Saturday, December 26, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Hope everyone can stop by. I know there's an important fundraiser for Claudia Mercado and Maritza Alvarez featuring La Santa Cecilia, but it would be great if you could stop by Casa 0101 and support the filmmaker and then check out the Muertos de la Guerra/War Dead exhibition. Or even just attend one of the later screenings for small donation of $7. Mil gracias de antemano. Laura Varela is a long-time friend, a fellow danzante who did ceremonia with us on the frontera between Matamoros and Brownsville. She will be leading the construction of an ofrenda for veterans at Brooklyn & Boyle to compliment the powerful, striking and moving work already on the wall. We will screen her film (which won't air on PBS until next year) at 7 pm at Casa 0101 then open Galeria Brooklyn & Boyle for a reception to honor Los Muertos de la Guerra. We will screen the film again on Friday at 5:30 pm, on Saturday at 6 pm then again one last time on Sunday at 7 pm. Her film is truly inspiring and Día de Los Muertos is a significant part of her narrative based on Chicano artists who went to Vietnam and made it back alive but not without psychic wounds that they deal with in a Circulo de Hombres with prayer and drumming.
Monday, August 24, 2009
If you can imagine what it feels like to watch the legendary Willy Herrón install a monumental 7' x 10' painting on the wall at your own space, then you get a sense for how last month unfolded. If meeting Joan Jett was like being in the company of rock stardom, opening a show with impassioned political work spanning three generations of Chicano and Mexicano artists that includes Herron's Munch-worthy painting of a tormented figure lifted from a photo of the actual Chicano Moratorium and celebrating my birthday with him and a slew of the city's best poets and art activists just a few days later was been like finding myself at home in a majestic galaxy that outshines Eta Carinae, long a contender for the Milkway's brightest sun. At this juncture, it is appropriate to credit Pete Galindo at the Federal Art Project, who debut the Herrón piece earlier this summer at a retrospective for the artist.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
If the ever-so-kind and generous Kevin Roderick over at LA Observed has followed the progress of Brooklyn & Boyle, I think I can ascribe it to a parallel sense of optimism and a general commitment to media both in and out of our respective communities. Roderick, an amazing journalist and scholar of everything LA, is a model and an anti-model simultaneously, and there's a part of me that would like to think he's genuinely pleased with me and the David-and-Goliath allegories inherent in what we're trying to do. Lil' bit upstart mag on paper, no less and without a website tilting at windmills, while the big time daily paper dwindles and founders. While the legion-like online community that assembles at Roderick's site daily is scattered nationwide and formally entrenched in all media matters having to do with LA (an unheralded feat he is to be commended for), over on this end we’re just as excited about reaching those with maybe less access to the web. I’m talking Metro riders who sit in front of the space where the magazine is assembled (also called Brooklyn & Boyle, BTW) every morning to catch a city bus to work. I’m talking Metro commuters who bus it to Union station from City Terrace and Red Line it to Hollywood where they staff restaurants and offices and medical centers. These are the readers we look for, the ones we want, and we’re thrilled at the possibility that the Gold Line will make transit for them more fluid, giving them a few extra minutes to read the latest issue and still get them to where they need to be more quickly. Though I'm not ruling out the possibility that we might eventually have an online presence, I'm pretty psyched at simply being out on paper with ink that stains your fingertips and a broad range of writing.
So, here we are feeling both goofy and giddy, at some kind of a midway point, on our sixth and—I dare say--finest issue yet, a newsprint tabloid created in the spirit of community. Organically, B & B has evolved into just the kind of locally-based arts journal I’ve imagined for nearly 10 years, a neighborhood voice which looks forward and inward and outward, all at the same time, while spotlighting the very real arts and culture treasure trove to be found on this side of the river. I find it hard not regard the project as the child I never had, a small saludo content to circulate in hand-to-hand exchanges and at bus stops throughout the still largely Latino neighborhoods it hopes to cover and serve as adroitly and honestly as possible.
Above all, it is an expression of gratitude, a thank you to la ciudad de Los Angeles, the world-class pueblo that took me in as a child and then again as a grown up. It is, for me, akin to that mythical place of herons, a homeland that continues to open magical doorways into a multi-layered, global mystery, a world where hipsters and Southsider cholos and norteño cowboys with glittering accordions slung over their backs rub shoulders with each other on a daily basis. A place where the fantastic media convergence that is LA Observed can nurture and root for a start up newsprint platform that hopes with plucky chutzpah that it will see another month and another edition.
Being indignant about gentrification and the hipsterization of our barrios is odds, perhaps, with a need to create a tentative peace and a lasting harmony, but it is a worthy exercise. It is a conversation that is far from over even if the progressive, liberal, tattooed and pierced peaceniks are tired of hearing it. Even though I’m no one to tell the new neighbors flooding in that they’re not wanted, I do feel a tinge of dissatisfaction when I see a transplant from outside of LA settling in Los Feliz then launching a website called Eastside Living Los Angeles, to cover the “fabled Eastside.” Sometimes, the hippest and coolest folks in the ‘hood are the ones with third-generation ties to the sacred lands where our ancestors grew corn and squash for centuries before the hemisphere was colonized. Please be mindful and respectful of that in your attempts to find and "break" the cool new spots. In some cases, these third-generation Angelenos wind up being the most worldly, navigating between the Getty and Skirball while doing business in downtown and heading home to unincorporated East LA county at the end of the day for te con miel de maguey with their parents.
From where I sit, on a maguey and cactus and palm and lemon tree-encrusted bluff overlooking Obregon Park, just blocks from Self-Help Graphics and under a new moon, I think of the Lakota brothers, warriors who often said hoka hey, meaning, roughly, "it is a good day to die," the implicit converse being equally true. "It is a good day to be alive." And while I may miss Warwick Ave. y la familia Perez in El Sereno, I bring it here, to these new digs on an Eastside cliffside that still feeds and nourishes in a way that the Gold Room in Echo park will never do again. Here atop the five-story drop, I must simply remember that I bring all of the Chicano barrios and suburbs I’ve ever inhabited along with me, glued to the luminous fibers stretching outward from the metaphorical ombligo, the belly-button that connects us to all to one another and finds itself reflected in the serenity of the lunar mirror, the face of our abuelita lending light to earth after the sun has set. And who cares if Castañeda merely imagined or made up the curanderos we have come to know and love as Don Juan and Don Genaro?
So yes, thank you, Rosaura Ramirez, for giving me the opportunity to inhabit a hilltop precipice, and thank you Dona Ofelia Esparza for carrying the light these long many years. Gracias por exponer su obra en la galeria y por haber traido tantos hijos e hijas al mundo. The talent and visionary grace you embody have transferred to your children, who have earned every right to ask hipsters and newcomers and even die-hard Chicano literalocos y literatontos like me, “Where you from?”
Welcome to Brooklyn & Boyle, not just an intersection but a state of Mayan…
Friday, June 12, 2009
Fridays suddenly trickle in under a June gloom cloud cover, even if our disposition is disproportionately sunny. But the afterglow and after burn like psychedelic tracers from a glorious dream are completely justified. I can start with yesterday's tranquil spin at goat tending within the Anabolic Monument where I decided that Chiquita's little dude should be officially christened "Deer Dancer." Chiquita is a sheep and deer hybrid who leads the small group of chivas who are helping bring nature back to the park many Angelinos used to know as the Cornfields. After herding goats and feeding the foul, I was scooped up by none other than Brandy Maya Healy, a new contributing writer at the magazine, a dancer and longtime City of LA Cultural Affairs department staff member--okay, okay... also Wayne Healy's kid--and her companion Joey Maramba who straps on an electric bass regularly as part a band called the Ninja Academy, fast forward to a small reception at Homeboy Industries where Luís Rodriguez shared some poems as part of the celebration honoring the launch of Homeboy Review, a literary journal now being published by Homeboy Press, a division of Homeboy Industries. It was great to finally meet Father G. live and in person. Next stop: Señor Fish, where ChicanArtista Leo Limón unveiled an incredible show of paintings and oil pastel drawings. We can never get enough of those wry and extremely witty River Catz, bro'! So then it's a Downtown Artwalk to The Hive Gallery where the aesthetic is goth-meets-graphic novel zine, laced with graffiti and Giant Robot-plus-tattoo and Heavy Metal (the adult illustrated fantasy magazine and not the musical genre, Random) imagery. Talk about sensory overload.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Still more MdM events to come, and it so happens that I'll post as I go. For the moment, I'm pleased that the Brooklyn & Boyle gallery space has hosted three exhibition thus far and is working on a fourth in honor of Earth Day in April. The East LA blogeros/as were here on Monday and we had a round of Purgatory Pizza. It was extremely cool to finally meet some of those on my blog roll in person. Random Hero was, of course, the star. This is partially due to the fact that he's been adopted by most of us viejos and viejas, and blogs from his iPhone in a manner befitting a true Bladerunner boy. I've warned him about growing up to to be completely "necio" like Gerry Meraz or Victoria Delgadillo, the two most sardonic of the Eastsider bloggers. Talk about dry wit and detached bemusement. It'll take me some time to upload links and an image or two... it has indeed been a minute or so since this semi-weekly spatter of notes and observations from El Sereno and the rest of NELA down to 4th and Boyle was kept current. Don't forget the Grand Opening at Tia Chucha's new location. You won't want to miss Ruben "Funkahuatl" Guevara jamming with former Doors drummer John Densmore.
I was fortunate to hear Funkahuatl get down on on the mic with sum poetree & bluez at a birthday soiree for Adolfo Guzman López, founding member of the Taco Shop Poets and a reporter at KPCC. A certain "clashero" described the event as a chicano/chilanga/chileno collision of culture. Couldn't have said it better me-self. Props to Willy Herron for hosting. Willy was joined by Sid Medina and Xiuy Velo for some new musical material and a few choice blasts from the now glittering punk past. Can't get over how cool Willy has ornamented his goth-rock pad. It's a veritable museum to not-too-over-the-top classical "churrigueresco" (let the art mavens, the phantom sightlookers and the cultural curators look that one up, que no, Will?) done up City Terrace style.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
At home, he nurses the muse, gets his hands dirty on a few guerrilla mural projects, including an anti-apartheid mural on a makeshift shanty on the west mall in the middle of the Univerity of Texas campus, which he paints alongside his brother-in-law Rolando Castro, a gifted young artist from Del Rio, Texas. The mural and shanty are torched within days by anonymous perpetrators. It is his first experience with politically motivated vandalism that seeks to whitewash the historical facts and erase the evidence of oppression. Perhaps the low-budget mural had made frat boys and racists uncomfortable enough to lash out.
Today, as an editor and a cultural curator who was finally brave enough to make his way westward to the creative homeland that first touched him with those monumental murals born in the fire of change and anEast LA renaissance, he has to ask himself, have things really changed that much? Fledgling graffiti artists are persecuted and often mistakenly profiled as gang-affiliated even though the art form has been validated at the highest echelons of internationally elite art institutions. A moratorium on new murals in Los Angeles is gridlocked in a process that city politicians, policy makers and bureaucrats seem unable to unravel. And finally, the children in neighborhoods that are consistently deprived of arts and humanities in a steadfast effort to deny them the very things that make them less likely to become statistics and vandals are no longer connected to their own cultural and artistic traditions. They are largely disassociated from the history and thus the significance of murals that spoke to the generation that came before.
They have no idea who Yreina Cervantes or Judith Hernandez or Judy Baca are or what SPARC (Social & Public Art Resource Center) was all about. They were never told or taught about Wayne Healy or Frank Romero or Carlos Almaraz or even Eloy Torrez, all artists who have lived or worked on the Eastside or in Downtown LA. Meanwhile, the iconic Anthony Quinn mural, a symbol of everything good and beautiful in Los Angeles, falls into disrepair. Almost makes one think there are those only too happy to see a legacy fade. All soapbox rants aside, the mural is LA. The city is not Hollywood, not some snooty invitation-only reception at the Getty that helps the landed or the moneyed gentry feel somehow superior. It lives, instead in it’s forgotten status as the mural capital of the world, a laurel that no longer applies.
Murals are an antidote, and art heals. There can be no other explanation. Consider this: millions are spent yearly on graffiti abatement while NOTHING is spent on mural programs that engage the young people who are crying out desperately to be noticed. Where do you think tagging and graffiti begin? They are emblematic symbols of fragile human identities, young souls who spray paint on walls because they have no other modes for self-expression. The solutions are there. The artists are still here. They are only too happy to revisit the neighborhoods where they first began transforming public spaces into outdoor galleries and museums. Our city needs them more than ever. Our children will die without them, rotting in jails or medicating themselves into oblivion because art is necessary. It is not a luxury or a privilege. Don’t you see? (Image above: El Corrido de Boyle Heights, mural at César Chavez and Soto by David Botello, Wayne Healy and George Yepes.)
Sunday, March 15, 2009
A Che Guevara t-shirt at nine, a copy of Black Elk Speaks at 12 and marches in protest of police brutality alongside a local chapter of the Brown Berets had solidified his ideas but the luminous beauty of the LA murals had already marked him forever in more important ways. They were beyond the ideological, beyond the politics of liberation and justice for the descendents of Mexicans in the U.S. Southwest. Skimming through copies of Con Safos, Regeneración, Avance and Xismearte magazines while assisting at a small space in Austin called the “Museo del Barrio” established the League of United Chicano Artists (LUChA), an arts non-profit), he was often lost in his own world, a universe colored in brilliant hues and peopled by a panorama envisioned by LA’s Los Streetscapers.
One might say he was steeped in art, art history and Chicano art history in particular long before the formal exposure in a college reader compiled by Dr. Jacinto Quirarte for a groundbreaking class with Dr. Ramon Favela, an instructor who introduced him to the Cubist work of Diego Rivera. Shortly after that pivotal visit to the City of Angels, he would enroll in Favela’s course. Similarly, he was destined to immerse himself in the learning even more, avidly devouring the lesson plan in Favela’s class before moving on to a Latin American Art History section with Dr. Jacquelyn Barnitz. The small, bird-like professor would bring him to the work of many others, successors to revered Mexican mural masters— “los tres grandes” as she liked to call them—who had triggered the LA Chicano mural movement still lingering in his imagination.
So at the moment, he’s tooling around the left coast in a BMW with Daniel Verches, a young political operative he’s met only once before in at a “Latinos in the Peace Movement” conference held in Denver. Danny, who prefers to go by Dan, is an aide to California Assemblyman Art Torres. While obviously the less strident of the two, Verches is, in fact, the Eastside native, even if his aspirations are more middle class than revolutionary, more Gucci and Armani than Mexica and Red Road brotherhood. He is patient and kind as he humors the art hungry activist kid from Austin.
From Placita Olvera he is whisked away to a Democratic Party presidential campaign function at a community center on Brooklyn Ave. in East LA where he is introduced to Mrs. Michael Dukakis and a smart young woman who also happens to be student body president at Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights. From there, the pair head first to Melrose and then toward Venice Beach. For days after his departure, the murals decorating walls from East LA to the Victor Clothing Company building downtown and a score ocean front rooming houses, surf shops and head shops glow incandescently in his head. (Image: Kent Twitchell, Bride and Groom, 1972, Victor Clothing Company, 242 South Broadway. North wall, latex and acrylic on masonry. 70'x70')
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
So we haven't been posting for a few months. Took the time to launch the REAL Eastside arts and culture magazine. And I don't say that lightly. Kind of interesting that New Angeles Monthly, who I was happy to write for, is now only going to publish quarterly. Say hello to Brooklyn & Boyle: Art & Life in Boyle Heights and Beyond, our humble effort to create a print space for good writing and community. Everyone knows by now that Tu Ciudad Los Angeles went belly up. The gravy train was good for awhile, but again, the business model was flawed. Not that mine isn't, but we're four issues into our modest monthly and the response has been overwhelming. Most of our support has come from small art galleries, studio spaces, local eateries, mom-and-pop businesses and artists or arts promotion professionals themselves. Who says EastSiders aren't proud of their progress and their cultural contributions? I'm happy to host the next blogero meeting at the gallery/artspace that came about as a result of a collaboration with Josefina Lopez (REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES), who is one of the most produced Chicana playwrights in the country and a now a formidable novelist in the Chica Lit scene. So here's a piece in the current issue, now that that the mag is catching it's stride. With four down and another in the hopper, B & B is a proud part of the emerging East 1st arts corridor as a new neighbor on a three block stretch that includes East Side Luv, Liliflor Open Studios, Casa 0101 theaterspace and the soon to be open arts hall where our very own Josefina López will be celebrating the publication of her book with a birthday party. Read the essay in several parts over the next few posts and try to make it by the community fundraiser for An Unfinished Dream, a documentary film in progress on students working their way through college next Thursday on the 19th. We're hosting the event and have invited Darren DeLeon, a Bay area poet and spoken word artist to throw down some palabra.