Latino art spectacular
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UCSB Chicano/a Department, alumnus collector Tomas Sanchez presents Chicano/a art survey with “¡Chicanismo! The Sánchez Collection.”
“¡Chicanismo! The Sánchez Collection”
When: through Dec. 8
Where: Art, Design & Architecture Museum, UCSB
Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
Information: 893-2951, www.museum.ucsb.edu
An inspired air of poetic, circular logic underscores a fascinating exhibition at UCSB’s AD&A Museum. Now, nestled in the Museum’s entrance gallery in all its due spectacle and subtlety, “¡Chicanismo! The Sanchez Collection” serves a number of purposes, including its status as an involving and diverse survey of art rooted in Chicano and Mexican art and culture.
Not incidentally, though, the show is also a timely celebration of the 50th anniversary of the University’s Chicano/a Studies Department, made possible by the collection of an alumnus, Tomas Sanchez.
Mr. Sanchez went on to become professor Sanchez at various colleges around the Oxnard Native’s Ventura County home turf. In this smartly organized swath of artworks from the collection, Mr. Sanchez’s collection traverses elements of Chicano and Mexican life, from religion to the arts, pre-Colombian ancestries and modern-day urban tensions.
Tucked away in a separate corner of the museum space, the show features Diane Gamboze’s “Point Blank,” a deliciously diabolical magic realist painting. The composition is bisected vertically, with a fierce woman bearing a pistol below and the presumable bad influence of a Satanic character above.
Vivid painterly effects take on a romantic-Apocalyptic intensity with Roberto Gilde Montes’ “End of Civilization,” seething with a twilight-reddened landscape, with shabby talismanic object at ground level.
Perhaps fittingly, an adjacent wall is devoted to things devotional and sacred (and ironic takes thereof). Small “Santos” paintings by Marie Cash and Charlie Carrillo — spinning off of a venerable Mexican tradition — showcase meditative images of saints.
These pieces cleverly encircle the brash and fluorescent-hued centerpiece of this “holy art wall,” Roberto Tio Delgado’s “La Virgin de Guadalupe.” Painted in a contemporary “tagger Cubist” style, Mr. Delgado’s splashy Virgin reverie evokes a kind of personal psychedelic guerilla art effect.
A key artist in this mix is Salomón Huerta, whose wistful “Las Tres Novelas de mi Vida” portrays a young well-dressed and stiffly-posed boy before a birthday cake. Painted with a pale palette and formality, the painting appears as if working from a faded family photograph, and basks in muted childhood nostalgia. On the other side of the museum doorway, a contrasting, bookend Huerta portrait, “Espalda de Shorty,” is a moodily lit image of the adult subject’s back, elaborately tattooed with the vision of a nude woman with sombrero.
Elsewhere in the Huerta zone, he shows monoprint portraits of a power trio of iconic Mexican artists — Diego Rivera, David Siquieros and Jose Clement Orozco. Zooming up to date in Latino culture, Mr. Huerta also shows a portrait of that great East L.A. and “Great American” band Los Lobos.
Latino life in Los Angeles takes on an edgier twist with history-impacted artist Frank Romero’s “Closing of Whittier Boulevard,” from 1990. In this serigraph, the artist lends a hip, history-meets-modernity touch to a real-life scene from East L.A. on an August 1979 night when police shut down the famed cruising blocks of Whittier Boulevard to traffic. It has the feel of a flash-point moment, in which a sense of mythos meets urban urgency, and the ghosts of imperialist aggression pay a visit in the form of a mounted policeman in Conquistador garb.
A yet broader expanse of historical and contemporary reference is poured into a large “mini-mural” placed high on one wall in the space, looming over the show like some imagistic sentinel and, in its way, tapping the legacy of Mexican mural art. Leo Limón’s “The Green Niña” orchestrates a convergence of subjects ranging from pre-Colombian, pre-Europeanization Mexico to mysticism, political and urban iconography and fantastical asides.
At once smoothly integrated and frictional in its vocabulary, “The Green Niña” is a mild storm of info and imagery, a fairly ideal representing force in this engaging exhibition.
“¡Chicanismo!” is a collection selection, a cultural overview, and a toast to the hosting institution, all in a happy package.