Wonderful Small Scale Works Reveal the Multidimensional Latino Art Community
By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

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A recycled book with mixed media entitled Basking in the Land of Milk and Honey by Lisa Ramirez

MACLA’s 11th Annual Invitational Latino Art Auction occurs this May, with more than eighty solid works of art to be sold. The artists are Latino or the artists’ themes are related to the Latino experience. Some of the images play with ongoing iconic forms from the Latino lexicon. Some are very original explorations and personal interpretations of life as a Latino or in the Latino community. Others, such as Pilar Ag√ºero Esparza’s Hawk from Sisters and Lisa Ramirez’ Basking in the Land of Milk and Honey are lovely works of art that cannot necessarily be cast into any category or camp.

The show opened for the First Friday of May, and there is still plenty of time to see it. Besides that fact that it is an interesting survey of the current directions of well-known and local Latino artists, the work — most being small — is affordable!

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Katrina Forecast, Little Dead Riding Hood and 4 dvds by John J Leaños

There are a lot of great works that suit my taste for a spot on the wall! I liked Elizabeth Gomez’ Girl with Ice Cream Skirt, in which she plays with realism for the young girl and a childlike or adolescent drawing style for other elements in the drawing. Gomez plays with full palette against limited palette and restrained detail against all-out decoration with the inclusion of such childhood favorites as glitter. Alejandra Chaverri pointed me toward John J. Lea√±os’ Katrina Forecast, Little Dead Riding Hood & 4dvds. Not knowing his work, I had to investigate on the web. Interesting and strident stuff. Lea√±os works with artists who really know their political facts on the economics of being Latino and/or impoverished world-wide. His forms are very contemporary and carry a persuasive message.

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Antonio Castro’s El Mexicanidad

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Tradiciones by Arturo Garcia

Antonio Castro supports the auction every year. This year I did not recognize his work right away. The bright colors in the logos and product labels he appropriates to constitute El Mexicanidad are very pop and playful. Underlying the fun is serious critique. Right below, is Tradiciones by Arturo Garcia. Again, a colorful Day of the Dead skull can be taken at face value or seen as a singular ongoing symptom of the most sinister forces that pervade Mexico’s struggle for the rule of law, economic well-being and sane life. Javier Malo’s Ancestro IV, is a beautiful small relief sculpture that employs the Ik form (of a T) from preCortesian temples such as Palenque, along with other ornamental elements. One can imagine the wind passing through the Ik shaped windows and soft voices of the ancestors whispering.

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Gelbert Neri’s Una Palabra

The monotype offered by Carlos Cartagena, entitled Nuestra Fosa Comun, is a charming view of the ocean where a curious fish swims above a submarine. Gilbert Neri’s Una Palabra is a sculptural version of the speech glyph from the Maya. It is a small graceful courtly form of speech, very correct and respectful. It looks like marble but is made of resin and the cinders of a bilingual dictionary. Both artists seem to address the stress of cohabitation of different cultures in the same space.

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Triple Happiness by Jamex and Einar de la Torre

Alejando Oliva’s wonderful c-print Graphgirafa of a many-colored giraffe in a warehouse splattered with paint and grafitti is muy alegre. It reminded me of the section of old East Berlin where artists moved in, and with typical sass and opportunism homesteaded and revived a lot of old buildings, covering them with bold loose applications of paint and surrounding them with exuberant sculpture. The always irreverent Jamex and Einar de la Torre give us Triple Happiness. In their glass sculpture, no sacred cows can escape the burlesque of their multicultural border-culture critique. Triple happiness sounds like something out of a fortune cookie that promises health, wealth and other possibilites. Chubby grinning and grimacing ancestor faces of uncertain origins and Mesoamerican warriors guard a larder of the almighty dollar on this wall relief.

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Jaime Guerrero’s Skater

The brightly colored hand-blown glass Skater, by Jaime Guerrero, stands out as special in a mostly two-dimensional exhibition. The skater is a youthful skateboarder with long hair and baggy oversize clothes, simplified and almost cartoon-like feet and hands and loose body contours. He is somehow endearing because he looks so soft, but we know how hard glass is. Another boy — this time with an iguana on his head — is depicted in Eugene Rodriguez’ Boy Working in Puerto Vallarta. This linocut is a beautiful print that recalls Graciella Iturbide’s photograph of a Oaxacan woman with an iguana on her head. At the same time, those of us who have visited P.V. also recall many a boy offering to take our picture with the iguana that rides on his shoulders.

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Boy Working in Puerto Vallarta by Eugene Rodriguez

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Consuelo Underwood’s Tortilla Llorona

Consuelo Underwood’s Tortilla Llorona weaves together the legend of La Llorona, who cries at night and appears transient and ghostly as she searches for her children whom she herself has killed. In this case La Llorona is wrapped up in a nurturing cornhusk on a small woven mat. She is tied up in gold and silver threads. Again, the artist plays with the many ironies of Mexico’s relationship to its children within the literal family and the larger society.

Amongst all the inviting images there are many rich themes for the viewer to explore in this exhibition — a rewarding balance of form and content. Come into the gallery and ask the staff about the meaning of these works of art. Perhaps this is the perfect time for our socio-political awareness and knowledge of Latin American history to be piqued given issues on the “Latin American agenda” that must and probably will be addressed in the Obama administration’s first term.

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