On Saturday January 18th, 2014 we attended the opening reception to Pasadena Museum of California Art’s (PMCA), January - April exhibitions. The exhibits on view were, Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California (Main Gallery), Serigrafía (Back Gallery) and Flora Kao’s: Homestead (Project Room). This would also be our first visit to PMCA.
(Left to Right) Artists: Leonard Castellanos, Esther Hernandez and Xavier Viramontes.
Arriving at the Pasadena Museum of California Art our first viewing opportunities at the opening reception were, Flora Kao’s: Homestead and Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California, but we made a direct line to the exhibition I had been anticipating since hearing about the January - April 2014 shows, Serigrafía, which was located in the Back Gallery at the museum. I was excited to view the array of vintage Chicano posters that were to be displayed, some of which I had only ever been able to examine in jpeg form or in art catalogs. Walking into the gallery where Serigrafía was exhibited we were instantly drawn in with the vibrant palette of colors and powerful positive chicano messages in the artworks. The inventory of posters presented consisted from recent to vintage, with a handful of digitally reproduced and the remainder being silkscreened prints.
From what I gathered, the basis of the Segrafia exhibition was to survey the "tradition of information design in Califonia’s Latino culture" and "examines how both aesthetics and portability are key aspects of the prints as communicative and educational objects."
(Xico Gonzalez - “ChePata” 2006 silkscreen)
The posters that enticed me for a more meticulous observation in the Segrafia exhibition were, Esther Hernandez's, “Sun Mad" 1982, and Xaviver Viramotes’, “Boycott Grapes" 1973, which were created by the artists to bring fourth awareness of unsafe working conditions to farmworkers. Also notable was Xico Gonzalez’s “ChePata" 2006, a Che Guevara and Emiliano Zapata melded image which advocated against unjust immigration laws and practices of undocumented humans, along with Favianna Rodriguez's, “Resist U.S. Imperialism" 2003 print, which was a first-rate example of activist art.
Artists also represented in the exhibition were Jesus Barraza, Barbara Carrasco, Rene Castro, Melanie Cervantes, Enrique Chagoya, Ricardo Favela, Juan R. Fuentes, Rupert Garcia, Daniel González, Yolanda M. López, Linda Lucero, Estria Miyashiro, Malaquias Montoya, Gilda Posada, Celina Rodriguez, Jos Sances, Mark Vallen, and Ernesto Yerena.
This was a wonderful show that gave me a sense gratification being a guardian of Chicano prints and posters that are in my personal collection.
Alfredo Ramos Martinez - (Left) “La India de Tehuantepec” (Mujer de Tehuantepec) ca. 1930 (Middle) “La Madre India” (Right) “La Malinche” ca. 1940
After indulging and surveying Segrafia it was then time to move on and absorb some modern art history with the extraordinary Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Matinez's (November 1871 - November 1946), Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California, which was located in the Main Gallery and is the largest gallery space at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA).
From my readings what I learned about the Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California exhibition, is that it was to bring fourth his travel and artistic output in California. The exhibit is also going to be used to "advocate for the inclusion of his works in histories of the visual art traditions of the region and ultimately aims to inspire a richer and more complex understanding of American art."
Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California exhibition will also be traveling to the Nevada Museum of Art, May 10 to August 17, 2014.
(Alfredo Ramos Martinez - “Las Floreras” 1933 oil on canvas)
The first of Mr. Alfredo Ramos Martinez's beautiful artworks that lured me in the showcase was his largest and most prominent, "La Madre India" a grandeur work on paper which took and deserved the key real estate in the Main Gallery at the museum. When we walked into the gallery the room was filled and abuzz, you could feel the electricity from the enamored patrons. I have to say, I was very impressed with the mass amount of artworks accumulated for Mr. Alfredo Ramos Martinez's exhibition which took every bit of wall space to present. Picturing Mexico: Alfredo Ramos Martínez in California quickly became my favorite and the most stimulating of the three exhibitions at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA).
The second piece that caught me was Mr. Martinez’s “Vendedora de Alcatraces”, 1929 oil on canvas, in which the calla lily’s depicted reminded of the paintings of maestro Diego Rivera’s Alcatraces, but the blossoms were completely in Alfredo Ramos Martinez's style.
(Alfredo Ramos Martinez - “Vendedores de Frutas con Canastas” ca. 1946 silkscreen)
After viewing those two major artworks Anita and I became captivated with every piece in the exhibit that proceeded. Other highlights for us included Mr. Alfredo Ramos Martinez's works on vintage newspaper and his vivid polychromatic paintings. One non-Martinez created piece that garnered most of our attention in the exhibition was an extraordinary intricate carved frame by Bernard Vandeuren, that was commissioned by a collector in 2010 for one of Alfredo Ramos Martinez's original paintings.
I would like to acknowledge curator Amy Galpin, Ph. D, and give a Bravo! for an engaging and stimulating exhibit.
(Gallery view of Flora Kao’s: Homestead exhibition)
Our third and final stop at Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) opening reception was Flora Kao's: Homestead exhibition, which was located in the Project Room gallery.
The premise for Homestead was, "Flora Kao highlights the poignant histories of deserted shacks that dot the Mojave Desert, remnants of America’s most recent wave of manifest destiny. By virtue of the Small Tract Act of 1938"
"Through life-size rubbings of each side of the dilapidated shack’s four walls, Kao captures the homestead at a specific moment in its decay."
Flora Kao’s approach was very new to me exhibition wise, which made it that much more interesting to study. Walking into the Project Room gallery, my sense of smell was first activated with an almost musky odor lingering in the space, which I think came from the canvases absorbing the redolences of the Mojave desert. Then came the visual sensory, as the canvas rubbings surrounded us. I could vividly perceive myself in the Mojave Desert inside the exact same shack Flora used for the installations rubbings. All that was necessary to transpire for the complete experience was the sweltering heat and dust from the mostly barren wasteland for the full effect.
I would like to thank Emma Jacobson-Sive, Director of Public Relations, the PMCA staff, artist and curators that were involved in all three exhibits at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.
More info on these three amazing exhibitions visit: pmcaonline.org
On view January 19–April 20, 2014
More images of the opening reception exhibition also at: CHICANO ART MOVEMENT/Facebook page