Painted in a flat, graphic style, the subjects of the artist’s first-ever gallery show, Flowers in the Dark at Erin Cluley Projects, seem to embody an ancient ritual. Inspired by the Cereus repandus or Peruvian apple cactus, his work also references the experience of healing through adversity, a career theme for the artist otherwise known as Eric Gutierrez Rodríguez.
Already well known around town as a muralist, the 29-year-old Drigo has made the most of his technical skill, creating an instantly recognizable visual language that has taken him from the walls of The Hill Shopping Center to Dallas art space Sweet Tooth Hotel, the 4DWN Skatepark to a Fort Worth parking garage. Combining ancient Mexican culture with New Age spirituality and modernist design, his work turns drab structures into otherworldly environments — a feat that can’t be undervalued when generic construction spreads over North Texas like dandelion seeds.
The artist’s aesthetic is all the more revelatory considering that he hadn’t planned a career in the arts. As a teenager, the passionate skateboarder began drawing on his grip tape and customizing his board to make it stand out. He signed up for his first art class as “a blow-off,” but it sparked a further urge in him to create.
First, he decided to pursue graphic design at Collin College after landing on the major to hone his T-shirt printing skills. By the time he earned an associate degree, however, Drigo had fallen in love with painting. He launched his career by asking strangers if they’d let him create a mural on an empty wall; by 2015, he was finally up and running.
“That was a slow process; it didn’t happen quickly,” he says. “But by the time I started to do the Wild West Mural Fest, I started to get more emails, more commission requests and more serious gigs.”
Brands also took notice of his work. In 2016, the lifestyle and clothing brand Zumiez invited him to create a mural in Hawaii to promote its Converse Con shoe line. He also made imagery for Essential Water, Pacifico Beer and Samsung Mobile, among others, until the pandemic temporarily halted his street art career.
Initially focusing on selling merch, Drigo also began creating paintings on canvas, selling them as fast as he could make them. When Erin Cluley Projects director Nell Potasznik Langford reached out to him to propose a show, Drigo was perfectly poised to take the Aztec-meets-futurism aesthetic to the fine art world.
“It’s funny, because I think two months before Nell reached out to me, I was talking with some close friends and telling them, ‘This is the year I’m going to get back into the gallery scene,’” Drigo says. “Murals are great, but there’s a lot of people touching your work in the metaphorical sense, like brand colors or themes or images you have to include. So, I’ve been itching to jump back into the canvas, where it’s your world, and there’s no one telling you what to do.”
So far, the work has been well-received enough that he’s planning on other shows along with his “bread and butter” murals and gigs for graphic design. But in Drigo’s fantastical world, what he envisions often comes to pass. For example, he’s creating murals for the latest outpost of Meow Wolf in Grapevine. And he recently landed a gig to wrap cars with his work for his favorite water brand, Topo Chico.
“It’s the only drink I would drink; I barely drink regular water,” Drigo says. “They started in Monterrey [Mexico], where some of my family is from. When I did Pacifico, because of the similarity in colors, I thought how cool it would have been if this was Topo Chico, and now I’m working with them.”
Drigo has another dream in mind, one he’s putting out into the universe. Inspired by the likes of Diego Rivera and David Choe, he’s also influenced by the pop culture crossover of Takashi Murakami, with everything from sellout shows to luxury brand collaborations. Taking his first step toward the latter, the artist is negotiating with the French fashion powerhouse Louis Vuitton to paint a mural in its new office campus in Irving.
“I could definitely see that kind of trajectory, where I can focus on the studio work but also do brand collaborations,” Drigo says. “In an email I just sent them, a collaboration on their product is one of my asks. I just threw it out there, so we’ll see what they say … I need to keep saying these things out loud: Louis Vuitton!”
DRIGO: Flowers in the Dark is on view through March 18 at Erin Cluley Projects, 2123 Sylvan Ave.