Posts from — July 2013
We Are You Project’s
A Late-Summer 2013 Hispano-Epiphany
Manifesting in Oakland’s Joyce Gordon Gallery
(For those who can’t be there, this tells the story …)
by Dr. José Rodeiro, Art Editor
(Images by Sacha Webley and/or Sergio Villamizar)
“Our history has been laced with the constant pull of having freedom, preserving freedom, losing it and getting it back. Like some Surrealistic poetic fiction, our lives swing as a pendulum from respect and praise to utter contempt; or from honoring Latinos’ and Latinas’ accomplishments to perceiving us as suspicious terrorists, or even worse “an immigration problem,” instead of human-beings! Unhappily, I believe that at this sad time, the pendulum is swinging toward extreme madness.”
— Marta Sanchez, Chicana Artist.
Art inspired by US Immigration Policy & “Latinization”
Between Friday, August 2 and Saturday, August 31, 2013, the Latino art and culture initiative known as the We Are You Project International (“WAYPI”) will present at the Joyce Gordon Gallery (406 14th Street, Oakland, 94612 (via 12th St. Bart Exit)) a series of pro-Hispanic art and culture events, revealing the current state of US Latinization.¹ At the same time, Oakland’s “10th Annual Summer Festival” (Art and Soul) is scheduled to take place. The conjunction of these two extraordinary art events has prompted acclaimed Irish art critic Tara Dervla to describe WAYPI’s “California Exhibition,” as “The world’s most important Latino/Latina transcultural art event of 2013.”
Art inspired by US Immigration Policy & Latinization
The “EXHIBITION” re-examines and reinterprets domestic perceptions regarding contemporary Hispanic-transcultural ascendency, trending toward a potential Latino majority in as little as a half century, depending upon three major variables: Latino birthrates persisting at current rates; a continuing decline in non-Latino birth-rates; and, a continuing steady influx of Latin American émigrés. This potential demographic change is accompanied by an anti-Latin backlash, including immigration policies that target Latinos, to wit, the “border-surge” proposal that would add more than 20,000 new US Border Patrol agents along Southern borders, doubling the current force. At the same time, it would institute a lengthier “waiting-period,” and add layers of bureaucratic red-tape. The result: To limit or eliminate any “genuine” clear-cut paths to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, some of whom have lived decades in “El Norte.” What’s more, the current US Congressional S.744 bill authorizes the costly construction of a higher, longer, “deadlier,” unattractive and ecologically disastrous border fence (“The Wall”).
Several artists exhibiting at Joyce Gordon Gallery directly address the brutality of the current “border surge;” e.g., the Ecuadorian-born WAYPI painter Hugo Xavier Bastidas’s masterful oil Study for “The Gift”(2009), imaginatively illustrates the human-consequence(s) of such ill-conceived government policies by depicting, in dark-sepia, a discarded teddy bear inadvertently dropped by a child on a patch of cactus in the inhospitable Sonora Desert. This work denotes the allegorical significance of that lost toy, which functions as an Amnesis metaphor (3b) signifying innumerable injustices Latino illegal émigrés face daily. A detailed iconological analysis of Bastidas’s penetrating image is available both in film and in prose within the We Are You Project’s Website: (http://www.weareyouproject.org/6201.html).
Artworks of this caliber stand as artistic and aesthetic antidotes to the current wave of anti-Latino action endeavoring to curb the swell of the Latino-population in the USA, and its concomitant Latinization.¹
For example, fresh from his exhibition at Wirydarz Gallery, Lublin, Poland, another world-class Ecuadorian artist, Pablo Caviedes, presents an epic “3-D” mixed-media painting titled On the Map (2013), which patently describes the fact that the United States is, at its core, a nation of immigrants, a fact by-and-large forgotten by 21st Century rightwing fanatics. Historically, from before the American Revolution, wave-after-wave of Immigrants built the wealth and the power of “this” nation, though not without African slave labor both north and south of the Mason Dixon line for several hundred years until 1863. In Caviedes’s opinion, the USA’s true national identity is that of an immigrant! For that reason, Caviedes uses his own sideways frontal portrait encrusted with peculiar Amerindian designs (utilizing strong tenebroso throughout the face) topographically placing his countenance in a 3-D manner upon the surface-map of the continental United States of America. In this, his image of himself proudly symbolizes all immigrants, while ingeniously reflecting the USA’s true identity: “an immigrant.”
In a similar conceptualization as Caviedes’s On the Map, Ricardo Fonseca (the Ibero-American Neo-NeoPop artist) designed a clever mixed media creation titled S.744, which ingeniously replicates the organic shape of the continental US-map. Fonseca’s S.744(1b) is an artistic-exploration of House bill S.744 (Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013), currently in the House of Representatives. Unhappily, the bill fails to address many of the inadequacies of the current immigration system, in many cases merely reinforcing or parroting what’s already in place. Fonseca’s masterful S.744 art work is an interactive “3-D” assemblage-installation, which adroitly provides viewers an opportunity to pick up the “Key to America” (to “The American Dream”), afforded by the S.744 bill.
The attached key permits viewers to cut-through the “red tape,” unlocking the chains of the Immigration & Nationalization Service’s labyrinthine bureaucracy. However, the key also falls short of reaching its optimal target in a manner reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s “What a Drip Operation” in The Large Glass, which ultimately fails to disrobe the bride. In addition, the chain around the USA, in a way, metaphorically suggests the current Tea Partyistas’ anti-foreigner idea (“ideal”) of a “walled-America” completely isolated from the world: a veritable ethno-racist fortress-America – cut-off and alone.
Another WAYPI artist caught in the throes of US-Latinization/US-Immigration Policy matrix is Colombian-American Sergio Villamizar, who like Caviedes is grappling with contemporary Latino identity. In his 2006, duende-filled(7) digital print piece titled, “Before and Happily Ever After,” Villamizar juxtaposes double frontal self-portrait mug-shots (or passport-photos), wherein he uncompromisingly confronts himself (his actual facial features), his “being,” depicting one self-portrait with swarthy complexion and a moustache, the other with bleached skin and no moustache. Since so much of what negatively confronts Latinos pertains to US-immigration policies, the ambivalent and humorous irony in Villamizar’s photographic self-portraits affords little distinction between his photos’ potential paradoxical uses as “portraits,” “mug-shots,” or “passport-photos.”
Mexican American artist Ana Laura Rivera’s highly perceptive lithograph titled Tlacuilo Link (2013) uses a representation of a seated-figure (wearing an American flag poncho) squatting down, patiently waiting on the floor. The image alludes to a late-16th Century Meso-Ameridian colonial codex titled The Boturini Codex, which was painted by an unknown Aztec artist about a dozen years after the Spanish conquest. In her image, Rivera designed the piece to expose the sinister world of 21st Century human trafficking across the US-Mexican border, involving devious and iniquitous “coyotes” (slang for untrustworthy “guides” hired to plot illicit ways to cross the Southwest border into the USA). “Coyotes” use the pretext of US entry to lead unsuspecting illegal immigrants into numerous criminal acts, i.e., the sex-trade, drug-smuggling, enslavement or other unlawful activities.
Awakening the Hispano-Zietgeist in Oakland (via Visual Art and Poetry:
The previously described initial group of five Ibero-American art-works (above) in addition to another twenty-seven images (described below) on display throughout August attest to an emerging Hispano-zeitgeist fostering a new US and global spirit insistent upon art and poetry. Cuban WAYPI artist Raul Villarreal in 2004 theoretically identified this as something radically new, dynamic, and inventive. Dubbed “Neo-Latino, (3a)” it is a philosophically “New-Hispanic” way of being that in 2005, the flamboyant Brazilian painter, poet, and filmmaker Duda Penteado perceptively characterized as a socio-cultural and transcultural concept, which he named “WE ARE YOU.” For more about the chronological history of the 2005 WAY Project’s founding by Duda Penteado, Mario Tapia and Dr. Carlos Hernandez, see “The We Are You International Traveling Show” (“WAY IT’S”) at http://bit.ly/15Xkqv5.
A public reception Friday, August 2, from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM will include an artists’ talk at 7:00, led by Lillian Hernandez (We Are You Project director), and including Villarreal; Bay Area Mexican-American painter-poet Gabriel Navar; Peruvian-born grandmaster Carlos Chavez; Cuban-American NEA Visual Artist Fellow, Dr. José Rodeiro; Mexican-Americans Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo and Efren Alvarez, as well as Oakland’s art trailblazer Joyce Gordon, and Eric Murphy, the eminent JGG curator.
Saturday, August 3rd starting at 2:00 PM, a WE ARE YOU Project poetry reading² is scheduled, featuring members of the We Are You Poetry Project, Gabriel Navar, Rodeiro, Jiménez Montelongo, and Bay Area poets Umbelina Guzman and Susannah Israel. The program was curated and edited by Alan Britt, editor-in-chief and chair of WAY’s Poetry Project, in concert with Sergio Villamizar (http://bit.ly/1ceQqPS ). See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmqlYn_0teQ .
“WAYPI” Neo-NeoExpressionism: The Emotive Heart of Latino Ascendency
Penteado is a dynamic, creative force whose extremely expressive works are universally acclaimed. In his new mixed media image titled All Faces – All Colors (2013), the artist reaffirms several inherent WAY Project tenets, specifically with regard to the changing ethnic make-up of the USA. Contemplating the state of America’s Latino population by mid-century, Penteado writes: “Our country is rapidly changing. As we approach the year 2050, our nation will be increasingly more diverse, and Latinos will be one of the forces driving this demographic change. According to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau population estimates, there are roughly 50.5 million Hispanics representing about 16 percent of the U.S. population. By 2050, demographers tell us that there will be no racial or ethnic majority among the general population of the United States, it is projected that the Latino population will double to 30 percent by 2050. Consequently, the role of Latinos in shaping our country’s political and economic climate is becoming more and more significant.”
WAYPI Neo-Neoexpressionism: The Emotive Heart of Latino Ascendancy
Along with Penteado, other WAYPI artists pursue emotive Neo-Neoexpressionist aesthetic-tendencies, e.g., Josephine Barreiro, José Acosta, Hugo Morales, Patricio Moreno Toro, Fernando Goldoni and Marta Sanchez. For example, reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sorrow, (an 1882 work by the visionary Dutch master, depicting his mistress Sien Hoornik pregnant), legendary Newark Ironbound Ibero-American Neo-Neoexpressionist painter Josephine Barreiro creates an eye-grabbing and powerful duende-filled (7) acrylic and mixed-media work titled Alone, which expressionistically emanates a gush of raw-emotion. Barreiro’s image conveys the exhaustion, frustration and alienation of Latinos facing socio-political repression and economic despair.
Another highly expressive WAYPI shamanic spiritual artist, who focuses on socio-cultural concerns, is Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo, a Northern California Chicana whose innovative acrylic and mixed media on wood image titled Reclaiming Autonomy synesthetically intuits spiritual voices that surface channeled from ancient Amerindian ancestors. These ancient ancestral voices are ceaselessly reverberating and consequently providing an intrinsic and eternal Quetzalcoatl derived “precious widsom,” which is today enlightening many Americans, as well as universally affording the possibility of enlightenment worldwide. Hence, Montelongo sees many ripe possibilities, as contemporary humanity emerges from the obligatory atavistic search for ancient wisdom; manifesting first as thoughts evolving into words, and second, thoughts transforming into praxis, suggesting the possibility of Political movement and social change.
Another artist attuned to indigenous shamanic culture is Puerto Rican-American artist Gerardo Castro whose 2010 oil-on-canvas/mixed-media triptych “I Miss You”/“Te Extraño” captures what immigrants have in common: homesickness and alienation. Castro’s triptych affirms his abiding faith and veneration of ancient indigenous divinities, relics, images, symbols, rituals, magic and myths, unifying the eternal brotherhood and sisterhood of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas.
Castro’s “I Miss You”/ “Te Extraño” is a visual poem, hungering for those missing faraway people that we yearn for, whether they are departed or in a distant “space” or “time.” Bolivian poet and art theorist, Dr. Nicomedes Suárez Araúz describes these artistic and creative confrontations with what is forgotten, as being Amnesis.(3b) Suarez argues that the vast lacuna of what is forgotten is the true source of artistic creative inspiration as well as the often concealed or overlooked modus operandi of all art. Castro’s work exposes a melancholic bittersweet nostalgia for lost objects, lost beings, and lost moments. Especially important to him are those human beings that have moved on to the other side or those that we have left behind in distant lands. Yet, for Castro, hope is ever-present: “Quien con la esperanza vive, alegre muere;” which translates: “He who lives with hope dies happy.”
Cuban visual-dynamo José Acosta is a gifted artist imbued with virtuoso talent for thick textural paint-applications. His art exudes a raw-surface passion within each inch of spectacular imagery. Acosta concurrently combines in his art two divergent and contradictory art historical styles: those of Marc Chagall and Vincent Van Gogh. In his 2013 acrylic on canvas work titled La Musica, Acosta creates, using his Dutch/Russian imaginative admixture of Van Gogh-Chagall, an image generating a terpsichorean jaleo reminiscent of several imaginative works within Joan Miro’s Dutch Interiors’ Series with their vibrant horror vacui activating the entire surface with dancing shapes, floating forms, and brightly colored abstract figural elements caught in uproarious-revelry, illustrating the festive elation that hip-shaking Salsa Music generates. This signifies, for Acosta, a major aesthetic influence upon his visual art. Hence, at full volume, he affirms that, “The energy in Caribbean music lifts my spirit and brings me great joy. It is crucial to understanding my art that viewers grasp that the things that I enjoy most about my Hispanic Heritage are Family, Friends, Music, as well as all the Arts and Cuban Food.”
21st Century Transcultural Latino Visual Art Confronting Ethno-Racism
“Where is the US-Congress’s extant legislative proposal for an enormous barbed-wire-topped fence running along the entire US-border with Canada?” This perhaps rhetorical question is asked and addressed by a host of artists included in the “California” show. The artists ask the question because for generations millions of ambitious and resourceful Canadians have entered the USA to work. Many are “undocumented,” and inexorably take jobs away from US-born Americans. WHY? Answering “why” preoccupies the work of Mexican-American WAYPI “poet-painter” Gabriel Navar. For instance, in Navar’s 2012 alienation-based diptych, derived from his WAY Poetry Project poem a walk with Carmen, the mostly slime-green section of the diptych is titled “app 4 reemergence“ (acrylic, pencils, ink & oil on board); while the other section of the joint- image is pinkish-red and titled “app 2 zap aliens“ (acrylic, pencils, ink & oil on paper).
Transcultural Latino Visual Art Confronting 21st Century Ethno-Racism
Navar’s diptych chronicles our Post-Industrial digital-information crazed “Dark Age”(4) (revealing our addiction and dependence concerning electronic technology for doing just about everything). Consequently, Navar crafts Hitchcockian milieus imbued with alienation, fear, and distrust . . . where cold and mindless technology dominates both circuitously or openly, preventing any possibility of truly living, feeling, and enjoying anything. In his work, we see humanity metamorphose into a mindless collection of nodes on a mind-numbing, lifeless electronic network. But also, of note, in Navar’s art, is the ubiquitous Twitter® logo… (the fat Blue Birdie).
Along with Navar, another artist consumed by the daily-struggle that confronts Latinos in 21st Century America; is the Dominican artist, Williams Coronado, whose mysterious and powerful duende-haunted (7) image The Forgotten Fight (ink, pencil, and marker on canvas) conveys a sense of struggle, which metaphorically and symbolically connotes the day-after-day battle to survive as well as feed their family, which many Latinos face; both in North America — as well as in their nations of origin. Another evocative piece in the show is that of Monica S. Camin; an Argentine-born painter, who furnishes a full-standing likeness of the first Argentine Pope: Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ, in her oil-on-canvas work: Pope Francis (2013). Camin’s penetrating portrait conveys a white ghostlike spirituality, which she assigns to this current Latin American leader of the global Roman Catholic Church; although the hem of his red-hued garment suggests he stands in a pool of blood. The image utilizes severe black-&-white tenebrism, as if to indicate that predominantly The Holy Father sees human existence as primarily being either good or evil, in “Black” & “White.”
The dehumanizing effects of ethno-racism permeate the work of Mexican-American artist, Efren Alvarez. In his work Manoseo (2013), watercolor and gouache, he examines the propaganda-arm of both US political parties, specifically investigating how both political parties address immigration reform. The term “manoseo” is a Castilian word, which means to provocatively touch someone without their permission. In Alvarez’s dramatic, satirical, and sardonic image, two oversexed men flirt with a chaste young girl. Alvarez explains, “Two perverse men (signifying Democrats and Republicans) try to seduce an innocent girl, who symbolizes or represents all Latin American illegal aliens.”
21st Century Global Popular Culture Caught in the Wake of WAYPI Neo-NeoPop Art
The portrayal of Latinos or Latinas as helpless victim is challenged by legendary Bay Area visual-genius Mel Ramos in his daring Neo-Baroque (“Bernini-esque”) Catwoman image. The Pop master alludes to the 1940s’ Bob Kane and Bill Finger DC Comic character “Selina Kyle” (allegedly an Irish-Hispanic young woman), portrayed as a powerful whip-carrying femme-fatale jewel-thief involved in a love-hate relationship with Batman. The key issue, for Ramos, is that this type of DC Comic character was nearly censored out of existence in 1954, when these images were deemed too erotic. Heroically, Ramos played a key (and gallant) role in helping to reinstate such subjects into the visual-lexicon of American Pop iconology, which after the 1960s’ sexual revolution finally allowed such characters as “Catwoman/Selina Kyle” to reemerge and reappear in a variety of Hollywood cattish portrayals (Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Ertha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Barry and Anne Hathaway). Ramos’s animated “can-do” portrait of “Selina Kyle” as “Catwoman” immortalizes a strong American Celto-Latina as an iconic pop symbol of authentic transcultural feminist liberation.
Art reflecting 21st Century Global Popular culture Caught in the wake of WAYPI Neo-Neopop Art
The Neo-NeoPop group within WAYPI includes Ramos, Ricardo Fonseca, Lisette Morel, Fernando Goldoni, Julio Nazario and Hugo Morales. Ecuadorian contemporary artist, Hugo W. Morales’s Neo-NeoPop digital print image “ ICEd” provides two black-&-white” double standing-portraits of ubiquitous Latino Pop superstar “Dora the Explorer” floating or caught within (or surrounded by) rectangular chunks of ice. This “ice” metaphor illustrates the constant postponement and deferment of all Latino socio-political, socio-cultural, and socio-economic concerns dominating today’s Ibero-American 21st Century political agenda. In urban slang, the term “ice’d” means to be ostracized or cut-out of something: “unable to join in.” The term (in urban slang) can also connote great wealth, to be iced is to be covered in diamonds or “bling.” Also, keep in mind, that ice is formed when water reaches the freezing-point of 32° Fahrenheit, and sadly (with Dora the Explorer on “Ice”) “around” 32% might very well indicate the sum total of Latino population growth in the USA by 2050 CE, which if true would make most of We Are You Project perfunctory. Morales’s whimsical and ironic capacity for joking-around springs from his deep-rooted hilarious propensity for comic Pop Art, i.e., Warhol’s 1961 Nancy images or the cartoon-inspired works of Archie Rand, Ronnie Cutrone, Juan Ugalde, and others. “Iconologically, the use of “ICE” in Morales’s “ICE’d” is a pun on “US Immigration & Customs Enforcement,” as Sergio Villamizar pointed out.
Ibero-American youths have been fighting and dying for the USA as soldiers and patriots since 1776 (6) — and perhaps even earlier. Today, during the “War on Terror,” Hispanics comprise a large percentage of the USA’s fighting forces. This point is driven home by Puerto Rican WAYPI artist, Julio Nazario in his 2013 mixed-media piece titled, “Vietnam Service;” an image symbolizing his personal narrative; as well as a broader narrative, pertaining to Latinos and Latinas serving in the U.S. Military. With art historical allusions to Pop Art masters like Billy Al Bengston and Robert Indiana, Nazario adds (unlike them) sublime emotion to his oeuvre. In Nazario’s monumental work, the green background represents the central highlands of Vietnam. The four bronze stars in the image of his Vietnam Service Medal represents the four principal combat-operations that the artist was directly involved in – — from 1967-68. This narrative is painfully illumined by his well-known Purple Heart piece titled “The Convoy in Lilacs” found within this WAY Project’s Webpage URL (http://www.weareyouproject.org/6201.html#!nazario-julio/c7hn) .
In strong accord (with both Morales’s and Nazario’s above-described Neo-NeoPop pieces) is a highly emotional flag-image by Uruguayan-born WAYPI artist Fernando Goldoni, who created an acrylic on canvas mixed media image titled “Where do we go from here?“ This vibrant red, white, and blue blurred and gestural Neo-Informalist depiction of “Old Glory” alludes to Jasper Johns’s mid-1950s Pop Art series of American flag paintings. This image’s style is simultaneously both Neo-Neoexpressionistic and Neo-NeoPop Art. However, Goldoni’s flag is far more emotional than any of Johns’s flags. On each of Goldoni’s stripes are written (or scratched with diverse writing-implements) perfect words (often in Spanish) for a Neo-NeoPop Art poem; a veritable Wittgensteinian word game: “VISA,” “stop no,” “System,” “Trespassing,” “oil petrol power,” “Shhh – NYC’s Best Kept Secret,” “Iran,” “Afghanistan,” “Iraq,” “Cuba,” “Panama,” “You will always be a foreigner” — “Laws lie to you,®” (or “Laws speak untruth”®).
Another innovative and conceptual WAYPI visual-dynamo is Dominican Neo-NeoPop artist, Lisette Morel. Her highly original piece titled “To:USA, Smooches Dominican Lips,” is an image belonging to her ongoing “Mapping Series.” Morel’s “To:USA, Smooches Dominican Lips” directly addresses issues involved in 21st Century Dominican-American Latinization.¹ The extremely animated image was created in 2013 using lipstick that was first placed on the artist’s lips and then repeatedly placed as kisses upon a NYC Subway Map. This mixed-media piece documents a personal shamanic creative event, a furtive ritual, or the detritus of a performance-piece, which presages the passage of time in that each viewer [(whether an immigrant or not)] confronts his/her own personal place in time. In The General Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein expounded the notion of “spacetime” by which time and space are deemed equivalent to each other. Hence, Morel’s patterns of kiss-marks serve to map: 1). Particular places, 2). Exact or precise locations, as well as 3). other Kripkean worlds.
Cuban-born WAYPI artist, Rosario D’Rivera’s mixed-media collage “Dolor De Patria,” 2013, is a dual painful and heartfelt Neo-NeoPop image, expressing the artist’s deep love for her homeland Cuba. The image ingeniously references innovative Pop Art push/pull compositions created by Pop pioneer Robert Rauschenberg; especially his early-1960’s Kennedy Series, involving JFK and RFK, reflecting Rauschenberg’s knack for subtle subliminal inadvertent “chance” allusions, e.g., unintentionally in the Kennedy Series evoking the notorious Cuban Missile Crisis, which almost ignited World War III. However, unlike Rauschenberg, little in D’Rivera’s “Dolor De Patria is left to chance, although like Rauschenberg as well as other 1950s and 1960s Pop masters, she is trying mightily (in her collage) to break the Duchampian distinction between “art” and “life,” by amalgamating (“collaging”) diverse images, things, words and ideas together into a furtive, yet, decipherable, coded messages, involving, i.e., a broken enormous red heart cracked through the center bleeding irate words; a defiant fist holding the Cuban flag; balseros adrift; photo-documentation of Cubans escaping Communism; angry words; images of her famous musical and artistic family; Miami’s “Freedom Tower,” and the cartoon bearded-face caricature of Cuba’s interminable totalitarian and criminal tyrant.
Puerto Rican-American ‘WAYPista,’ Jacqui Casale offers a seminal Neo-NeoPop work that sums-up the entire JGG show in a brilliant “all-encompassing” nutshell titled, “LATINO,” which cleverly says it all! Casale’s “LATINO” is comprised of six small modules, which when combined together form the word “Latino.” Assembled with two modules side-by-side, her work is composed of acrylic paint, text and collage, and indirectly alludes to the text-based Pop Art of Robert Indiana, e.g., his 1968 Numbers Series. Each letter module in the word “Latino” consists of dozens of intermingled words that start with one of these specific letters (“L,” “A,” “T,” “I,” “N,” and “O”) to express words that are commonly used by people to stereotypically define Hispanic ethnic qualities and socio-psychological determinant-characteristics most typically identified with a specific ethnic group. In Casale’s piece some defining stereotypical terms are pejorative, others are complimentary and positive. Her work is interesting in that it provides a wealth of sociological insight into how Latinos are perceived by both non-Latinos and Latinos themselves.
WAYPI Metaphorical Realism & the Hope of “Neo-Renaissance”
Despite the current wave of anti-Latinoism sweeping the country, Hispanics long to be considered 100% American. Nowhere is that more evident than in a fascinating transcultural portrait titled El Hijo del Destino/ The Child of Destiny (2013, oil on canvas) painted by Laura L. Cuevas. The artist candidly captures the essence of her son, Eduardo Enrique Whittington, which she describes as a fresh, “new,” and optimistic Walt Whitmanesque portrait of America that integrates an ethno-cultural inheritance comprised of Puerto Rican, Cuban, French Créole and British ancestry. Also, echoed in the image is the fact that her son entered this world on the 4th of July during a fireworks celebration, an activity filled with “rockets’ red glare; and the bombs bursting in air” marking America’s National Anthem: “The Star Spangled Banner,” hence, “Old Glory” also appears in Cuevas’s image.
WAYPI Metaphorical Realism & The Hope of Neo-Renaissance
Another growing tendency among WAYPI artists is “Metaphorical Realism,” which derives from several Latin American postmodern styles (i.e., Neo-Romanticism, Neo-Symbolism, Neo-Surrealism, Neo-Ultraism, Neo-Magic Realism, Neo-Superrealism as well as Amnesis Art), many of which Metaphorical Realism has refashioned into a unique and emblematic radical Postmodern “narrative” style that includes (in alphabetical order): Hugo X. Bastidas, Laura L. Cuevas, Olga Cruz, Gerardo Castro, Williams Coronado, Roberto Marquez, Gabriel Navar, Raphael Montanez Ortíz, Joe Pena, Jimmy Pena, Jesus Rivera, José Rodeiro, Raúl Villarreal and others.
For example, upon arriving in the US, Mexican-born master Roberto Marquez first dwelled in Arizona, eventually establishing himself in New York City’s Metropolitan Area, as well as spending considerable time in Australia. His elegant, imaginative, sensitive, and poetic paintings envision fantastic dream worlds replete with vivid symbolic images. Marquez’s encaustic and oil on wood piece titled, “The Map of Mexico” is a visionary and iconic image ingeniously depicting a pre-1848 map of Mexico, as it was prior to the Peace Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (near Mexico City), which ended the US War with Mexico (1846-1848), as well as establishing a new boundary-line between the United States and Mexico along the Rio Grande and (before 1853) the Gila River. The treaty permitted the United States’ purchase of over-525,000 square miles of Mexican territory for a mere $15,000,000 (dollars), thereby attaining Arizona, California, western Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah, and few hectares of Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. In full accord with Henry David Thoreau’s vehement opposition to President James K. Polk’s notion of “manifest destiny,” Marquez’s “The Map of Mexico” describes a “timeless” Mesoamerican child comprehending (or “grasping”) the Amnesis (3b) implications of this unfathomable and overwhelming historical and geographical “loss” that forever functions as an invariable gigantic “lost object” — lost within a vast universal collective-lacuna that has, in due course, inspired Latino artists from Diego Rivera to Marquez.
Perhaps WAYPI Metaphorical Realism (with its revolutionary return to human artisanal methods of creativity, and with its “renewed” emphasis on poetry as a constituent element in visual art) might be a means toward the long-awaited “Neo-Renaissance;” to end the current “Techno-Dark Age” that has crippled visual art and poetry for decades. WAYPI Metaphorical Realism could be an instrument in the revitalization art-as-“Art” (returning visual art to the visual — both the visceral (seeing) and visionary (seeing)) by ending, at long last, the cynical “anti-art” dogmatic academic “Neo-Dada Establishmentarianism,” which today reaches out to rule the art world.
In The New Criterion, art critic Barbara Rose once observed that by their inherent “Outsider” status, minority artists in the USA are generally insolated and protected from the aesthetic dogma of the “ever-conceptual” Anti-Art establishment. For this reason, Latino artist (as well as other minority artists) are free (without restraint) to pursue art as “Art.” They are even free to paint using brushes, using their eyes, painting from their heart, mind, soul, guts, etc., because as outsiders, they are free from the chains of the art industry. Latinos can, as a result, exert greater devotion, imagination, love, and passion to their art; consequently doing their art as if it mattered. Thus, Rose perceived in her article that they might be among the only contemporary artists actually doing valuable worthwhile art of any consequence in the USA. The implication of being an “Outsider” plays into the desire within WAYPI Metaphorical Realism to engender and foster a “New Renaissance,” an ambition best expressed by a prophecy hidden in the last lines of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem Ode to Walt Whitman, where a dark duende inspired these prophetic words:
I long for the strongest wind from the deepest night
to clear away flowers and words from the arch where you sleep,
while a black boy warns white gold mongerers
“At last, arrives the sovereign-reign of a maize-tassel!”
— Federico Garcia Lorca
As young children, two Cuban American “Metaphorical Realist” WAYPI artists, Raúl Villarreal and José Rodeiro admired the Proto-Postmodern painters: Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, and Mel Ramos. Hence, allusions to Magritte and Dali appear in Villarreal’s oil on canvas titled Ambos Mundos, which depicts a shimmering Neo-Romantic seascape that surrounds a perfectly centered floating picture of a solitary Cuban fishing boat (CHECK the central boat-detail from Villarreal’s ‘Ambos Mundos’). The boat also references Villarreal’s familial connection to Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea [(research the best-selling book Hemingway’s Cuban Son by Rene Villarreal and Raul Villarreal )]. As a whole, the image commemorates — as well as memorializes, the more than 90,000 Cubans who (from 1959 until today) died at sea on balsas (makeshift rafts) seeking “freedom,” “justice,” and asylum from the Castro Brothers’ dictatorship.
Like Villarreal, Salvador Dalí’s Persistence of Memory as well as Mel Ramos’s numerous reclining figures directly inspired Rodeiro’s oil-on-canvas portrait of Oshun, which is titled Agua Dulce (Oshun Asleep), 2013. This image asserts that contemporary Caribbean art and culture is inherently African art and culture. Moreover, this unique Neo-Negritude (Neo-Negrisme) and Neo-Tropicália is an Afro-Caribbean cultural imperative, which syncretisticly blends Yoruba’s elemental cosmology with an array of specific Roman Catholic saints. For example, the orisha Oshun is explicitly identified as being “Our Lady of Charity,” who is also known to Cubans as “Our Lady of El Cobre:” The Patron Saint of Cuba. Hence, many Cuban women invoke Oshun, as their personal divinity. Also, Oshun is celebrated as the goddess of sexuality, eroticism, and sensuality, which are three key or intrinsic or socio-regional qualities or pillars that best define the innate creative genius of Caribbean culture, especially in Cuba. A reality that Cuban master, Raul Villarreal always reassured, saying to Rodeiro, “Think of ‘Mother Africa;’ . . . consider ‘Mother Africa.’”
In this Cuban-Caribbean work, the viewer miraculously stands on the banks of the River Oshun, Nigeria, while three Cuban yellow butterflies (Phoebis Avellaneda) dance like Hesiod’s ancient graces: giving, receiving, and returning. Rodeiro depicts the goddess Oshun asleep, dreaming at nightfall under a slender crescent moon that converses with three fixed stars. In the distance is Oshun’s sacred Erin Ijesha Waterfall. Behind the goddess, strange abstract anonymous sculptures of Oshun and Shango scan the river; these existing 3-D works look like extraterrestrials: aliens (indirectly alluding to the general WAYPI immigration-related aesthetic). In the image, water flows all around Oshun and through her, as evening ascends; and everything golden-yellow is ascribed to her.
Another Metaphorical Realist depiction of a woman is Tex-Mex master, Joe Peña’s oil on panel “Elenora,” 2013, which is part of a series of images of immigrants and undocumented émigrés, which opens a window into the life and work of Mexican nomadic migrants that routinely pass through Texas heading to diverse destinations throughout “El Norte,” like Chicago, Denver, Dover (NJ), etc. The painting of “Elenora” depicts her as a brave and bold young woman, one moment before she crossed the New Mexico border into her “United States destiny” (which could be either “The American Dream” or American nightmare). In footnote #9 (below) is Joe Peña’s compelling account of what transpired.(9)
Another Puerto Rican-American artist disillusioned by both USA’s and several states’ official policies aimed at Latinos is Puerto Rican visual artist, Olga Cruz. In her image titled Mi Bella Vieques (My Beautiful Vieques), Cruz iconologically investigates historical events on Puerto Rico’s little sister Island, Vieques, where between 1941 and 2001, the US Navy and its Marine Corp unilaterally (without permission) used the tiny island’s southern peninsula as a massive firing range for naval gunnery target practice. Metaphorically, Cruz depicts a grief-stricken Boriquen boy crouching in a prenatal pose unable to “stand” nor “lie” nor “sit,” alluding to T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land’s famous line, which precisely defines the basic characteristic of all “wastelands” as being emotionally unwelcoming bleak places where: “. . . one can neither stand nor lie nor sit.”(8).
WAYPI’s Positive & Up-Beat Pro-Latino Optimism
Despite everything, Hispanic hope endures and prevails by means of a dark and ironic optimism evident in the art of five emotively expressive and imaginative WAYPI artists: Peruvian-born painter Carlos Chavez; Chilean-born artist Patricio Moreno Toro; Puerto-Rican book-artist, Maritza Davila; Chicana artist, Marta Sanchez, and Puerto-Rican-American artist Willie Baez. Virulent confidence is evident in Sanchez’s highly expressive 2011, oil and enamel on tin painting Freedom is a Global Dream , which expresses her abundant hope for the future, stating (in relationship to her Neo-Neoexpressionistic piece), “As a Chicana living in the 21-century, I have seen and felt my heart rise with pride for what we, as a global Latino community, have contributed to the USA and the entire world. Latinos are united not only as a community within the United States but, equally as part of the global society. Nevertheless, in the past few years, when the economy faltered, many Latinos felt deflated by cruel acts of discrimination and violence directed at them. I realistically try to walk-the-walk of perseverance and empathy for the sake of all those that continue to fight to keep their God-given rights and their inalienable freedoms, as they defiantly chant-the-chant, “Que si se puede!””
WAYPI's Positive & Up-Beat Pro-Latino Optimism
Paradoxically, Patricio Moreno Toro’s duende-filled (7) Claustrofobia Solemne (mixed-media on glass) examines the reality of being a Latin American immigrant/refugee attempting to live in the USA. Toro’s image occasions myriad feelings of being isolated, alienated; as well as describing claustrophobic sensation(s) of being caught, caged, displaced, or thrust (without warning) involuntarily into motion at an inexorable speed: a misfortune that converts any immigrant or refugee into a mere shadow of their former-self, forever becoming a little too dignified, or always “in character,” as “Zorro,” “Ricardo Montalbán,” “Rachel Welch’ or “Shakira,” as well as (like these alien-beings) blindly committed to forging ahead despite countless obstacles. All of this struggle exemplifies the reality of being a stranger in a strange-land, forever being forced to persevere, climb fences, break barriers, and finally, finally obtain some sort of validation. Via an expressive Neo-informalism, Toro’s Claustrofobia Solemne captures and demarcates Hispano-émigrés as Amnesis (3b) caged shadows of former-selves.
Puerto-Rican book-artist Maritza Davila’s accordion book structure is titled Bilingual (2011-2013) is a 15” tall work that opens-up to 46.” The work is a variable edition of two (only), which was created using screen-print, woodcut, as well as lithography collage. The piece iconologically reveals that Latinos are a transcultural ethnicity primarily held together by their utilization of Iberian languages (primarily Spanish and Portuguese, as well as other regional idiosyncratic Iberian tongues).
World famous Peruvian Neo-Surrealist WAYPI painter Carlos Fortunato Chavez Lopez (aka Carlos Chavez) offers an oil-on-canvas piece titled Mi Paijan querido (2012), which critic Millie Redunger has positively evaluated, stating, “Chavez employs a unique blend of forms and colors, in this Mi Paijan querido image, wherein we enter a strange world of mysterious places and beings enveloped in enigmatic possibilities that oblige sublime crystallization of the viewer’s attentive contemplation. Soon, by carefully observing the image, the forms coagulate into numerous tiny adobe houses reminiscent of Paijan, Peru, which is Carlos Chavez’s hometown (his “pueblo”), where he was born.” Like Chavez, Willie Báez also recalls, in his Joyce Gordon Gallery piece, childhood reveries. One of America’s most exhibited Puerto Rican-American artist, Báez is known for his personal and intimate images. For example, in his “Hijos de Borinquen,” an acrylic painting with collage elements on canvas, Báez connects dominant memories from his childhood in Manhattan’s East Village, regarding his father and mother and their Latino religious and cultural traditions, stating, “My mother had a “sacred alter” where she lit her candles to honor, venerate, and pray to the seven African powers (“las siete potencia“). My father would polish and tune-up his guitars, and then ardently serenade the family with Caribbean folksongs drawn from his long ago childhood in Puerto Rico.”
Joyce Gordon Gallery’s WAYPI “California Exhibition”
Like that melodic voice described by Willie Baez above, the WAY Project is a devoted socio-cultural institution that furnishes Latinos everywhere a lucid visual artistic and poetic “voice” affirming and proclaiming the power and beauty of Ibero-American art & culture. This vision and voice is precisely what the Joyce Gordon Gallery offers with the “CALIFORNIA EXHIBITION.” Ultimately, the We Are You Project mission is to inform, enlighten, stimulate, and create a dialogue about the many facets and realities of Latino history and contemporary identity. For more information, visit www.weareyouproject.org.
Joyce Gordon Gallery is a commercial fine art gallery located in the downtown district of Oakland, California. It exhibits art that reflects the social and cultural diversity of the Bay Area as well as international artists. The aim of the gallery is to respect the creative pursuits of individuals; and accordingly, seeks to make such creative work accessible to a broad audience. Joyce Gordon Gallery is located at 406 14th St (12th St. Bart Exit) Oakland, Ca. 94612. The Gallery hours: Wed – Fri 11am-5pm and Sat 1-5pm. For more information, contact: Gallery Curator: Eric Murphy – email@example.com Gallery: 510.465.8928.
1a. Latinization is a term invented by Dr. José Rodeiro in 1992 during the USA’s Columbus Quincentenary for an art exhibit and monogram organized by Helen Glazer (the Director of Goucher College’s Rosenberg Gallery, Baltimore, MD), which she titled “Approaching the Quincentenary: Latino Art 1982-1992.” The term “Latinization” was first used publicly on Monday, October 12, 1992, at Goucher College, during an art historical lecture by the author of this article, using the term “Latinization” to denote the inevitable growth and spread of Latino culture throughout the USA, including the expected 21st Century absorption of Latino culture by the US-mainstream (which shortly after 2070 CE will perhaps manifest and mark an unavoidable and “natural” cultural shift when due to population growth and other factors, the USA achieves feasibly perchance a 51% Latino majority) establishing within the USA a Latino (“Hispanic”) predominance, concerning, e.g., Latino values, art, music (dance), food and lifestyle.
1b. Fonseca’s S.744 is inspired by his current and personal experiences with US-immigration red-tape, e.g., the layers of countless Department of Homeland Security immigration forms that he and his family have had to complete, specifically pertaining to the art historical fact that Fonseca is sponsoring one of his family members in their pursuit of a Resident Alien Card. Also, the colors, are patriotic (red, white, and blue). In his image, the low-relief sculptural effect of the thick “3-D” red chain, padlock, and key, create a unique push/pull of subject and object, which can be considered “Neo-NeoPop” in temperament.
2. As the late-20th Century merged into the early 21st Century, the long established link existing between Visual Art and Poetry unfortunately eroded. However, in the early 20th Century, Picasso maintained close contact with a plethora of great writers, i.e., Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, Paul Eluard, Jean Cocteau, Hemingway, and others; as did Dalí with Lorca; furthermore, the Spanish painter Juan Gris roomed in Paris in 1916 with the Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro; likewise in Paris, Chilean visual artist Roberto Matta lived with Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda from 1938 to 1939, etc, etcetera. Sadly, during this new techno-driven “Dark Age,” the world is increasingly inundated with analphabets; for instance, few people under 50 years-of-age can actually read and comprehend James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico–philosophicus, or Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz’s Amnesis Art, because today, each art form is deemed separate, “specialized,” cut-off and remote from other art forms; hence, wretchedly and lugubriously, the natural innate kinship between poetry and painting is vanishing. Yet, the ancient Greek poet, Simonides of Ceos viewed painting as silent poetry and poetry as painting that speaks,” or as the Roman poet Horace agreed, “Ut pictura poesis — “As is painting so is poetry.”
3a. Neo-Latinoism: http://www.njcu.edu/assoc/neolatino/neolatino/history2.htm
3b. Suárez-Araúz, Nicomedes. Amnesis Art, New York City: Lascaux Publishers, 1988.
- The “Neo-Renaissance” aspect of the WE ARE YOU PROJECT: One of the most novel and innovative aspects of the WE ARE YOU Project is a desire (a longing for) a Neo-Renaissance. This obsession is marked by the WAY Project insistence on comparative-artistic collaboration and alliance with all the arts, which might be “secretly” perhaps an un-envisioned-path out of the current “Techno Dark-Age” marked by over-faith in machines, as the earlier 6th and 7th Century “Dark Age” likewise was fixated fanatically on faith in God (5). Yet, historically all Renaissances only occur when faith is humanistically directed primarily or mainly at humanity (“Mankind”), as 17th Century French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine declared: “God helps those that help themselves!” Or as the proto-Renaissance genius St. Francis of Assisi instructed, we must be the instruments of God on earth. Yet, at this moment, the current Techno Dark Age is still very-much alive! There is presently no Neo-Renaissance in sight!
- Dr. Jose Rodeiro’s views on The Dark Ages: http://old.ragazine.cc/2012/12/a-gift-of-art-history/
- During the American Revolution, Count Gálvez led Spaniards, Mexicans, Cajun-Creoles and Latinos against British forts (i.e., Manchac, Baton Rouge, Natchez, Mobile, and Pensacola), securing large tracks of the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Valley for the newborn infant USA.
- What is DUENDE? http://www.duendeart.org/#!home/mainPage
- Both T. S. Eliot and Olga Cruz reference Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival with its insightful definition of the wasteland as a “dead land” that surrounds the “fisher king’s” magic castle — wherein lies the Holy Grail, which adds another layer of sublime-meaning to Cruz’s watercolor Mi Bella Vieques; due to the Holy Grail’s resurrecting and invigorating power(s) to restore the land, which affirms Cruz’s farsighted faint hope for the Island of Vieques’s distant prospects as a vibrant plush-posh tourist destination. It is interesting that her image was created at the exact same time as director Bruce Robinson’s 2012 film The Rum Diary based on an early-1960’s novel by the great Hunter S. Thompson about white-collar criminal Yankee real-estate speculation on Vieques, during Eisenhower’s presidency.
- Joe Peña’s compelling account, states, “As with my previous work currently in the WAY project Website, I’ve been working on a series of paintings relating to my experience during the summers of my youth; wherein I would unload tile with Mexican immigrants on their way north. During these summers, I would often hear about the grueling treks led by coyote-guides, told by these émigrés friends in order to earn a better living for themselves and ultimately for their family members back home in Mexico. My immigrant portrait-series is a testament to their journeys with some images depicted directly, while others are depicted in a more dramatic fashion harkening back to German, Russian, and Chinese propaganda posters, as well as recruitment posters of the American Red Cross. “Elenora” is an example of the latter with the figure getting ready to cross the New Mexico border with nothing but her hopes and fears for a new and better life.”
Efren Alvarez’s “THE GAME of HOPE” (“El Juego de Esperanza”),
mixed-media 20’ x 15’ floor piece.
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July 28, 2013 Comments Off on WAYPI California Exhibition