On How Color Migrated Southward from Aztlan in Search of an Eagle Eating a Snake on a Perch of a Nopal.
Bernal made good friends with photographers in Mexico City, people like Armando Cristeto and Adolfo Patiño (also known as Adolfotógrafo). He got to meet Graciela Iturbide and Don Manuel Alvarez Bravo. He made a good portrait of Don Manuel and Graciela quoted one of Bernal’s works in on of her photographs. Perhaps it was Adolfo who developed a deeper artistic bond with him. Adolfo solved the technological and economic hurdle of the lack of infrastructure to make color photography by experimenting widely with the more accessible Polaroid and with photo booths. Although he was not a chromatist we can trace certain iconic references to Louis in Adolfo’s photographs as well as in his objects. In fact the Mexican photographer outchicano Bernal by customizing the star spangled banner with the Virgin of Guadalupe in a large tapestry.
I saw Louis Carlos again in Tucson, Arizona after driving there from Mexico City in what seemed to take forever and where each mile was warmer than the previous one. Through Louis Carlos and his girlfriend Marietta Benrstorff I met what seem to be a mirage in the desert. She was the beautiful Elisa Jimenez who is the daughter of the sculptor Luis Jimenez. He was a good friend of them and shared the affinity for the colorful glossy surfaces with Louis as we can see in his big fiberglass figurative polychromatic representations of the South West. They resemble the colorful plaster figurines sold at the border and Jeff Koons’s porcelain sculptures. They might be kitsch and camp but instead of ironic they are disarmingly proud, heroic and earnest.
Unfortunately this text does not have a happy ending. In fact it has three tragic ones. On October 24 of 1989 a car struck Lou while he was riding his bicycle to Pima College. After being in a coma for four years Bernal died on his 52nd birthday on August 18, 1993. Adolfo Patiño died falling from the ceiling of the building he was living in Mexico City on August 31st on 2005 at the age of 50. Apparently he forgot the keys of his apartment and was trying to break into it. Luis Jimenez was killed on June 13, 2006 when one of his large sculptures fell on him cutting his femoral artery bleeding him to death at the age of 66.
Recently in a panel discussion in Santa Fe I was asked about Jimenez influence in my work. I do not know if I can compare myself to these guys. What they did that really mattered is perhaps more important than art. Bernal and Jimenez as part of the Chicano movement helped to integrate and change society. The three helped to bridge the gaps between people and countries. Yesterday was the day of the death and today a good day to remember them.
1. A strong local brand of cigarettes.