Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Recommended: Asco at the LACMA

There are many things to like about the current Asco exhibit at the LACMA, "Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987." For one, it is the first major retrospective of this pioneering Chicano art collective.

Second, it is good, quality, high-brow art that was doing new (crazy) things in the art world--and doing a lot of them in public! (In the streets of East L.A. nonetheless).

Third, there is the historical side of it. I, for one, was very giddy to see photos and art that featured early East L.A. punk bands, Los Illegals and The Brat. (Also, a treat to see pics of a young Marisela Norte, an L.A. poet).

The exhibit itself is very wild, as it tries to capture the essence of the group. A lot of different mediums, like paintings, video, costumes, but mostly, photographs make up the exhibit. An article from the NY Times best explained their style in the following manner:

Asco’s method was a kind of bombastic excess and elegant elusiveness that would have made Tristan Tzara proud, not to mention Cantinflas and Liberace. The Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote that the group “brought Zurich Dada of the late-1910s to 1970s Los Angeles.” But it was a distinctly Chicano brand of Dada, by way of David Bowie and Frank Zappa, drag and Pachuco culture, telenovelas and oddball UHF television stations, and New Wave and silent movies.

Exhibit closes December 4, 2011.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quick Thought on Street Art & the New Society

I've been wanting to blog about some thoughts I've about this article from KCET SoCal Departures since I first read it a few weeks back. First, a quick summary of this article, "Mural Conflict Has Artists Calling for 'Respect," in which the unwritten rules of street art are discussed. Apparently, a non-profit organization made some street artists (and street art fans) angry when they covered up a wall, (with a well-intentioned wheat paste installation), that had been completed by local street artist, Revok, and a few others in December 2010.

Well, people familiar with the underground culture, know that the only proper thing that should go over a "piece" should be a "better piece." (The rules kinda go like this: 'tag' > 'throw-up' > 'piece' > 'better piece'). But, what happens, when things like poster art, and wheat pastes in general, are not covered under these unwritten rules?

And what made the situation even more particular is that the wall was a private-owned wall where the owner of the wall gave the non-profit and artist permission to put up their installation, called, "I Want Peace in Congo." It was some street artists and their fans who had a problem with it. Luckily, in the story mentioned above, public apologies were offered and nothing too dramatic resulted. (Although, the manager of the building did say, "I there is anymore drama, I will sand blast the whole thing").

So, this makes me wonder about what the laws or rules will be for street art under a different future socialist society? I do think that in this type of new society street art will, not only be allowed, but be would be much more highly visible and play a larger role in society. (I think about the large public murals of Diego Rivera and the big Chinese character posters, and poster art, of the Cultural Revolution as evidence). Of course, a lot of organization would need to go into it. Input from the community, a public art commission/board, and designated spaces will definitely be needed. What do you think?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Review: Orchid #1


This Tuesday was the release of Tom Morello's first penned comic-book, "Orchid," (which will be a 12 issue series). It's filled with good art by Scott Hepburn, and lots of background, story set-up and character introductions by Mr. Morello.

The first couple of pages show scenes of how a dystopian future came to be: where the majority of earth's survivors live horrible lives, lorded over by a few people who control small armies, (and don't forget all the scary mutant monsters that have now come to exist due, most likely, to pollution).

We first meet Simon, who's part of a small "Shadow Rebel" enclave that, in the book, is being chased by a caravan of armed soldiers loyal to local dictator, Tomo Wolfe. Simon luckily escapes the solders--in a very dramatic way--and then we then follow him as he walks around his home, among the rest of the "Bridge People."

We actually don't meet Orchid until much later in the book, and we learn that a horrible existence as a teen prostitute has made her callous, clever and tough. She tries to show no sympathy for others except herself, but we also find out that she's been secretly using her earnings, (and what she can manage to steal from her pimp/owner), to support her mother and young brother. How her character transforms throughout this series will definitely be worth paying to see/read each month.

Speaking of paying, this first issue is only $1.oo. so it's definitely worth going to your local comic book shop to check this out. There is also a variant cover by Shepard Fairey/Obey (pictured HERE) that costs more: $3.50 and up, depending on where you buy it. I highly recommend this book--especially if you've never picked up a graphic novel before.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review: 'It Calls You Back'

Last week saw the release of Luis J. Rodriguez new memoir, “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, and Healing.” It is being promoted as a sequel to his best-selling memoir, “Always Running: La Vida Loca; Gang Days in L.A.” Indeed, the book starts off with the last time the author was arrested and released from jail.

My favorite part of the book is the early chapters because they get into how radical politics finally dragged the author away from gang life, (after a few false starts). He writes: “And yet, I managed to attend political meetings among Chicano activists in East L.A. and then a mixed group of revolutionaries in Watts and the Harbor Area.” And in the same chapter he later writes, “Because of the pull I felt toward intelligent revolutionary activity, as well as the artistic pursuits I was dabbling in, my relationship to the gang changed again.”

The author then talks a lot of all the different factory jobs he had and the organizing work he did while working those jobs, and also his good and bad experiences, especially when dealing with racism. The book doesn’t really take a turn until chapter eight when he decides to become a writer. It was a big and risky step, but it proved to be the right choice to make.

From there we see the author doing different things to learn, and then practice, his craft. He hooks up with the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association, takes writing classes at East L.A. College, gets a job at a small community Eastside newspaper, and then gets a big opportunity, a summer program at UC Berkeley where he learns reporting and writing skills from journalists that work for big publications.

Later on, there is another turns in his life when the author moves to Chicago where he gets into the Chicago poetry scene, (something that would prove pivotal), and starts writing for the People’s Tribune newspaper, which allows him to visit different cities to write articles. One great story involved the Appalachian coal country of West Virginia and some young KKK members. Apparently they heard him speak and wanted to talk to him afterwards, so he went to meet with them at a shack in a wooded area. They told him their situation; that they couldn’t feed their families, but no one except for the Klan would come around to talk to them. They told him, “We got your words, your message—that we’re having the same problem as other people and that we have more in common with them than rich folk.”

One thing that bothered me, is that intertwined with all these different stories, the author spends a great deal of time going through what seems like every detail of every single relationship he’s ever had, (and there was a lot of them)! I understand that there is something to learn from these experiences—but not all of them—and sometimes not much.

One of the best things about this book, (which I hope people will notice), is that it shows that life is full of big risks. Most people don’t dare to take them, but this brother did. Not only did taking big risks help him get out of the gang life, but it also helped him become a good writer and one of the best poets out there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tom Morello at OccupyLA

The LA Weekly's West Coast Sound blog had a good piece today about Tom Morello's recent visit to Occupy LA this past weekend. He was there performing as The Nightwatchman on Saturday as part of a music festival to celebrate the one-week occupation of City Hall.

The author of the post mostly gets into the role of music in protest -- specifically in this Occupy movement that started in Wall Street (NYC) and has spread to hundreds of towns in cities and towns across the nation. (The Nightwatchman is also set to perform at OccupyWallStreet tomorrow).

Morello had some great lines in the interview, like: "I think that music's combination of harmony, rhyme, truth and groove speaks to the reptilian brain of human, in a way that's different from the written or spoken word...Check the historical record -- you don't win unless you've got an excellent soundtrack."

There were many other musicians at the festival, but Morello was probably the most popular. (In fact there has been a lot of cool bands playing at OccupyLA since day one and I hope to blog more about these bands next week).

Here are links to a few official videos from the Occupy LA media team: The Nightwatchman performing Maximum Firepower and Worldwide Rebel Song.

By the way, Morello has been pretty busy lately. He had a new Nightwatchman album recently released, and today was the official release of the first issue of a comic book he is writing, (which I hope to review soon)!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

L.A. Rebellion: A New Black Cinema

Just found out about this film retrospective starting at UCLA tomorrow (Oct 7, 2011) that will highlight films that were created by African and African American students who entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in the late 60s and came to be known as the, “L.A. Rebellion.”

An article in the LA Times mentioned that these students were very much influenced by the Black Power politics of the time and were trying to create films that were very different from the Hollywood Blaxploitation films that were being made in those days.

At the end of the article, one of the series programmer's, Jan-Christopher Horak, is quoted as saying, "There is a certain iconic person who turns up again and again in these films: Angela Davis. She's an icon to these filmmakers and a heroine of the first order. This is a generation … that for the first time was able to express what they feel is authentic African American culture."

The UCLA Film & Television Archive website describes this film movement as follows:

Occasionally called the “Los Angeles School of Black Filmmakers,” and perhaps more frequently “L.A. Rebellion,” the group’s significance is too far reaching to be fairly contained by any one name. In this exhibition, we proudly present more than fifty representative works that range from well-known films securely in the canon, to others seldom seen since school days. This series reveals a panoply of visions that do honor to individuals and the collective. Many films are presented here in new prints and restorations undertaken by UCLA Film & Television Archive.

There will be film showings--with many of the filmmakers present--and panels, some of which will be free.