The following is an article I recently wrote for Silicon Valley Debug. To find out more about them or view the article on their page, please visit:
The Gradient of Perspective at The Euphrat Museum's Exhibit: Justice For All?
I’m honored to show artwork alongside powerful voices in the Euphrat Museum’s exhibit ‘Justice For All?’ at DeAnza College – a group exhibit about our collective history and the effects on individual lives and systems. The exhibit’s curator wanted to combine works like mine, which weren’t direct responses to specific events, with works that could be described as responses and answering the question of, where do we go from here?
I felt like the pieces from my summer of ‘16 series were right at home in the exhibit. That summer proved to be a season that exposed many of humanity’s negative attributes, and sometimes its grace. That summer was eventful in the media with critical situations popping off locally and abroad; the Pulse nightclub shooting, missing students in Oaxaca, Syrian crisis, gender inequality issues, police shootings, ridiculous presidential candidates, floods in Louisiana, contaminated water in Michigan, Rio Olympics and so much more. I absorbed all of it and created an album of visual responses titled, Summer Of ’16. In these pieces I felt like it was important not to repeat what had already been broadcasted or give a matter-of-fact literal reaction because cameras, eyewitnesses and journalists already provide that.
An artist’s role emerges out of their surrounding environment. Because of this, some artists who have been affected by injustices can’t help but have a strong urge to create works around this theme. As an artist, you are constantly observing behaviors in search of what’s next and sometimes unfortunately not all of what you encounter is good but is inspiration nonetheless. For those of us who are established and fortunate to have a platform that may inspire others to affect change, it is important that we use this power as often as possible; it is our duty. But just like society as a whole, the works will vary as is necessary.
In a sense, that is what I observed during my walk through of the show: A gradient of responses some dark and some light. One piece by Oreé Originol introduced me to an entirely new approach to art making. He showed part of his ongoing series titled, Justice For Our Lives, portraits of individuals from marginalized communities who have been shot and killed by police.
The pieces are available for anyone to download and share. His website states, “You are encouraged to get creative with the designs, print, and distribute them at demonstrations, in classrooms, art galleries, as street art, and anywhere else that will force people to remember the names, faces, and the stories behind each person who has been killed by state sponsored terrorism.” This body of work was made in response to unfortunate events, but I couldn’t help but notice the innovation behind it.
As an artist, I have mostly come to understand my profession as something that is mostly available to people who have the capital to afford it. Although I share it free via social media, the body made by Oreé bypasses that notion and makes the art even more accessible. Murals do this too, but the fact that one can download, print and or share the art is much more empowering since the viewer is an active participant in the completion of the piece.
My own work is about studying the visual cues of identity, and what I often notice is that these aren’t as concrete as we think. These days, there are so many commonalities and overlap. For example, if I do a portrait mixing Arabic with Roman typography, and add some pale and dark skin tones, now you have a figure that isn’t so easily defined. This provides viewers with an invitation to wonder about the figure and create meaning from their own point of view. One might recognize a portion of the work, while another might see it as illegible abstraction. By distorting visual cues I hope that people will realize more of our common lineage. During this time in our history, it’s more important than ever to remind people of this because once someone can understand and feel another person’s perspective, it is easier to see that we all laugh and cry.
I used this approach for the series by sampling the common themes of the tragic events. For example, I made a piece about the missing students of Oaxaca, and the mass shooting in Orlando; both unfortunate situations about young Latinos. I also did a couple of pieces with Arabic typography because there was so much negative coverage of Middle Eastern people and I felt the urge to ally with them by reminding people of their beautiful contributions. For me, remixing what we process as visual information is simply a thought and then a pencil mark. They might not make literal sense, but not everything can be within our grasp of explanation. We have the expansive gift of intuition and feeling which is what allows us to process such abstractions. If we allow ourselves to be comfortable with not knowing, I have hope that we will evolve away from fearful seeing.
The Justice for All? group exhibit at DeAnza’s Euphrat Musuem is up thru March 23rd
Upcoming show at Cass Contemporary gallery. Paint It Forward is a group show that asks established artists to pair up with emerging ones for the creation of new works. I used this opportunity to ask my wife Bu Nation to return to painting after a 6-year long hiatus. Below is what we submitted.
Left Image: 'Neo Xicana' by Me
Right Image: 'Superstars & Refugees' by Bu Nation
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Visit Cass Contemporary by clicking HERE. Other participating established artists include...
Adam Caldwell | Alex Rosmarin | Bask | Beau Stanton | Buff Monster | Caroline Caldwell | Dave Thomas | Derek Gores | Eric Inkala | Greg Gossel | Gregory Siff | Hush | Jason Pulgarin | Jonny Alexander | Joram Roukes | Juan Travieso | Justin Bower | Kashink | Killer Acid | Low Bros | Mad Meg | Meggs | Pablo Benzo | Peter Van Tongeren | Reinier Gamboa | Sam Rodriguez | SEK | Sjaak Kooji | The London Police | Tom Thewes | Tristan Eaton |
Mural commission I did in November 2016 for Samsung offices in San Jose, California.
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Recently I had the opportunity to appear on NBC & Telemundo's Comunidad Del Valle, hosted by Damian Trujillo.
'Doña MayFair' - New Mural in collaboration with School of Arts & Culture in East San Jose. It will be exhibited alongside their series of events called 'MayFeria', scheduled throughout this year and 2017.
For more info visit http://schoolofartsandculture.org/ Thanks to Demone Carter for inviting me to do this project!
I was really excited and proud to participate in this project as East San Jose, is where my family is rooted. The focus on this mural was the Mayfair neighborhood where the inspiring leader Cesar Chavez once lived. This area was known as 'Sal Si Puede' (leave if you can), a twist on the United Farm Workers campaign slogan 'Si Se Puede' (Yes You Can). Though rich in culture, it's residents, mostly Mexican and other Latino groups, have historically experienced income, and justice inequality along with negative press. Today, it is good to see positive movement blooming throughout the area, as many grassroots efforts are being made to push East San Jose more toward a 'Si Se Puede' environment.
Last week I had an amazing opportunity to paint a wall for Pow! Wow! Japan, an event and week long artist residency held in Kobe, Japan. Upon researching the city of Kobe I learned of a devastating earthquake known as The Great Hanshin. The disaster which took place January 17th, 1995 took thousands of lives. Each year the people of Kobe memorialize those lost through candle lit vigils that form Kan'ji for 'Kizuna'. This word translates to bonds or connections between people. This motivated the thinking behind my concept in which I emphasized the ties between elders and youth. For the Roman (English) typography part of the image, I was inspired by playful Japanese packaging and signage. The aesthetic was also influenced by the films of Hayao Miyazaki. Click here to read more about this on Vice's art section.
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Above image & Below Lower Left photo: Brandon Shigeta // Below drone image by: Andrew Tran
I just returned to California from Kobe, Japan for a week long artist residency with Pow! Wow! Japan. During that time I participated in a live feed for Vice media's Creators Project to talk shop and inspiration during my stay over there. Below is the video. More photos to come of my completed mural. Link to a written feature >>
I finally did a mural collaboration with my long time friend and now family member Aaron De La Cruz. We often see one another through non-art related friends and family gatherings and have always kept a project collaboration on the back burner. Years later, we finally had the chance to set some time aside to put something special together and it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about letting go of my process habits through the give and take that is required to form a well balanced collaborative project. More importantly, the community of all ages in San Francisco's Excelsior district where Aaron and his family lives, showed so much love to us during the process. It was a positive and motivating couple of days. Big thanks Aaron De La Cruz & family who despite being sick still came out to work. Hope to do many more.
Mural Location: Mission St. & Onondaga Ave. in San Francisco, California
Process photos by Kenneth Berling-Orozco
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