sur Mer, France, where he won the Palm of People Award.
Arreguín was invited to paint the “White House Easter Egg” for President Ronald Reagan in 1988. He designed a poster to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Washington in 1989, featuring his painting “Washingtonia.”
In 1995, he received the OHTLI Award, the Mexican government’s highest honor for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans for promoting Mexican culture in the U.S., in 1997.
The University of Washington Press has published two books about the Mexican-American artist: “Alfredo Arreguin: Patterns of Dreams and Nature” by Alfredo Arreguín and Lauro Flores from 2002 and “Alfredo Arreguin’s World of Wonders” by Lauro Flores and Doug Johnson from 2018.
The University of Washington established the Alfredo Arreguín Scholarship in 2006.
In 2013, the state of Michoacán, Mexico, through the Michoacán State Department of Culture and El Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Alfredo Zalce, organized the exhibition “Homage to Alfredo Arreguín.”
And, in 2017, he was awarded to the keys to the city of Morelia, an honor shared only with Pope Francis.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.
If you go
“Alfredo Arreguín: New Paintings” is showing through Aug. 31 at the Rob Schouten Gallery & Sculpture Garden, 101 Anthes Ave., Langley. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. See 19 of Arreguin’s latest oil paintings, including several portraits of Frida Kahlo. Visitors are required to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. Call 360-222-3070 or go to www.robschoutengallery.com for more information.