This interview originally appeared in Rudo Can’t Fail Issue 4
“URBAN AZTEC” JESSE HERNANDEZ INTERVIEW
With Rick Mandell
Jesse Hernandez, aka Urban Aztec, is an artist born from the San Francisco Bay Area most widely recognized for his vinyl art toys, street art murals and animation work. His style is known as “Urban Aztec” a combination of graffiti and ancient Aztec culture. Hernandez’s artwork has been featured by Fandango, NBC Universal, X-Box, the Oakland Museum, Rolling Stone, Juxtapoz, Playstation, Outside Lands, and the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. Hernandez has shown art in galleries and museums around the world, and painted murals in Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Mexico City & Amsterdam. This former host and producer of TV series Vinyl Addiction on Myxtv Network, Hernandez’s most recent foray has taken him deep into the world of lucha libre collaborating with Masked Republic on officially licensed apparel for top luchadores and redesigning lucha masks in his unique style for a number of globe traveling stars.
RM: Obviously you’re a long time lucha libre fan, so let’s take a step back before we get into your amazing art and reinterpretations of classic lucha masks – when did you become a fan of lucha libre in the first place and who were some of your favorites then?
JH: I grew up in the Bay area and randomly my bus driver when I was a kid was “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka’s cousin, he used to tell us stories about him and the Wild Samoans on the way to school. That was nuts. We used to watch WWF, NWA then the Attitude era brought me back in the late 90’s, Ultimate Warrior, The Rock, Rick Flair, Road Warriors, The Outsiders, and RVD are some of my favorites from the American promotions. In Mexico Blue Demon, El Santo, and Mil Mascaras were my favorites back in the days, then LA Parka, Psicosis, Juvie, Super Crazy and Mysterio in the 90’s with ECW and WCW. I remember the first time I saw the wrestler named Jesse Hernandez in WWF and I was like yo homeboy is repping my name haha. There have been so many dudes named Hernandez in professional wrestling over the years. Hercules Hernandez, Hernandez (Lucha Underground) it’s super dope to see the Mexican influence on wrestling across the world.
RM: You’re known in the art world and to fans as “Urban Aztec” and your art certainly has a unique style to it that seems to fit that name exactly. How did you create that unique, now signature, style and why was that the calling card you wanted to have?
JH: The Urban Aztec name happened over time as my style has evolved.
RM: What have been some of your favorite non-wrestling related pieces and collaborations you have created?
JH: I’ve done a little bit of everything over the years, been heavily involved in the designer toy scene for over 10 years now, putting out a lot of original and custom pieces. Recently got to do some rock posters for Puscifer and Primus, and have been working on a bunch of dope movie posters for Fandango.com including one for Deadpool.
RM: Your Vinyl toys are insane, Do you have any new ones in the works?
JH: I’m working on a sick UrbanAztec x Ironman mashup piece with my friends at FlabSlab in Singapore that should be dropping this year.
RM: So how did you come to blending your art with your love of lucha libre?
JH: I feel like it’s always been there, but I made a luchador mask based on one of my characters back in 2012, “El Demonio Rojo,” when I had a signing/art exhibit in Mexico City with my friends at SaruKaku. That was the dopest thing ever to have my own mask. Then this past year getting a chance to put my own twist on some OG luchadores classic designs has been off the hook.
RM: You have formed an official collaboration partnership with Masked Republic that has seen the release of amazing officially licensed t-shirts for Dr. Wagner Jr., Juventud Guerrera and the 0 Miedo man himself, Pentagon Jr. How did the Masked Republic collaboration come about?
JH: Scraped Resin (Robert Rodriguez, not THAT Robert Rodriguez) actually masterminded us linking up for the La Bulla event in 2015, since then I’ve been chopping it up with the MR folks on a regular basis.
RM: After you created the new Dr. Wagner look for the t-shirt that’s available exclusively at LuchaShop.com. Wagner actually went and had a mask made based on the design. What were your thoughts the first time you saw that?
JH: The first time I saw a picture of Dr. Wagner Jr. rocking the mask I designed I was tripping out? How dope is that, when your design is gets repped by the OG’s in Mexico that’s as real as it gets. I was disappointed to see knock offs already on Ebay the same day though haha.
RM: After Wagner, you ended up creating a whole new look for CMLL’s Guerrero Maya Jr. and then most recently a new mask for Juventud Guerrera. What are your thoughts on becoming the “go to” guy for creating new looks that blend your unique style with the luchadores’ own?
JH: It’s gonna be dope to keep rocking designs and see how far we can take it. It’s been amazing to see Guerrero Maya jr. killing it in Mexico, and Japan rocking the new Urban Aztec style.
RM: You’re also known for your tattoo work. In fact, you’ve tattooed your Wagner mask design on fellow Masked Republic art collaborator Scraped Resin and created an original work for Juventud Guerrera. Has there been any other lucha/tattoo crossover work you’ve done or plan to do?
JH: I’ve got a few in the works for sure, real happy how those bad boys turned out, and had a blast tattooing them and chilling with those brothas at Amor Eterno. Shouts out to my boy Chamuco!
RM: As a lucha libre fan, are there other luchadores with whom you would like to collaborate?
JH: LA PARK, Kalisto, Rey Mysterio Jr, Pentagon Jr, Psicosis, Fenix, Mil Muertes, Ultimo Dragon!
I actually have an insane design ready for Prince Puma that will blow people’s minds haha. Yo, Ricochet, hit me up!
RM: We heard a rumor that your collaborations with Masked Republic involve more than just apparel. Is there anything you can tell us about what else you guys have marinating?
JH: I have a background in cartoons, games & toy design… we’ve been discussing attacking some of those areas together as well. I’ve been talking with them about designing some original luchador concepts/ gimmicks and getting an Urban Aztec stable rocking some live action!
RM: That all sounds awesome! What are the best ways for our readers to find you on the net and follow you on social media?
JH: Instagram: @Urbanaztec, Twitter: @Urbanaztec, Facebook: UrbanAztec, Portfolio: jessehernandez.net, Website: immortalstudios.net
RM: Oh that’s right! There’s that wrestling related animated pilot you did with Nick Cannon for MTV 2 on your website. RCF readers, it may not be lucha, but it’s worth a watch. Thanks for your time Jesse and we can’t wait to see what’s next for you in the lucha world!