Michael Vasquez was born in 1983 in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2001, he moved to Miami to attend New World School of the Arts, where he graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2005. Upon graduating, Vasquez began showing with Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami, Florida.
In 2007, Fredric Snitzer Gallery mounted Vasquez’s first solo exhibition, “Family Jewels.” Drawn from his personal experience as an only child of a single parent mother, Vasquez explored the allure of a neighborhood street gang through the perspective of a boy growing up without a father figure. Later that same year, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri gave Vasquez his first solo museum exhibition, “Michael Vasquez: Authority Figures.” While in Kansas City, Vasquez delivered his first public lecture about his work to co-inside with the exhibition’s programing. He also spent time sharing his work and talking about his life experience with at risk youth at The Mattie Rhodes Center.
Continuing his exploration, Vasquez opened “How The Land Lies” in 2009 at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery. Vasquez presented the gang as an extended family, accompanied by it's own set of values that seemed to communicate and instill a level of masculinity and toughness beyond a mother's capability. Exploring the duality within these values and accompanying feelings, Vasquez presented mirroring aspects of pride and shame, affiliation and separation, respect and disrespect, etc, all while drawing out the histories, streetwise social codes, and mythic nature of a neighborhood street gang.
In 2010, Vasquez was invited to the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, Tennessee to take part in their John and Diane Marek Visiting Artist Lecture Series. There, Vasquez delivered multiple lectures about his work both privately in the classroom and publicly during the opening reception of his exhibition “Michael Vasquez: What Comes With The Territory.” Continuing his commitment to community involvement, while in Chattanooga Vasquez spent time with the mentally disabled at the AIM (Achievement Independence Motivation) Center. Michael Vasquez’s work was also shown internationally for the first time in 2010, when it was included in “Franks - Suss Collection” at the Saatchi Gallery in London, England.
In early 2012, Michael Vasquez presented his solo exhibition “Rites of Passage” at Fredric Snitzer Gallery. This exhibition marked an exciting expansion in Vasquez’s artistic approach. In an effort to more directly integrate his photographs—a retrospective of his career as an artist—Vasquez revisited, resized, and reassembled his images to fashion aggressive, large-scale, relief photo sculptures that narrated a neighborhood street gangʼs convergence. Within this, Vasquez highlighted the experiences of a teen undergoing a ritualistic initiation into the gang, or rite of passage, while in search of ideals of masculinity and community. In his book, “The Rites of Passage,” Arnold van Gennep defines a rite of passage as the “transitional phase between childhood and full inclusion into a tribe or social group.” Vasquezʼs unique interpretation of Gennepʼs three phases of the rite -- separation, transition, and reincorporation served as the connective premise of this exhibition.
Michael Vasquez’s work has also been included in numerous institutional and museum exhibitions such as his aforementioned solo shows at The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in 2007 and The University of Tennessee in Chattanooga in 2010 ; “Metro Pictures” at The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami in 2006; “Pivot Points Part 2: New Mythologies,” also at The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, and “GEN-X: Post Boomers and the New South,” Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, Alabama, both in 2008; “New Work Miami 2010,” at the Miami Art Museum in 2010; “Florida Contemporary 2011,” at the Naples Museum of Art in Naples, Florida; “Vanishing Points: Paint and Paintings from the Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection,” at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach, Florida; and "The Human Touch" at SMoCA in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Currently, Vasquez has seven works included in the exhibition "Portraiture Now: Staging the Self,” at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. The exhibition features six artists of Latin American decent whose work speaks to issues of culture and identity. Vasquez has given two museum lectures to co-inside with this exhibition, and was also honored with opportunity to serve as a guest speaker during the Smithsonian Latino Center’s Young Ambassadors Program, a week long series of lectures and workshops with some of the United States’ brightest high school students. “Portraiture Now : Staging the Self” will close at the National Portrait Gallery on April 12th, 2015, at which point it will travel to the Americas Society in New York City, and then to the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2016.
Later this year, Vasquez will mount a solo exhibition at Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design, housed in the historic Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. Simultaneously, he is also working towards a gallery solo exhibition he hopes to open Fall / Winter of 2015.