New Mexico Wants Home of Famous Sculptor Luis Jimenez Recognized

Image: Luis Jimenez in Studio
Sculptor Luis Jimenez, is photographed in March 2003 at his Hondo, N.M. studio with the mockette sculpture "Mustang" along with the larger piece commissioned for display at the Denver International Airport. Jimenez, a successful but often controversial sculptor whose work has been displayed at the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art, died in 2006. DICK GEORGE / AP file

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His massive, unique sculptures of wild mustang horses, cowboys and dancers earned the late artist and sculptor Luis Jimenez a place in the contemporary American art scene. Now New Mexico officials are seeking to get his home and studios in southern New Mexico on the National Register of Historic Places. Earlier this week the sites were added to New Mexico's list of significant cultural properties.

"Even though his work is relatively recent, there's really a consensus among art historians and museum curators and art critics on his importance in late 20th century American art," said Steven Moffson, state and national register coordinator with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division.

New Mexico has forwarded the nomination to the National Park Service. A decision is expected before the end of the year.

More than 40 cities commissioned Jimenez's art, which can be found in a busy walkway at the University of New Mexico and at the steps of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. His largest and last piece was "Mustang," of a a blue horse with fiery eyes that sits outside Denver International Airport. A portion of that sculpture fell in his studio and killed him in 2006.

Construction workers install a mustang sculpture at Denver International Airport on Feb. 11, 2008. The sculpture, over 30 feet tall, is by artist, Luis Jimenez, of Hondo, N.M., who was killed in 2006 when a segment of the sculpture fell on him as it was being hoisted.Chris Schneider / AP file

Jimenez is credited with paving the way for other Latino artists. He taught at the University of Arizona and the University of Houston. He rejected labels such as Mexican-American, Chicano and Hispanic, but was proud of his heritage, said his wife, and liked to focus on depicting daily life.

"My working-class roots have a lot to do with it," Luis Jimenez said once during an interview. "I want to create a popular art that ordinary people can relate to as well as people who have degrees in art."

--The Associated Press