Chicano art | Notes on Looking

New mural in Culver City for Siqueiros, Papel y Madera, Fabian Debora at Homeboy, Frida Kahlo está en Wonderland, Carolyn Castaño’s Narco Venus & Mi Familia

On a quiet Sunday morning two weeks ago, about 30 muralists got together to create a meaningful and beautifully designed mural in Culver City titled Siqueiros: La Voz de la Gente! as an homage to iconic Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros.  Lead muralist Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez, along with a team of artists which included Raul Gonzalez, Anna Siqueiros (great-grand niece of Siqueiros),  Willie Herrón and Ernesto de la Loza, creatively enhanced a calm, dull alley behind some apartment buildings near the art galleries.  Anna Siqueiros was able to secure the wall and these five main muralists collaborated and discussed ahead of time on how they would bring this mural to life.  It was a word-of-mouth event, and those lucky few who had heard about it got to witness LA history take place.  Thanks to United Painters and Public Artists (UPPA) and a donation from Chiquele Studios, this mural was able to be created.  It is this exact attitude of collaboration which is at the soul of La Voz de la Gente!; these muralists came together to paint and give each other support because they know a new chapter of muralism in LA is now beginning to happen. As I entered the alley and approached the wall, there were at least three scaffolds and many of the artists busily painting.  Some of the muralists that I saw in action included Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez, Anna Siqueiros, Carlos Callejo, Fabian “Spade” Debora, Cale, Joseph “Nuke” Montalvo, Blosm, Raúl “Chose” Gonzalez, Cesar “Slye” Hernandez, Duke and Vox.  Other artists who participated include: Kopye, Randy “Relic” Legaspi, Defer, Rock, Judo, Above, Luke, Chubs,...

Go Tell It on the Mountain, Papel Tejido, JC Muñoz Hernandez, East LA Photos, Paper Fashion, Ave 50 Chicanos & Brinco

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the studio of artist and curator Nery Gabriel Lemus.  Lemus, who was raised in Los Angeles by Guatemalan parents, combines fine art with social and political beliefs and bi-cultural issues.   Through his use of drawing, painting, installation and video, Lemus is able to discuss issues of stereotypes, immigration, poverty, domestic violence, and prejudice. Many of the works he shared with me revealed the division between African-Americans and Latinos, such as in his series Black is Brown and Brown is Beautiful which focuses on the prejudices Latinos have toward African Americans, and in his barber shop series Fallen Nature and the Two Cities, in which Lemus documents a stylized haircut shared between African Americans and Latinos. In his series Friction of Distance (which was shown at Steve Turner Gallery), Lemus juxtaposed and appropriated images to make the audience compare and contrast birds and humans as a way to challenge the issues of immigration. Fortunately you can check out Lemus’ current show, which he has curated at Charlie James Gallery.  But you have to hurry as it ends February 18th. Go Tell It on the Mountain appropriately opened during the weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as the show stems from the inspiration Lemus found in James Baldwin’s 1953 novel Go Tell It on the Mountain.  The novel reveals the double-sided role of the Christian church for African-Americans.  On one side, the church could be viewed as hypocritical and a vehicle to oppress people, whereas on the other side the church could be seen as a place for community and social awareness. ...

ALAC, Callejón Herrón, Saving our Murals in LA, and Remembering Ronald Lopez

After a couple of weeks of some really great moments and some not so great moments in the LA art scene, I’ve finally decided to take this opportunity to stop “looking” and start “telling”. Upon walking into Art Los Angeles Contemporary a couple of weeks ago, I luckily found Mark Verabioff performing his version of Little Boxes.  This song, originally written by Malvina Reynolds in the 60s about suburban tract housing, was a perfect way to describe the spectacle of the art fair “all made of ticky-tacky” and which “all look just the same”.  Verabioff walked on speakers attached to his shoes, while he performed in front of the Night Gallery’s “little box”.  As he chanted, he snorted and dropped his pages of lyrics to the floor.  The tone was perfectly set for me, as this was the beginning of my weekend of art fairs.  I have to thank Verabioff for this as my intention for coming was to discover new Latino galleries or Latino artists…Unfortunately I found too many white (literally) “little boxes” which “all look just the same”. HOWEVER, I did find one gallery from Mexico City, Yautepec Gallery, showing young, emerging Mexican and international artists, such as Ryan Perez, Ciler, Anibal Catalan, Misael Torres, Txema Novelo and Morgan Manduley. While at the fair, I was fortunately able to meet and talk to Morgan Manduley, who had driven up from San Diego.  Manduley’s father is Cuban and his mother is the daughter of a cowboy from Oklahoma.  In his work you can definitely see how his mixed background plays a role.  His paintings seem to have a...

X Ten Biennial, Homegirl Cafe, Artist Bailout, T-Shirt Revival and Avenue 50 Studio

Last Sunday afternoon, ten creative visionaries got up on stage as participants of X Ten Biennial, a collaboration between Big City Forum founder Leonardo Bravo and writer Jeremy Rosenberg.  This insightful event took place in the Atwater Kitchen portion of the Atwater Crossing complex.  The participants were a mix of artists, writers, designers, an architect and even a puppeteer, among others who each had ten minutes to present their top ten favorite artists and explain why. This Biennial gave the audience an opportunity to learn about who and what influences our local LA artists.  It also allowed for the art community to come together in a very inspiring, educational and fun way.  Before the presentations began, Jeremy and Leonardo made each member of the audience say their name, profession and why they were there.  By the time everyone had spoken, it became apparent that the group was quite an interesting bunch: artist, designers, teachers, writers, photographers, etc…and how everyone had something in common: the love for art, culture and knowledge.  Here are three artists whose work I admire and found their influences to be very important in better understanding their practice. Carolyn Castaño is an LA based artist whose work I saw and loved in LACMA’s Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement.  Her recent work deals with Narco Venus, which explores the role of women in the male-dominated culture of narco-trafficking.  Her list of influences included Sonia Delaunay’s use of geometric shapes; Chris Ofili; Lari Pittman; Henry Matisse’s depiction of women; Mickalene Thomas’ reclining ladies; Sonya Fe’s paintings of old-fashioned chicas; paintings by Aaron Douglas; French artists Pierre...

Identidad, Loteria, Geometria y the Mexican-American Generation

The third and final panel discussion for Outpost for Contemporary Art’s Sur: Biennial took place at the Standard Hotel in downtown LA, a central location that bridges the East and West sides.  Panel participants included Raul Balthazar, Jane Castillo, Elana Mann, Karla Diaz, Ichiro Irie, and was moderated by Tulsa Kinney, editor of Artillery magazine.  The artists that were chosen for the Biennial represent a vibrant, urban and multiethnic LA, and they attempted to discuss just that, cultural identity and labeling in the world of art.  Because I’m very interested in this topic, I  wish that the artists would have elaborated more on their specific works included in the biennial and perhaps how the works relate to their culture or cultural upbringing in this melting pot we live in. With all this in mind, I decided to drive East and check out the diverse and multifaceted nature of identity in the artwork found in this very complex city. Starting in East LA, I visited a new contemporary art gallery called The Beverly Project, which is an annex of ChimMaya Gallery and an experimental space exhibiting known and emerging artists.  Curated by William Moreno, Luis Delgado Qualtrough’s exhibition Loteria & Metaphors consists of a deck of cards, The Cosmological Loteria, a contemporary interpretation of Mexico’s popular game-of-chance.  The original images from Loteria are now iconic and part of Mexican popular culture.  As children, we learn riddles and rhymes such as “Con los cantos de sirena, no te vayas a marear: La Sirena!”; “¡Ah, qué borracho tan necio, ya no lo puedo aguantar!: El Borracho!”; “Al pasar por el panteón, me...

Muertos, Luchadores y Fowler Symposium

These last two weeks for me and many other Latinos have been about setting up ofrendas for Dia de los Muertos as a way of remembering and honoring the dead.  This Day (or rather week) has influenced many artists living in Los Angeles.  Day of the Dead celebrations at Self Help Graphics in Boyle Heights started in 1972 and since then has always brought together the Chicano community, including the artists of Asco and Los Four, to perform their traditions and make both cultural and artistic works. Revival at Self Help Graphics is curated this year by Patssi Valdez and will be up for another week.  ¡Ándale, cómprate una flaca!  It’s a great time to go to East LA to check out the art scene and SHG should definitely be one of the stops, as they have recently moved into their new location on 1st street. At Craig Krull Gallery in Bergamot Station, Gilbert “Magu” Lujan’s work was exhibited only for one week during the Day of the Dead festivities (Nov. 1-5).  His colorful paintings of chubby, ballooned out  lowriders, anthropomorphic animals, and Chicano locals encircled a central round table holding Magu’s ofrenda.  Magu passed away just a few months ago and it was nice to see this important Chicano artist being celebrated and remembered at this art gallery, especially next to another exhibit and ofrenda for his friend and colleague (also from the artist collective Los Four), Carlos Almaraz. Almaraz passed away in 1989, but his drawings, paintings and pastels still capture the street life of East Los.  My favorite are his car crash paintings.  They are expressionistic...

Notas de lo que veo

I feel honored to say that I was born on Whittier Blvd in 1974… the same year that Asco performed First Supper (After a Major Riot) on that same famous boulevard.  And here we are years later, in a city even more populated with Latinos celebrating Asco’s many performances as well as other Latino artists who have played a pivotal role in the LA art scene.  It’s amazing how PST has reminded everyone that Latinos have always been creating art.  But hasn’t Cheech Marin been saying this for a long time?   He definitely saw it many years ago and embraced it!  In 1972, Asco illegally tagged the outer walls of LACMA since Chicanos had not been included in an exhibition there.   Now they have legally tagged the inside.  This is the first retrospective that presents the wide-ranging work of this Chicano group, Harry Gamboa Jr., Gronk, Willie Herron, and Patssi Valdez, all from East Los. There is another comprehensive show called Mex/LA “Mexican” Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-1985 at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach.  This show is also a reminder that Mexicans and Chicanos had been making incredible work that not only shaped LA but also impacted other art scenes nationally.  Included in the show are two play lists selected and annotated by Ruben Funkahuatl Guevara, courtesy of the Moses Mora and Josh Kun collections.  (I want to also mention that this museum throws great openings!  If you love Latin music, either traditional or modern, high quality Latin food, and tequila… then you’ve got to come to the next one!) And if that’s not...