Contextualizing himself as a “cultural worker,” Oropeza uses the broadness of this term to encompass his work as an artist, curator, gallery co-owner, and museum employee, while simultaneously honoring the visible and invisible labor that is required of these endeavors.This emphasis is poetically expressed in Oropeza’s recent series of paintings and murals, Whatever the Work May Be, which lovingly depicts tools and materials associated with laborers, subtly calling attention to their pivotal role within the cultural ecosystem.
The intimate scale of Oropeza’s recent paintings emphasizes his tender treatment of laborers’ objects, lending a personal feel—more like portraits than still lifes. However, when Facebook’s Artist in Residence Program commissioned Oropeza to create a mural at its San Francisco campus, he jumped at the opportunity to translate this concept to a large scale. Adapting his process through sketches and experimentation, Oropeza painted the subjects on giant, plywood cutouts that were affixed to the wall, creating depth and monumentalizing the objects. Following this residency, Oropeza accepted another commission to create a mural based on this project at SFMOMA in the Koret Education Center.
At both mural sites, Oropeza connected with janitors and other laborers who felt connected and seen by the project. Oropeza also experienced another layer of visibility through creating the mural at SFMOMA, having been an Operations employee for ten years and sharing his art practices with his colleagues in the museum space.
In 2010, as gentrification was on rise in San Francisco, Oropeza and Brian Perrin founded Incline Gallery as a vibrant space for connecting artists with the community. Over the years, and with the addition of Shirin Makeremi, Oropeza shares that the gallery has evolved with a mature and expansive focus. “We’re not just a small gallery in the Mission. We’re thinking larger and finding ways to connect with sister cities and organizations to re-plug a creative vein back into San Francisco.”
Everyone seems to know Christo Oropeza. You’ve likely seen his paintings on Instagram and murals throughout the city, chatted with him at an opening at Incline Gallery, or run into him at various art events and museums. Born and raised in San Francisco, Oropeza’s practice flows between mediums, languages, and spaces, while staying grounded in a deep commitment to the Bay Area’s creative communities.