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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

AFTER THE GOLDRUSH: Reflections and Postcripts on the National Chicano Moratorium of August 29, 1970

curated by Vincent Ramos

Vincent Price Museum
East Los Angeles College
Small Gallery
September 16, 2011-December 16, 2011

                              Diego J. Garza (Silver Dollar (ruinas) 2011
On the Corner
by Sandra Vista

Vincent Ramos curated an exhibition at Vincent Price Museum in the fall of 2011 which spotlighted the National Chicano Moratorium of August 29, 1970 and the death of Mexican-American journalist, Ruben Salazar.  The Chicano Moratorium was an anti-war movement during the Vietnam War.  Ramos' artwork centers on remembering, and continually unfurling the mind, body and soul of the Vietnam War era.  Born in l973, Ramos' involvement with the Vietnam War began in the womb.  His uncle Forrest Lee Ramos, who was killed in Vietnam in l967, became part of his character building legacy.  This legacy also speaks to the Mexican-American families of Los Angeles county.  The After the Goldrush exhibition appropriately invited a group of "cross-generational" artists working in various mediums.  Some of the exhibiting artists like: Will Herron III, John Valadez, Ruben Guevara, and Judithe Hernandez, had first-hand experience with the Chicano Moratorium.

Diego J. Garza's Silver Dollar (ruinas) 2011, served as an essential metaphor of a historical moment influenced by war and the impaling force of grief on mankind.  In a photograph Garza's ruinas seemed monumental in scale.  However, in real life it occupied a small corner of the gallery.  As an abstraction of the tragedy that occurred at the Silver Dollar Cafe in East Los Angeles in l970, Garza gives us something tangible to remind us of the death of Ruben Salazar and all the other people who lived to tell the story of August 29, 1970.

Judithe Hernandez' painting-collage entitled Mekong Ollamalitzi 2011, integrates the Mexican and Vietnamese culture. The horses rustling in terror can almost be heard reverberating off the canvas.  At times they appear mechanical like "war horses" on the battlefield.  At other times, they seem to be harbingers of future bloodshed.  
 Ollamalitzi, an Aztec ball game, linked with Mekong, fuses the cultures and reminds the viewers of the overwhelming contribution of Mexican-American soldiers that served in Vietnam.  War is like a "ball game" where many are destined to lose.

Hernandez' painting was in the entrance of the gallery.  The design of the exhibition consisted of walls that surrounded the center of the gallery.  The viewers were gingerly compelled to walk along the walls observing the various works dedicated to the moratorium.  There was a vigil-like atmosphere expressed by the creative contribution of the artists.  Additionally, there was an extensive amount of photography that served as documentation and portraiture.  Isabel Avila L. Rodriquez included a photograph of a Brown Beret.  The prophetic figure is seated on a metal folding chair at an outdoor event.  He is prepared for the day's events holding two ceremonial wooden instruments decorated with Aztec symbols and his brown beret uniform. He establishes a mixture of his cultures-Mexican and American.  Ramos' referencing of Neil Young's song, After the Goldrush, can be understood in this photograph.  The Brown Beret has a timeless presence.  The past, present and future that has been defined in Young's song exists behind the soldier's sunglasses. He is saying: "I 'm here-don't forget me-there's more to be done."  Was he "... lying in a burnt out basement..."? Was he "...hoping for a replacement..."?  Did this Brown Beret experience the brutalities of the Vietnam War?

Young's After the Gold Rush, was released soon after the moratorium.  It intentionally became the soundtrack for this exhibition.  There were two Postcripts for the show in which there were artists' talks and performances.  I was privileged to be present on September 29, 2011 during the performance of Felicia Montes and the readings by Ruben Guevara.  I came in at the tail end of Felicia Montes' captivating performance but I was able to experience all of Guevara's poetry.  One of Guevara's readings focused on the 10th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium.  The poem written on August 29, 1980 entitled: Whittier Boulevard is Still Bleeding, was written as a tribute to Ruben Salazar and as a response to the closing of Whittier Boulevard to cruising.  Part of the poem goes as follows:

      August 29, 1970
Sirens singing, Sheriffs dancing
To a street song of death
They cut the tongue
They killed the will
They closed the boulevard
Silver Dollar shootout
LA Times journalist