Some call it Latino art. Some call it Chicano art. Others simply call it art. But regardless of how it is referenced, the creators of this work have a common thread: they are all artists. And they are no different than Picasso, Van Gogh or Michelangelo, no matter the color palette or tool, for they all derive their inspiration from a soulful connection and bring to life what words cannot.
So when developing the idea for the exhibition in the Millard Sheets Gallery titled Latino Artists of Los Angeles-Defining Self & Inspiration for this year’s L.A. County Fair, curator Cris Martinez sought to show how a group of 30 artists, frequently labeled as Latino artists, are truly part of the universal art world.
“All art has its roots in the maker’s cultural upbringing, including religious beliefs and political views, no matter what corner of the world they are born,” Martinez said. “With the growing Latino population in California there are more emerging artists from this base who want to be recognized as part of the mainstream yet have their style be considered a legitimate art form.”
The diversity of the art displayed, which includes sculpture, paintings, etchings, lithographs, videos and ceramics to name a few, is comparable to the broad range of styles that vary from humorous to serious in approach. Whether one is called a Latino artist or a Chicano artist, it is left up to the creator of the work.
Sergio Rebia, whose oil painting titled “Y Que” was selected to be used in advertisement and promotion of the 125-piece showcase, refers to himself as a Chicano artist. Though California born, he incorporates his Latino roots and faith into his work, remarking that his style and realism is inspired by Spanish artist Diego Velazquez and the inner message reflects similar emanations of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.
“Y Que” is an oil painting of a Latino woman, or Latina, who appears to have a strong assertive attitude according to Martinez. “She is someone to listen to and take notice of, and emotes the perfect feel and message for this exhibition.”
Perhaps Aparcio Chamberlin best represents the mindset of the lady portrayed in “Y
Que.” Chamberlin, who views herself as a Chicana artist, paints and creates large scale altars greatly influenced by the 1970s civil rights movement, anti-war sentiment and calls for non-violence. They serve somewhat as memorials for victims of gun violence, domestic abuse and other crimes on people. “My goal as a Chicana artist is to inspire, educate and thus transform the viewer.”
Chamberlin’s work is a spin off from the origins of Chicano art, which traces its beginnings to the 1960s and was primarily a straightforward way for people to express public and social concerns, especially in farm worker communities of central California. Its frequent canvases were walls in public settings and is what spawned an artistic splurge of mural paintings that blatantly displayed a side of an issue.
Gilbert Lujan, known as “Magu,” was among the first of Chicano mural painters in the early 1970s. In 1973 he joined with Frank Romero, Roberto de la Rocha and the late Carlos Almaraz in a local art collective know as Los Four. Los Four collaborated on numerous murals and on other public art installations throughout California for nearly a decade and had a major influence on defining Chicano art.
Lujan, a Pomona resident, expanded this concept into painting mobile sculptures: cars. And one of them will be among the more unusual installations in the gallery. Previously exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “Our Family Car,” a 1950 Chevy sedan low rider, presented as a modern chariot, has a clear lacquer paint job donning red chile tipped flames typical of street rods and emblematic of car culture.