Pico Sanchez’s friends – and they are many – use the same words to describe his art as they do his spirit: vibrant, playful, rooted in Mexico, but in love with the Mission.
Sanchez, 63, died unexpectedly in his sleep early Monday morning. A painter, printmaker and muralist, he was president and a longtime member of Project Artaud, the pioneering artists’ live/work space and culture complex on Alabama Street.
Katia Fuentes, a fellow artist and Project Artaud resident, remembers Sanchez as a leader and friend. “He was very humble and very dependable. Pico was a strong pillar in the community,” she said.
Sanchez loved to throw parties and tell stories about his childhood. His door was always open, Fuentes said. Among his most frequent visitors were the community’s children, drawn to his lovebirds and parakeets and his collection of hundreds of stuffed rabbits.
Sanchez, who described his artwork as both sophisticated and naive in a 2009 interview with SF Art News, earned degrees in fine arts in Mexico City and arts communication in Wisconsin. Rabbits, calaveras, Aztec symbols and Frida Kahlo were touchstones in his work.
The artist’s sudden death came during the final days of an exhibit, “Three Tigers,” featuring work by Sanchez and his two sons, Solomon and Hayyim. Alexa Treviño, who helped curate the show at Artillery Gallery, said Sanchez’s art echoes the life of the neighborhood he called home for more than 20 years. “He has a vibrant style. It’s really bold and loud. They’re very fun paintings. Very inviting and colorful – just like the Mission,” she said.
On Tuesday, many of his shocked friends and fans came to the gallery to spend time with his work and share memories.
Treviño shared her own bittersweet recollections: “He was raw. He was a badass. He was really funny and really youthful in his attitude, but you could see he had years under his belt.”
Artillery Gallery (2751 Mission St.) will host a memorial for Sanchez on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. “Three Tigers” closes on Friday.
Share memories of Sanchez and see more photos of his life and work here.