WBGO Gallery Exhibition

Return of the Native Son

Works by Jose Manuel Cruz

On display through October 15, 2016

Join us for a free gallery reception on Thursday, September 8, 2016, 6PM - 8PM at the WBGO Art Gallery. View the exhibit and enjoy live entertainment.

Eventbrite - WBGO Gallery Reception for Jose Manuel Cruz

abstract swirl of sand

About the Artist

Jose Manuel Cruz was born on April 13, 1966 in Newark, New Jersey. His parents are Armando Cruz, a proud Puerto Rican and Gladys Cruz, a proud Columbian. He has five siblings. Sister Barbara and brothers, Jesus, James, David and Fernando. He is married to Dawn Lyerly-Cruz and they have two beautiful and dynamic daughters, Ariana who is twenty and Alana who is sixteen. He attended the Newark Public School System. During his elementary school years he attended Burnet Street School and the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts Saturday art Program for four years. In 1984 he graduated from Arts High School with honors in Art. In 1996 he graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Fine Arts from New Jersey City University.

He has been an Art educator since 1996 in New Jersey and now teaching and residing in North Carolina where he continues to exhibit and get involve artistically in community events and functions. For 38 years he has exhibited his works. It started at the Newark Museum’s Elementary Art Exhibits to Galleries within the NJ/NY area and now in North Carolina. His influences as an artist is attributed to others which includes Professor Bernard, Eleta Caldwell, Russell Murray, Ben Jones, Mr. K, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Miro, Caldor, Diego Rivera, Gustav Klimt, and many others.


Artist's Statement

My work is exotically colorful. I try to lay down my experiences growing up Newark as a Latino from the Puerto Rican culture and the Colombian culture. I used many mediums in my work to express the variety of textures that live within and those in my life. I want the view to question why things are the way they see them and to be pulled into a surface of the canvas and follow the colorful movement and the power in line and value. I want each viewer to leave with a desire to come back and see something different every time. My work is a reflection of my heart, soul, and experiences.

Description of Work

Portraits of my People Series

In this series of six, I wanted to use the power of the oils and airbrush to bring out the muscles that the color has on the simple complexity of the portrait.

Shades of Women in Color Series

In this series of three, I wanted to use the soft graphite drawings to juxtapose the powerful use of color and brush strokes and bring them both together with a simple, colorful pattern.

Urban Bricks Series

In this series of 11, I bring to you the essence of spray-paint on canvas and the use of enamel markers, which were the key graffiti combination for me as a native from Newark (Brick City).


The WBGO Gallery, located in the heart of Downtown Newark in the headquarters of WBGO. Exhibits highlight local and national artists covering themes that often reference music or features work by visual artists who are also renowned musicians. Curator Dorthaan Kirk (Newark’s “First Lady of Jazz”) chooses exhibits that cross cultural lines and honor Newark culture, and legacies including Hispanic heritage, Black history and women’s history.


WBGO is a wheelchair accessible facility.


Special thanks to:
Palm Bay International (Fine Wine & Spirits)
Harlem Brewing Company
Jersey Artisan Distilling (Busted Barrel Rum)