Monday, August 24, 2009

Moratorium Revisited

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.

The opening of the "Chican@ Resistance & Revolution" exhibition was a powerful reminder of all that movimiento art and activism stood for and should continue to stand for. Maritza Alvarez, 13 Visions Productions cinematographer/photographer as well as member of the Mujerez de Maiz collective, stole the show for me with poetic black-and-white portraits depicting indigenous women, but references to the MacArthur Park melee where police used undue force on people in a stand-out painting by Wenceslao Quiroz harkened back to the 1970 and 1971 clashes between peaceful protesters and law enforcement agents and drew uncanny parallels..

In the process, we managed to whip out another issue of the paper with John Carlos de Luna's monochromatic image of Rubén Salazar on the cover. So the sharpest (and meatiest according to Random Hero) issue to date is currently filtering out into the East Side environs. The twin wedding day stories by Brandy Maya Healy Maramba and bass player Joey Maramba made the wait worthwhile. We closed the show on the Moratorium anniversary and were honored to have Carlos Montes and Elena Dominguez, both original LA-area Brown Berets, in the audience, after which Galería Brooklyn & Boyle was host to the filming of a new video for retro-cabaret, border-straddling lounge act Santos de Los Angeles. We were almost in overdrive at that point, but I still managed to slip into the Federal Art Project gallery for "Burn," a show of hauntingly sad, but still very disturbing images by Vincent Valdez, a young brother who wields a Vermeer-meets-Crumb paintbrush with deadly force. Valdez is, like me, a Tex-Mexile transplant who is just at home on LA's East Side as he is at San Anto's quintessential Bar America, the gateway to that city's South Side. Pete Galindo is on the leading edge of the burgeoning downtown LA art scene and a former SPARC staffer, so he knows Chicano art better than most. The show is the perfect allegory for the hottest side of the summer and the incendiary mountains that surrounded us with plumes of thick, black smoke for weeks as a result.

About our current exhibition, "Neo-Indigenismo," I can only say you don't know what you're missing. Curated in conjunction with the CASA 0101 production of Thy Kingdom Come, an ambitious new play set during the conquista, the show features new work by Aztlan Underground's Joe "Peps" Galarza, a striking Zapata portrait by John Carlos de Luna in his inimitable style, and of course, a piece titled "Martian Nopal" by maestro Sergio Hernández, who while at Con Safos magazine in the early '70s, published and illustrated raúlrsalinas' epic paean "Un Trip Through the Mind Jail," this while the vato everyone now calls the original Xicanindio poet was still doing prison time. I would be remiss of I didn't mention Arturo Urista, who has come out of a hiding to support Brooklyn & Boyle by showing his newest and most exciting work with us. It's also important to mention work by Francisco T. Norazagaray, Dolores González Haro, Sonji, Raul González from Mictlan Murals and his camarada Ricardo Estrada, the latter two artists being gifted neighborhood cats who believing in taking art to the streets and the people. And, of course, Maritza Alvarez, whose photos were so good, I had to show two of them again.

Tonight, we premier a new music video featuring bandleader leader Big Joe Hurt, directed by Victor Parra, yet another Tex-Mexile who seems more Angelino than otherwise. Come see the play at CASA 0101 and stay for the free live music and video presentation at Brooklyn & Boyle! (Image Above: "Burn" by Vincent Valdez)

Friday, August 7, 2009

La Santa Cecilia & Joan Jett

All in one night. That's right. At the risk of sounding ridiculously cliché, it doesn't get any better. Trip out on this... we start with a slow pan on the surprisingly well-attended Friday night opening for our 1st Annual Hot Summer Art Extravaganza at Brooklyn & Boyle where even Adrian Rivas of Gallery 727 finally made good on his threat to come visit. He managed to bring along Carolina Caycedo, the conceptual artist de la isla del encanto--who conducted the monumental barter art installation and happening at his place (which I kick myself for having missed). Adrian and Caro joined the cuates, Ernesto and Eduardo Espinoza who jointly head up the East L.A. Cine Sin Fin Chican@ Film Festival, and Conchita de Sousa and Fernando Cruz from Casa de Sousa as the late-comers who left a glowing energy lingering in their wake long after we locked the doors at nearly midnight. I was particularly proud to exhibit a piece by the ladies from Mi Vida. The corazón de papel maché over a beautiful serape background is a steal at $75 but I'm making it $65, so I can buy it for myself.

Anybueys, we all hung out at East Side Luv and helped Danell celebrate her cumple in style. We also met the Colombian Napolean Dynamite. No lie. He had brown hair instead of red, was a foot shorter, but had the glasses AND the dance moves. Noelle, it turns out (sshhh, don't say anything), has a book project she's working on, and I'm utterly intrigued at the idea. Closed the joint down and I turned into the proverbial pumpkin. Had to save some steam for Cal Plaza where I trundled along to with writer and former interim Self Help Director Rose Ramírez as well the baddest, toughest, coolest gallery and magazine collaborator/crimie (crime partner in the parlance of my lil' banger foo's from Eastlake) in town, Christy Ramírez. At Cal Plaza, I did the hot-foot for our usual camp-site with Fabiola Torres, Reina Prado, and my life-long cuate-carnal Francisco Hernández, AKA Smokin' Mirrors man-about-town. Francisco, who's always busy on a film or a tour with any number of biz heavies, cuts me off near the facilities after a glittering set by La Santa Cecilia, a band fronted by Marisoul Hernández, who must have pipes made of platinum because her voice is a shimmering echo of love and heartache and, yes, soul. Think Mercedes Sosa and Astrid Hadad and Lila Downs all rolled into one sweet melody over tango and cumbia and too many other post-millenial LA hybrid sounds to list.

We were about forty minutes into the Mentiritas set. Wil-Dog was going full-tilt and CAVA (Cavaliscious when she lends her vocals to the atomic rancholo party band project) had already been escorted in on a litter fit for a queen after which she promptly dismissed her subjects with a haughty wave. "Let's go the wrap party for THE RUNAWAYS," Francisco says. "Where?" I ask. "El Cid, open bar and a spread. I have to say high to Joan Jett," he explains almost nonchalantly, like no big deal. Of course my jaw drops. He also mentions the need to drop by the Los Angeles Theater Center for a party with Very Be Careful, but I'm already walking alongside him headed to the car. El Cid is hopping with the cast and crew. We catch Ms. Jett on her way out. She's on a flight to a couple of stadium shows in Japan, no surprise. I'm too dumbstruck to tell her she was my first and only
vinyl record crush. Period. She looks exactly the same, hasn't changed. All cut, black-and-white Chucks, eye-liner curled up slightly at the ends, spiked bangs hanging low over her forehead. Awww, man! And I'm speechless... something which almost never happens. I was "scirrred" of rock royalty for the first time in my life.

After that, we cruise downtown and it was all incredibly cool. Said hi teatrero maestro José Luís Valenzuela. When we finally rolled into Trópico de Nopal for a last call at the "official" Mentiritas after-party, I couldn't have been happier. And that sums up another unexpected evening in Los. Sometimes it makes no sense to make plans... so that said, I've spent the week in delerium. Played hooky on Monday and went for a swim. Watched the goats on Tuesday at Farmlab and here we are again, Friday, juggling a blog, the chivos, a sale of a two-piece work by Steven Amado (Chatismo), the beginnings of a poem  that I will read tomorrow at Self Help Graphics for the "16 years later, Femicides in Ciudad Juarez" event being organized by Rigo Maldonado and Victoria Delgadillo. Please come show your support for an important issue in our community. Todos somos las víctimas de los femicidios en Juaritos. The situation there has not changed.