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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The People I Depict (Q&A)

When You Sleep: A Survey of Shizu Saldamando
Sept 10-Dec 7, 2013

Vincent Price Art Museum
East Los Angeles College
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez
Monterey Park, CA 9l754

Shizu Saldamando opening night
1. What would you like the art public to know about your work that maybe has been misunderstood or misinterpreted?
SS: I'd like people to know that the people I depict are friends or acquaintances that I have a very strong respect and love for.  I don't really like to depict strangers or people I don't know hence my hesitation about doing commission work.  I view the work as homage pieces to not only my friends but also to my own life and daily occurrences that I'd like to honor and share.  I've been criticized before for having my work look too finished or complete or not clean enough but I'm not trying to exert some over riding criticality about subjectivity.  These are personal works that are born out of my own selfish need to see myself and friends represented some how, if not in mass media, then perhaps in art. 
2. At the opening there were several people that had been portrayed in your paintings.  I saw some of your muses posing in front of their portraits which gave an added dimension of "reality" and referencing.  Also, as I was walking out of the museum, there was a group of your muses being photographed.  I thought of the Laguna Beach pageant of the masters.  What kind of exchange do you have with your models?  Is there a reciprocal declaration of individual differences and the importance of the individual? 
Like I said earlier I don't view them as "models".  The people I portray are my friends or people I party with or hang out with or who happen to be standing next to someone I was taking a picture of.  For instance the portrait of Joe with Gran Legacy happened because after we all went out we came back to my place and he passed out in that chair and I took a picture of him.  My friend Sandra (another "muse") said it was weird people were going up to her at the show asking her how she knew me as if she was some paid model or something.  I really just take a lot of pictures of my friends and sometimes I like to shoot and decide to paint or draw it.  Rarely do I ask a friend to model for me and even then when they ask what they should wear I tell them its really up to them and what they'd like to be drawn in.  For the VPAM show I asked Rafa Esparza if I could take his picture for a portrait because he is an ELAC alum and an amazing artist himself.  He mentioned to me earlier about how he saw me speak on a panel for the Barbara Carrasco retrospective at ELAC years ago when he was a student there and I thought it was a no brainer to do his portrait for the exhibition.  
3. There is a theme of the influence of Morrissey in you portraits.  My thoughts went to how styles are continually abstracted--punk rock began in America and was adopted by the British kids...and then has continued to Ping-Pong back and forth between continents.  On the London Tube in l978, there were kids with safety pins in their cheeks.  I was making a parallel between the Zoot Zooters of the l940's and how they were trying to be "American kids" with your portraits of young people adopting a particular style which is also an "American" phenomenon.  There is also the influence of the Beatniks, The Beat Generation of the l950's and early l960's.  Is there any credence to my interpretation?
I'm not sure what you mean by "Morrissey influence" but I have done a Morrissey portrait before and people really jumped on that and that I'm the Morrissey artist or something but really it's more about the kids who grew up in South East LA during the 80's and 90's who listened to KROQ when it was still decent and had a love for british pop and punk and Goth and all that stuff.  I think this was more about feeling like an outsider and reveling in it.  Pachuco culture, or as I always thought was never about trying to be American, but more about kids interpreting their own style from the streets and other urban communities and rejecting mainstream societal norms about how to dress, what music to listen to etc.... Of course eventually things get co-opted or in this case I'd argue the Zoot suiter's blatant rejection of trying to fit in to what "American kids" should look like became so radical and threatening to society at large, they were physically beaten and their clothes were torn off of them.  I know that I am really interested in the way people create their subcultures, scenes, fashion, music etc outside of corporate radio, high fashion etc.... The rejection, reinterpretation and recreation of independent fashion and music is something I try to capture through my friends. 
4. The modeling of the forms in your portraits, the direction of the light sources, the positioning of the model's eyes, also reminded me of the prosaic subjects of Vermeer and the Dutch Masters and Velasquez's portraits.  Can you discuss any art historical influences in your work?
As far as the light or whatever, I know those Dutch Masters were pretty good at subtlety and mundane domestic spaces.  As far as the masters go, I don't paint royalty, prostitutes or ballerinas unless my friends know something I don't.  I don't pay attention to capturing  any sort of light that because most of my portraits are done from really pixilated photo print outs that I took with my cheap camera at a dark club or room so I had to use a camera's flash.  If anything I'm influenced by more contemporary art.
5. Your personal family heritage influences your work.  How will your heritage continue to influence your work in the near future. (If it is possible to predict where your work will be directed.)
I think everyone's personal family heritage influences their work so I'm not sure how my personal family heritage will predict what type of work I do in the future nor anyone elese's.
Gerardo Posing 2008 (oil, glitter on plywood)



Monday, October 21, 2013

I Was Real Careful With It

John Valadez-Santa Ana Condition
Vincent Price Art Museum
September 21- December 7, 2013
East Los Angeles College
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez
Monterey Park, CA 91754

"I was real careful with it", Valadez expressed, when he was telling the story of his early drawing lifetime.  He said he remembered making a drawing of Fred Flintstone in grammar school.  As a third grader, most of his school mates could not believe he had made the drawing.  But even as a child, Valadez was already respecting his work by being "careful with it." He was a loner as a child and continues to stress the virtues of solitude as a formula for making art. 

Valadez is an esteemed artistic treasure for the people of East Los Angeles and Los Angeles County.  His current retrospective exhibition, traveling from The Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, hopefully expands his reputation throughout the United States as a true American realist artist.  

Valadez began his art career in the late sixties and early seventies in conjunction with the civil rights and anti-war movement.  He was part of the burgeoning Chicano Art coalition.  In terms of the history of the United States, Valadez said that we know the story of the migration from the east to the west, but not so much of from the south to the north.  Valadez, along with his artist colleagues, wanted to be the generation that told "our story" and" how we were trying to figure it out."  He continued to say: "...before we wanted to make Chicano we are Chicanos that make art...". While he focuses on Realism, Valadez is still telling the story of his community, "still about us" no matter where he shows his work.  

Valadez' likes to jump around with different subject matter that deals with figurative conflicts of urbanism, men, women, and drama.  He will continue to work on a theme, such as the car show theme, until he runs out of commentary.  But sometimes it can be years later that he has another idea and he will add it to a previous series.  Valadez feels that artists should respect their thoughts.  He likes to work intuitively and not question his impulses.  When he was younger he did not feel the need to over explain his process. He found that when he used to talk about his work the strain would prevent him from working for a few days. Now that he is older his energy level changes.  There are still some ideas that he wants to clear up before he begins new projects.

The exhibition contains paintings, photographs and pastel drawings.  Valadez is a master with pastel.  He likes to call it "dry paint".  In the pastel drawing entitled Robert and Liz "Liz's" jersey is an example of  how Valadez uses pastel like a weaver integrating colored thread.  Working from a photograph, he "goes beyond the photograph" layering marks with undercoats of pastel that he mixes with colors or lays them on top of each other.  He said the process took him about nine to ten years of trying to figure it out. One of the outcomes was learning how to use pastels as colored grounds.  The colored grounds were achieved by grinding down the pastels, adding water to them and creating a paste.  The wet ground pastels form a resin which sometimes is hard to draw over.  He pushes the pastel as far as he can and combines it with acrylic paint.  

Valadez' skills go beyond the gallery walls. He has been creating murals in Los Angeles county, Texas and Europe. His use of historical references and the integration of family, friends and people from his community are also seen in his murals.  His most current work is a mural in Long Beach on a wall of a condominium called Gallery 420.

Santa Ana Condition Exhibition has become a reunion of sorts for the various people that Valadez has photographed for the past thirty eight years. These include aunts, cousins, and grandchildren from  "Soto to Montebello". The people are an extension of his psyche and his emotional and physical framework.  He wants to make work that "transcends" and exemplifies "survival skills".

His advise to young artists is that it is a "tough road" and "if you're trying to get rich and famous don't become an artist. You have to focus on your work.  Stop listening to the all the voices and find a mission statement."

Previous interviewer: "Are you a Chicano Artist?"
Valadez: "I am if it bothers you."

The Car Show 2001 (76"x 96 1/4")

Robert & Liz

Long Beach Mural in progress

John Valadez & Sandra Vista at VPAM "artist walkthrough"10/12/13