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LA-Artist Project Highlights Work of LA’s Chicano Artists

November 2, 2009 by  

The newly launched LA-Artist Documentary Project is dedicated to people working creatively in and around Los Angeles. This ongoing, collaborative project aims to document LA’s artistic diversity by producing a range of informative films alongside an online archive of ArtCards that bring voice to the city’s varied and eclectic creative framework.

LA-Artist Executive Producer Sofia Rose Smith has made a unique point to cover Chicano artists working in greater Los Angeles.

Read her portrait of painter Raphael Matias, pictured left, by clicking here.

Also, make sure to check out Director Oliver Shipley’s film that inspired the initiation of the LA-Artist project. “Murals of Boyle Heights”, below, chronicles community members’ perspectives of what murals mean to the past, present, and future of the historic East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights.

Sin Nombre the Film

April 6, 2009 by  

Making its world premiere at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, Sin Nombre is an epic dramatic thriller from award-winning director Cary Fukunaga.
 
Seeking the promise of America, a beautiful young Honduran woman, Sayra (Paulina Gaytan), joins her father and uncle on an odyssey to cross the gauntlet of the Latin American countryside en route to the United States.  Along the way she crosses paths with a teenaged Mexican gang member, El Casper (Edgar M. Flores), who is maneuvering to outrun his violent past and elude his unforgiving former associates.   Together they must rely on faith, trust and street smarts if they are to survive their increasingly perilous journey towards the hope of new lives.

Actors’ Commentary

Paulina Gaitan (stars as Sayra): When I read the script, I realized I had to play Sayra because she was similar to me. I related to her emotional issues, like her feelings towards her father. Sayra is sentimental but strong at the same time; she bottles things up.

She starts to feel something for Casper, and thinks she can help him and change him and give him a better life.

I am Mexican, and Cary [Joji Fukunaga] wanted a Honduran actress to play Sayra, so he offered me the role of Martha Marlene. But I said, “If I’m not Sayra, then I won’t be in this movie.”

In playing Sayra, I added a lot of me so she became very similar to me. It became not, “What would my character think?” but “What would I think if I had to go on such a long trip with my Dad by train?”

I didn’t know about how Central Americans cross the border by taking the train, and what they go through; we watched videos of it during rehearsals, including of immigrants crossing rivers.

We Mexicans complain a lot about how we are treated in the U.S., but we don’t see how we treat Central Americans, and Sin Nombre shows that.

To see a trailer or where the film is playing near you visit: filminfocus.com

A Budding Ambassador for Latin American Art

December 4, 2008 by  

By Kate Taylor of the New York Times
Estrellita Brodsky’s life is not that of your typical graduate student. Instead of frugal dinners of ramen or grilled cheese, there are $1,000-a-head museum galas. Home is an apartment on Park Avenue, not a share with roommates in Brooklyn. And although she is hoping to finish her dissertation, which focuses on Latin American artists in postwar Paris, by January, Ms. Brodsky is not planning to enter the academic job market any time soon.

Instead she is devoting more and more energy these days to figuring out how to use her wealth and connections as one of the city’s leading arts philanthropists, along with her scholarly perspective gained from her studies at New York University, to raise the profile of Latin American art in museums, the academy and the international art market.

For two years Ms. Brodsky has endowed the post of the Latin American art curator at the Museum of Modern Art, held by Luis Pérez-Oramas. Her encouragement led Harvard to create a position for a Latin American art specialist in its history of art and architecture department. Currently she is in discussions with the Harvard Art Museum about financing Latin American acquisitions as the museum moves into collecting contemporary art.

At many institutions and in art history departments Latin American art was for a long time either ghettoized or excluded from the Western art historical canon. Survey courses might have mentioned Diego Rivera or other muralists, partly because they executed major works in the United States.

Only in the last 15 years have scholars fully embraced the contributions of Latin American artists to 20th-century abstract movements, particularly in the areas of installation and performance. At the same time the rise of international art fairs has brought greater attention to contemporary artists working in Latin America.

In a recent interview at her apartment, filled with work by artists like Jesús Rafael Soto, Julio Le Parc and Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt), as well as the odd European, Ms. Brodsky discussed her quest to help bring Latin American art to the forefront.

Apart from her passion for the art and its history, she said she wanted Latin Americans in the United States, particularly young people, to feel pride in their culture’s creative achievements. Growing up in New York City in the 1950s and ’60s, with parents who had immigrated from Venezuela and Uruguay, Ms. Brodsky, 56, said she learned how ignorant most of her young peers were about Latin America. “It was pretty much, ‘Oh, were your parents Indians, living in the jungle?’ ” she said of her classmates in the fourth or fifth grade. Her great-great-grandfather on her mother’s side, Juan Idiarte Borda, was the president of Uruguay. He was assassinated in 1897 — presumably, the theory goes, by a political foe — “but we don’t talk about that,” she said with a wry smile.

In 1995 a friend enlisted her to help organize an exhibition on the Taíno, pre-Colombian inhabitants of the Caribbean, at El Museo del Barrio. She traveled to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Cuba helping to arrange loans. The overall experience was transformative, she said. In a visitors’ comment book at the exhibition, she recalled, “A little kid said, ‘My name is Taino, and I’m so happy now to learn what I’m named after.’ I thought that was so cute: Here was this kid, who probably felt like a little bit of an outsider because he had this strange name, who now felt proud about his heritage.”

Realizing that the museum was important but needed help with fund-raising, Ms. Brodsky joined its board in 1997 and began recruiting friends, many of whom had barely heard of the museum, to support it. She rose to become the board’s chairwoman, and with the artist and lecturer Tony Bechara, its chairman, she started an annual gala. By the time she left the board, in 2003, the gala regularly raised $500,000.

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Source: The New York Times

Finding the Beat of Chicago’s Latino Quarter

December 4, 2008 by  

By Jeff Bailey of the New York Times
IN a fifth-floor art gallery in Pilsen, Chicago’s fashionable Latino neighborhood, vibrant guitar chords were pouring out an open window on a recent Friday night. Four Latina artists were showing their paintings, and the shoebox of a gallery was jammed with a mixed, talkative crowd. Some swayed in time to the music, swigging beer and sipping wine. The din seemed to be drawing art patrons and good-time Chicagoans from all over the huge building at 1932 South Halsted Street, the central site of an every-second-Friday art walk.

Many come to the art walk from the suburbs or other parts of the city, but like much of Chicago these days, the affair draws its real energy from the city’s surging Latino population. One of the painters whose work was on display — Carolina Reyes — moved to Pilsen from a North Side neighborhood two years ago to paint. “Being a Latina, I’m still searching to learn more about my culture,” she said.

For that, there is no need for her to leave Chicago. More than 1,000 miles from the Mexican border, the city is home to about 800,000 people of Hispanic origin, mostly Mexican. That’s more than a quarter of the population and gaining share daily — this when the city shrank by nearly a million residents after the 1950s. But in Latin Chicago, there is a new boomtown to explore.

A native of a mostly Latino suburb of Los Angeles, I moved here 25 years ago; my wife, a Latina from Texas, came 12 years ago. So, it’s natural we would be drawn to areas like Pilsen, where Spanish and English mix against a backdrop of brilliant mosaics and murals of Mexican heroes, and Little Village nearby, where mariachi bands carrying their instruments into restaurants could easily be south of the border. But it’s more than just familiarity and the fact that eating and entertainment on the Latin side of Chicago is generally cheaper. It’s where the energy is.

“It’s happening so fast,” said Carlos Tortolero, who came to Chicago from Mexico at age 3 and, as a 28-year-old school teacher in 1982, started what would become the National Museum of Mexican Art, the city’s leading Latino cultural organization. “It’s becoming a very Mexican city.”

The museum made a name for itself in 2006 when it opened an exhibition about the influence of Africans in Mexico. In a city known for its racial separation, blacks flocked to Pilsen for the show. This summer, the museum will insert itself into the national political debate with an exhibition opening on the Fourth of July — “A Declaration of Immigration” — that will go beyond painting and sculpture to present data to argue that point. “It is pro-American to be pro-immigrant,” Mr. Tortolero said.

Immigrants certainly made Chicago one of history’s great boomtowns. It grew from a nearly uninhabited swamp in the early 1800s to a metropolis of a million people by 1890. An up-to-date version of that multicultural frontier town is on display every Sunday morning at a flea market, just around the corner from where Mrs. O’Leary’s cow — in fable, anyway — is said to have kicked over the lantern that started the Great Fire of 1871. Known as the Maxwell Street Market, it runs along Canal Street south of Roosevelt Road. (The city closed down the original location on nearby Maxwell Street in the 1990s, but the name stuck.) After more than 100 years, it still attracts immigrants and their offspring from many points on the globe. But today, as with much of Chicago, the market moves to a Latin beat. Browsers seem to move in step with the blaring Latin music as they peruse the four-block stretch of stalls that feature art, jewelry and the usual knock-off purses and leather goods.

If you see a skinny fellow with a goatee who appears to know the street-food vendors, he might be Rick Bayless, the Chicago chef and cookbook author who raised traditional Mexican cooking to gourmet status, stopping by on his day off to snack on mole and hand-pressed tortillas. The crowds become thicker around the stall for Lencho’s Tacos, where people take a number and wait their turn. Well before 10 a.m., Lencho’s fans are three and four deep around the counter, lined up for tacos of grilled beef, onions, cilantro and hot sauce — a perfect on-the-go lunch for about $5.

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Source: New York Times

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