ArtCenter Alum Jorge Verdin (Clorofila) Dies at 59

Artist, Latin Grammy-nominated Pasadena resident dies after extended illness.

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Graphic artist and musician Jorge Verdin. Photo: LinkedIn

On April 16th, the world of Nortec, the vibrant musical fusion of norteño and electronica (tech) spawned in Tijuana, lost its foremost pioneer, Pasadena resident and ArtCenter College of Design graduate Jorge Verdin (@elsr.verdin).

Verdin died following an extended illness. He was 59 years old.

Verdin was a gifted graphic designer and visual artist as well as a musical innovator who challenged expectations and blurred boundaries in every medium he touched, collecting nominations for two Latin Grammy awards along the way.

He was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Tijuana, where local radio station 91X exposed him to diverse artists and bands, including New Order, Cocteau Twins, Motorhead, Brian Eno and various points in between. Verdin returned to study graphic design at ArtCenter and, within a couple of years, was producing music professionally.

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A notebook drawing by Jorge Verdin. Photo: Instagram

Surprising to some, Verdin identified primarily as a graphic designer with a parallel career in music. His work first gained notice with Nortec Collective, followed by a Nortec solo effort called Clorofila (Clorofila is also the bright-green wheat grass juice popular in Mexico for its alkaline content and promised health benefits); then another electronic and ambient project called Tremolo Audio, and more recently in collaboration with José Luis Martin, a Mexico City-based visual arts instructor, VJ and musician, he created the atmospheric, post-rock album Observador in 2020.

Verdin’s musical approach was defined as much by a playful lack of pretense as by restless technical innovation. Defying purism, he sampled omnivorously from cassette tapes, a nostalgic medium he loved, CDs, 45s, LPs, and digital sources. He particularly loved experimenting with low-quality, well-worn cassettes, creating nuanced recordings that he called “otherworldly.

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A notebook drawing by Jorge Verdin. Photo: Instagram

Verdin’s art documented the life of Tijuanenses as TJ has morphed in recent decades, smoky, sparkling, raunchy, dazzling, summoning disparate elements: the lurk and lure of narcotics, the way the morning light hits el Cerro Colorado, a dusky-pink hill rising in the east above the growing city, the idioms of recent emigrés and the lilting patois of young Haitian families who now make their way past the tacky bars and souvenir stands, murals, maquiladoras and mercados. His album Corridos Urbanos, composed primarily on bass and guitar, may be the most accessible to first-time listeners, tethering trance-y, synthetic dance beats to elements of Banda music, along with the traditional frontera stomp of tuba, clarinet, truly-Tijuana brass, and accordion.

Further expanding his range and prestige, in 2019, Verdin collaborated with Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz on a chamber music piece for a string quartet and three percussionists called “Pico-Bite-Beat,” commissioned by Gustavo Dudamel, conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Verdin contributed to two of the four movements of the piece, with electronic rhythm tracks and soundscapes sourced from field recordings of traditional Oaxacan ceremonies and food trucks in East LA.

He also created music and sound design for large-scale theatrical art installations with Teatro Linea de Sombra, which have been staged all over the world.

Perspectives from admirers

Verdin’s loss was felt across multiple borders. On Instagram, award-winning music journalist and host of the podcast/TV show “Totally 80s” Lyndsey Parker (@lyndseyparker) posted, “I am beyond devastated…He was an extremely talented musician as well as graphic artist. I recall when #NortecCollective started. He gave me a burned CD that I still have and a cool collectible zine to go with it. How proud I was when they started to take off, and how nervous but excited Jorge was to play the Hollywood Bowl… Goodbye to one of the coolest dudes I ever knew..”

At press time, we heard from Pasadena resident and designer of books for corporate clients, Stefan G. Bucher, who said, “Jorge Verdin was a true artist—a clear-eyed observer of the world around him, a mordant commentator, and always a seeker of beauty! I knew him first as an excellent graphic designer, then as a brilliant musician, and loved him as an intellectual adventurer of impeccable taste and wit. He took in the world, changed it in just the ways it needed changing, and gave it back to us more beautiful than before. He was a good friend to those who knew and loved him, and through his work, he was a friend to us all.”

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/0pa3

Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

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