Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Finally Hi 'n' Lo had its debut at the 01SJ global festival of art on the edge. The scissor lift danced a couple of times to a track composed by Jorge Verdín (a member of Clorofila of the Nortec Collective). The music was done with samples of hydraulic sounds, the scissor lift and others made by the tools we used to fabricate it. Salvador "Chava" Muñoz did the inspired hydraulic engineering and hit the switches. This piece was made in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Additional support by MACLA and 01SJ. The paint job, chrome, rims and grill were done by ADM Works. Particular thanks to Javier Valdivieso and painter Rigo Hernandez. Transportation by Tony Ortiz from Backyard Boogie Hydraulics. The photographs are by Patrick "The Dude" Miller.
The customized machine and some of the original designs will be on display at MACLA in San Jose until August 8. If in the bay area stop by to check the missing link between Brancusi, constructivism and the low rider pick up movement of the late eighties and early nineties.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Nery Lemus (a very active artist who is doing his MFA in Calarts right now) invited me to participate in a show that he is curating at Avenue 50 Studio, Inc. in Highland Park. The show is trying to foster a cross cultural dialogue between Latinos and African Americans.
He wanted me to present a series of baseball caps that I started doing in the early nineties. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to post a text I wrote about them.
"Colors": Xicano Progeny, Investigative Agents, Executive Council and Other Representatives from the Sovereign State of Aztlán, The Mexican Museum, San Francisco, 1995, p. 36
Uniforms, banners, colors, flags and logos have been used to represent in a very attractive way different sport teams. Going to a sport stadium is an intense aesthetic experience. Sport teams usually represent a place that competes within certain rules against another. It is quite common to find that certain sport teams use images and names that are associated with certain groups of people not always related directly with the teams. The Cleveland Indians do not necessarily represent the Native-Americans or the San Diego Padres a catholic community and most of the Boston Celtics are African American. Sometimes the signifiers that are used by certain teams in different contexts reflect specific historical affiliations. The Scottish soccer team from Glasgow called "The Celtics" is supported by the Republican community in Northern Ireland; while the Glasgow “Rangers" is supported by the Loyalists.
Baseball caps are widely used in the streets as a popular form of expression. In Los Angeles teams emblems have been reappropiated by different local communities and gangs, for example the Bloods wear red, like the Chicago Bulls while the Crips wear blue the colour of the Georgetown Hoyas. On the other hand, Chicanos like to sport Cleveland Browns paraphernalia giving expression to pride on brown color, while L.A. Kings caps are now associated with Rodney King and Martin Luther King.
In altering, recodifying and recontextualizing signs already given in baseball caps I want to comment on the relation between aesthetics, history, mass media, culture, fashion, politics etc. and different communities divided by arbitrary rules and signs like sport teams.
Since my youth days in little league I've been collecting baseball caps. My collection of altered caps started in 1991 at the Watts Drum Festival when my African American teacher, Joe Lewis gave me a Malcolm X cap to wear instead of what he called, "ethnic caps" (referring to the ones with Latin motifs I use to wear). I wanted to use it in a way that would relate to Latinos and created the "Malcolm Mex" cap.
Since then I've been travelling with my caps having them customized by different artisans in the Americas and Europe. Laponian designs contrast with the Minnesota Viking's logo, while Native American bead work decorates the Chicago Blackhawks cap. In Guatemala a Mayan Indian embroidered what he considered were Aztec decorations on a San Diego Aztecs cap substituting an eagle with the local quetzal. Although I played baseball in what was called the "Mayan" little league I haven't found a Mayan team lately, unless we would consider the Carolina Jaguars one). In the swapmeets of L.A. the hip hop community creates it's own designs using computer operated stitching machines that are a lot faster than the manual embroidery of the indigenous artisans who earn a lot less for their work in the third world. These caps not only reflect the complex readings of signs within our cultures but also reflect the enormous differences which exist between labour and wealth from the first to the third world.
Even though most people outside the United States might not have prior knowledge or relate to the teams; the caps on the other hand are becoming widely universal fashion. In Guatemala the most colorful caps are preferred, while in Europe the darker caps are more popular or the ones that have famous rapper connotations.
Ultimately these objects while they have been appropriated as a universal (MTV) dress code, they address issues of economical, cultural exchange and difference.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Barbie Parachutes Onto Puerto Vallarta's Wal-Mart
Sand Castles, DV, 60 min (looped continously), Raza Cósmica Productions, Puerto Vallarta, 2008
Nuevo Vallarta, DV, 60 min (looped continously), Raza Cósmica Productions, 2008.
This text was published in relation to the art festival Puerto Vallarta Arte Contemporaneo 08. "Barbie Parachutes Onto Puerto Vallarta's Wal-Mart," Puerto Vallarta Arte Contemporaneo 08. Extended Borders: Shifting Cartographies, May 28-June 1 2008, Puerto Vallarta, p. 4.
Boundaries constitute obstacles designed to be crossed by tourists, inmigrants, capital funds, products, handcrafts, internationally renowned artists, collectors, etc.
After cruise ships unload their passengers in Puerto Vallarta, the tourists' first destination is the handcraft-selling Wal-Mart. On the other hand, immigrants from Jalisco can find Tejuino (a non-alcoholic, fermented corn beverage) in Los Angeles Mac Arthur Park.
Both destinations become replicas of the places where their visitors originated. Thus, Puerto Vallarta experiences a hasty urban development characterized by skyscrapers, while Southern California shows samples of promiscuous forms of Mexican vernacular architecture. Large cities try to capitalize on culture and turn it into another tourist attraction. Other tourist destinations, striving for a share of visitors' purchasing power, generate hybrid cultural products. The parachuting Barbie constitutes an example of this. From my personal experience, Barbie flies and hovers better than the pretentiously trendy two-line kites sold in Europe and Malibu.
The purchasing power derived from the United States' Social Security system has decreased, and many retired seniors move to Mexican destinations such as Puerto Vallarta because the cost of living is less expensive. According to recent statistical data, the Social Security system in the United States is staving off collapse in part because of taxes paid by the immigrant work force; many of these immigrants are Mexicans. So Social Security in the United States has a direct dependence on the immigrants' contribution to the economy.
Art fairs in places such as Miami or even Mexico City become interesting destinations for collectors who travel to those cities-they are then able to avoid the need to visit the various cities where international galleries represented in these fairs are located. Artists such as Damien Hirst, who is British, find it useful to produce art at Mexican beaches while obtaining a greater profit by working with a local gallery. On the other hand, some Mexican artists consider it viable to create work for international markets while eliminating links with their local reality.
This is how contemporary art arrives in Puerto Vallarta, and vice-versa.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Barbie Desciende en Paracaidas en el Wal-Mart de Puerto Vallarta.
Este texto fue escrito y publicado en relación al festival Puerto Vallarta Arte Contemporaneo 08. "Barbie Desciende en Paracaidas en el Wal-Mart de Puerto Vallarta", Puerto Vallarta Arte Contemporaneo 08. Fronteras Extendidas: Cartografías Cambiantes, 28 mayo-1 junio, Puerto Vallarta, p. 4.
Las fronteras constituyen obstáculos diseñados para ser cruzados por turistas, inmigrantes, capital, productos, artesanías, artistas internacionales, coleccionistas, etc.
Los cruceros desembarcan en Puerto Vallarta y su primer destino es el Wal-Mart donde venden artesanías. Los inmigrantes de Jalisco pueden encontrar tejuino en Mac Arthur Park en la ciudad de Los Ángeles.
Ambos destinos se convierten en réplicas de los puntos de origen de sus visitantes. Así pues Puerto Vallarta se urbaniza aceleradamente con rascacielos mientras en el sur de California aparecen promiscuas formas de arquitectura vernacular informal. Las grandes ciudades tratan de capitalizar la cultura como atractivo turístico. Otros destinos turísticos generan híbridos productos culturales en busca de el poder de compra de sus visitantes. Un ejemplo es la efectiva Barbie en paracaidas que en mi experiencia personal vuela mejor que los mas pretenciosos papalotes de dos cuerdas adquiridos en Europa y Malibú.
El poder adquisitivo de la seguridad social en Estados Unidos disminuye y muchos viejos retirados se mudan a México a destinos como Puerto Vallarta. De acuerdo a recientes estadísticas gracias a los impuestos y a la fuerza de trabajo de inmigrantes en su mayoría mexicanos esta seguridad social no se colapsa y depende de estos.
Las ferias de arte en lugares como Miami o la misma ciudad de México se vuelven destinos interesantes para los coleccionistas que viajan a ellas sin necesidad de visitar las galerías en sus ciudades originales. Así pues a artistas como Damien Hirst quién es británico, le funciona producir en las playas de México y obtener un mejor porcentaje de ganancia en una galería local. Mientras tanto, es viable para algunos artistas mexicanos producir para mercados internacionales y desvincularse de su realidad local. En la ciudad de Los Ángeles estas realidades locales se vuelven internacionales.
Así pues llega a Puerto Vallarta el arte contemporaneo y viceversa…