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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chicano Dream-"Subversive-but in a good way..."

Chicano Dream
The Collection of Cheech Marin (l980-2010)
June 27-October 28, 2014

Musee d'Aquitaine
20 cours Pasteur
33000 Bordeaux

This summer in July, I was observing Los Angeles based artist John Valadez' social media postings about his mural project for the Musee D'Aquitaine in Bordeaux France.  Additionally, another Los Angeles artist, Margaret Garcia, was also posting images of her work from Bordeaux.  Both of these artists along with twenty-seven other "Chicano" artists are part of an exhibition in Bordeaux which consists of a partial collection of the famed American "Chicano" actor, Cheech Marin.  During our phone interview Marin humorously stated that he was the "Johnny Appleseed" of the Chicano art world.  Marin has been an avid collector of Chicano and Latino art for over thirty years.  Many of the artists, like Valadez, have become lasting friends with their patron.

I was intrigued by the images that were coming out of Bordeaux by the American "Chicano" artists.  I have been privileged to see many of these works of art in Los Angeles by participating artists like: Shizu Saldamando, Germs, Gronk, Diane Gamboa, Patssi Valdez, Sonia Romero and Frank Romero.
The paintings of the exhibition entitled "Chicano Dream" are a mirror of the work that has been part of the European landscape for over a hundred years.  I envisioned the "Neo-Fauves" coming to France all the way from American cities like Los Angeles.  These artists are like the Fauves, liberated, energized, and inspired by the warmth of the southern California sunlight.  Similar to the Fauves they apply formalism to their color palette partnering complementary colors throughout their paintings.  But most essential is the expressive and emotional nature of each piece of art.

Margaret Garcia speaks of the "subversive" element of art that is shared by the Chicano artists and the French.  Garcia says, "Viva la differance", the French welcome differences and that is one of the reasons why she felt they were invited.  "We were going home to where it was acclaimed and celebrated."  Relating to the Impessionists and the Fauves, Garcia said her work has been compared to Gaugin's.  She mentioned that Gaugin's mother was of Peruvian ancestry and that perhaps there was a Latino connection with the "high key palette" and the use of "arbitrary colors".  For Garcia "Chicano Dream" offered another "perspective outside the European realm, urban, political, socially concerned and with the consciousness of heritage." 

John Valadez a "wild beast" from Los Angeles was invited to paint a mural for the outside of the museum during the exhibition.  With only four and  a half weeks to finish this historic work of art, Valadez had two local artists (Florence Hery and Laurent Bastide) to assist him with the project.  Valadez' family has been in America for four generations.  He is an American of Mexican heritage.  As a child he was punished for speaking Spanish.  The term "Chicano" has had many definitions.  In my lifetime it has meant "wetback-illegal alien" and through the sixties it became a political term-a term of pride.  The word continues to evolve.  The same is true of the artist group named "The Fauves".  In the early 20th century, these artists were not eagerly invited to join the club.  Now they are a group that has become admired, emulated and influential.  Valadez stated: "...the thing about being Chicano is to take it on and be positive about it. We write, and paint and film the contradictions."  He continues to say: "...I like to put conflict in my work...the way people interact with each other...I like to tell stories...". The mural he painted (named "Convertible Opera" 20' x 14.8') had the theme of LA road rage and the LA beach mainstay of the convertible.  He said the convertible car provides room for the figures to stand up similar to a stage.  Also, there were additional images to be found in the clouds of the mural. 

These artists that I interviewed for this article have well defined interpretations of their art and their place in the world.  One important observation was that Marin, Garcia, and Valadez felt it was important to share their passion for art on a global scale.  All ethnic groups were welcome to express similarities and differences.   The "Chicano Dream" coming to France was as Garcia said: "we were coming home to where it was acclaimed and celebrated."

Artists exhibiting : Carlos Almaraz, Jari "Werc" Alvarez, Jesus Barraza, Chaz Bojorquez, David Botello, Melanie Cervantes, Alfredo de Batuc, Carlos Donjuan, Diane Gamboa, Margaret Garcia, Yolanda Gonzalez, Glugio Gronk Nicandro, Roberto Guiterrez, Wayne Alaniz Healy, Leo Limon, Albert Lopez, Jose Lozano, Gilbert "Magu" Lujan, Cesar Martinez, Frank Romero, Sonia Romero, 
Ricardo Ruiz, Shizu Saldamando, Eloy Torres, John Valadez, Patssi Valdez, Vincent Valdez, Geroge Yepes, Jaime Zacarias, alias GERMS..

Margaret Garcia and John Valadez (in front of Convertible Opera Mural)

Natasha Marin and Margaret Garcia at exhibition

Patssi Valdez installation ASCO

alternative views 

Jaime Zacarias (GERMS)

Mural assistant Laurent and son

Mural assistant Florence and daughter

Laurent and son

John Valadez