Art is a vehicle for social change at the “LA Memo” exhibition | arts and culture

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At a time when their community had been caricatured and stereotyped while their voices were excluded from the mainstream narrative, Los Angeles-based Chicano artists throughout the 1970s and 1980s strove to examine aspects of popular culture and advanced alternative narratives regarding race, gender, sexuality. and citizenship.

The works of artists like Carlos Almaraz, Patssi Valdez, Teddy Sandoval, Dr. Judith F. Baca, and other first-generation Americans who would come of age during the booming media culture of the 1960s helped uplifting the city’s Chicano community and inspiring a wave of social movements. These works will be featured in the La Plaza de Cultura y Artes and AltaMed exhibition, “LA Memo: Chicana/o Art from 1972-1989,” which runs from Friday, March 18 through Sunday, August 14.

AltaMed houses some of the largest collections of Chicano art in the world.

Curated by Karen Crews Hendon of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and Rafael Barrientos Martínez, assistant curator at AltaMed, “LA Memo” brings together a diverse collection of works often considered cornerstones of Chicano art history. They explore how these artists adapted new modes of image-making and self-expression to shape a new genre of art that shared their stories through painting, film, television, magazines, newspapers , theater and music.

“For this show, I approached this theme with the premise of trying to broaden the dialogue about how we talk about Chicana and Chicano art and to really look at a period that was underserved by many scholarships. of studies, the 1970s and 80s”, Martínez explained.

Featuring over 50 works of art by over 30 artists, the “LA Memo” exhibit offers a solid cross section of AltaMed’s Chicano art collection to chart the journey of the Chicano art movement as a whole. while celebrating the individuality of each artist within it. .

“When you bring together a lot of these personalities and different artists and their visual representations in space, there’s a really big energy and there’s a lot of different unspoken conversations that happen from one job to the next,” said said Hendon.

“When you walk through space, you’re going to see relationships. You’re going to see similar references, but each artist is so unique in how they represent not only themselves, but also what they represent in their own community, their own neighborhood, and specifically their own experiences.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the member Chicanos growing up at that time did not see themselves adequately represented in the picture culture that surrounded them. Whether in newspapers or on television, they have seen caricatures and stereotypes of themselves in the media. According to Martínez, much of Chicano artwork during this time filled in the gaps in how the world portrayed them.

“These artists not only experiment with the representation of themselves, but represent their heritage, representing the spaces in which they live and their history,” explained Martínez. “They try to represent shared connectivity through shared ancestry.”

This concept of using heritage to unify is exemplified in artistic depictions of Aztlan, the mythical homeland of the Chicano people. In this vein, the Chicano art movement began to explore and convey the history of Southern California, not just as Mexican and indigenous lands.

Many contemporary artists who have been mentored by the visionaries featured in the “LA Memo” exhibition are still experimenting with this concept of identity and place. They analyze their place in the fabric of Los Angeles and how they evolved in the city but also how the city evolved around them.

“I’m very grateful to these artists, and I’m very grateful to the activists who have been with them,” Hendon said. “Many of these artists have become real social warriors in order to open the door to other people.”

Work produced by the Chicano art movement also speaks to the LGBTQ community and demonstrates the power of people coming together for a common cause, fighting evils such as racism and homophobia that have long been entrenched in many areas of society.

Both Martínez and Hendon said that artists need to bring communities together by connecting political and social awareness to works of art that people from all walks of life can connect to and understand individually, generating a unified awareness and conversation around issues. common social.

“Art and visual language is something we all have in common,” Hendon said. “It was our very first language before we started learning any type of language that could separate us, and so anyone can approach these works of art and their interpretation is not incorrect. They can have a very deep and personal conversation that goes unsaid with these artworks, and it doesn’t matter what part of the world you are from.

By starting an inner conversation and giving visitors the opportunity to have a reflective and transformative experience, Martínez and Hendon believe that visual art can further inform people’s perception of themselves and the world around them, by changing the way they see both the past and the present.

“The way history is written can be very myopic, and the wonderful thing about these artists, individuals and historians is that they are changing the way we see history and involving more inclusivity than ever before,” explained Hendon. “It’s wonderful to see so many voices coming out and talking about these issues, because if we don’t talk about them, then how can we create change? We all know that it only takes one person to make major changes and when people come together, just like the Chicano movement came together, we can change anything.

“THE Memo: Chicana/o Art from 1972 to 1989”

WHEN: from Friday March 18 to Sunday August 14; from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays

OR: LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, 501 N. Main Street, Los Angeles

COST: Free entrance

INFORMATION: lapca.org

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