The Museum of Latin American Art presents “Defiant Chronicles,” the second exhibition organized by MOLAA for its new satellite space called The Collaborative. Co-curated by MOLAA Curator Idurre Alonso and Slanguage Founders Mario Ybarra Jr. and Karla Diaz, the exhibit focuses on representing current strategies for artistic production derived and influenced by urban and street art including graffiti, stencil and stickers. The exhibition is comprised of two multi-media installations by artists aka, Acamonchi from Tijuana, Mexico and Los Angeles-based artist aka, Perl from the graffiti female collective FDS (From the Streets). The invited artists share a similar concern for utilizing artistic tactics of research-based projects, documentation and investigation. The exhibition challenges the traditional approach to street art/graffiti as a practice that is meant to be singled-out from its place and context, exclusive to an insider audience and contradicts the perception of urban art as a male dominated art form that rarely addresses gender issues in its content. May 1 through July 24.

Date(s) & Time(s)::
Opening Reception May 1, 2011
Show runs till
July 24, 2011
Location: The Collaborative, 421 W. Broadway, Long Beach.
Phone: (562) 570-1930

Picture Me! An Introduction to Photography

Taught by artist Ruth Cabral (shown in Self Portrait 2009 on the left), the course will be expose young artists to photographic works of art that explore different kinds of self-expression. Students will take inspiration from their own environment to develop insight into their identity. The artists will create collages, do cyanotype printing that incorporates composition, design their own shoes, and create an awesome self-portrait based on their alter ego. By incorporating the camera, the junior artists will apply visual techniques to communicate their own unique identities in a medium that captures a moment in their lives. The class will be 10 sessions and will close with a class exhibition. All materials are included in class fee.

Class starts this Saturday, April 30th

For 10 Saturdays from 11am-12:30pm

Registration, April 30th, 10-11am

$10 per class, or $100 for 10 sessions

The guys sat down for a longer interview in the days leading up to the show. Here’s what they said about their collaboration and work.

First off, both of you are from Puerto Rico. How has that influenced the work that you do?

Juni: In my case, it’s obvious that the lifestyle of Puerto Rico has a great influence on my work. The climate is also a great influence in the sense that it lends itself to being outside, going to the beach, the rivers, the countryside. See, I live in the city, and so that influences me a great deal. But also when you go out, so see a ton of color.  And since I am a painter, that lifestyle has influenced me a lot.  I’ve noticed that I am really influenced by all things tropical, life at the beach, that type of thing.

Chris: I think for me this influence is not as evident. But perhaps artists traditions, like the strong graphic tradition in Puerto Rico has been important in my work. I have been exploring it in different ways. In this case I have been working with serigraphs. But beyond doing a print with ink, I have been developing it more as a drawing, which is very present in my work. Also the use of graphic images for tattooing, that has also influenced me a great deal. But not an influence that is very obvious, at least not one that I observe.

Juni: But also, even though we are Puerto Rican, with respect to our political condition and in other ways we have become more Americanized. We have access to lots of information, and I think that allows to be more like a hybrid. Yes, we are Latinos, but we are also a combination of things. We are constantly discovering ourselves, and in a process of self-exploration, and seeing who we really are.

Chris: And it is not that we don’t have an identity, because we obviously have one. But to have this status of a colony, because really we are the oldest colony in the world that still exists. But as Juni says it puts us in a situation where we are influenced by several places, and we are somewhere in the middle. 

Why were you interested in collaborating and how has that translated into this residency? What are you doing in the space?

Juni: Well the initiative really came from Mario [Ybarra Jr.]. And it worked out quite well because Christopher and I have worked on exhibits together, but we had not had the opportunity to collaborate in this way and create a project starting from nothing, and coming from both of us. It has been super productive, because ideas have come out, and we didn’t expect it to happen this way. In just one day we came up with the exhibition project. We had some idea of what we wanted to do and in what direction we wanted to go, you know the music Scene, the propaganda or advertising put out by bands…all this stuff. But being here together is when everything became clear.

Chris: And like Juni says, yes we had collaborated a bunch of times before, we have been friends for a few years thru the music Scene and exhibitions. But when the invitation came from Mario, we were like oh damn, how cool we’re going to collaborate. And all kinds of ideas came to mind, ideas that were concretized here, so yeah, super productive.

Juni: And from this we hope to take advantage of it and do it again in other places and contexts, unifying music, with the underground Scene with bands, integrating this whole [music] world, which really unifies us more, than perhaps even the art world.

Chris: It is more specific.

Juni: It has its groups and gives you the opportunity to meet interesting people that contribute super great ideas.

What is the story behind the title, “War Spectacle: The Last Paradise”?

Chris: In reality, this took a bit of time to figure out. In a practical sense, we said in this collaboration you will have a part, and I will have a part, and that it should be something that sounds concrete and makes sense. But in part because we were using the music influence, the departure was this idea that it should be a song title, or be influenced by a song.

Juni: Exactly. Or even like a concert. Instead of an art exhibit, the idea was that it should like a concert and we would make references to bands we like. So the title really came out of trying to name a band-based music event. They [the bands] don’t exist, but still it is an event inspired by the advertising with the use of flyers, that type of artwork.

Chris: The words “War Spectacle” came from a real song, right Juni?

Juni: Yes, I was listening to a band that I friend lent me and I began to bring together different references [in my head], and that’s how it came about.

Chris: And the “Last Paradise” also more or less comes from a song. But also in thinking about an idea to connect the space, the way it happens in shows, a type of paradise in the sense that everyone has come together behind this one cause, the music. At these types of music shows, this type of an environment is very obvious in the mosh pit, for example. The mosh pit is very interesting, and it is something that I am still exploring. Everyone is united, there is internal rules that it is ultimately for fun, to enjoy the moment of the concert. I mean there are always fights too, and that’s where War Spectacle comes from.

Juni: So there is also a war, but a war that just stays amongst us.

Chris: It’s almost utopic, or not exactly, but still a moment where everyone is united.

Juni: You feel free. So it’s a type of war, but a creative war, not one used to harm anyone.

How has it been being in Los Angeles, and how has that translated to the elements you have put in the gallery.

Juni: It has been, surely for both of us, a really great source for the creative process. Mario and Karla gave us a tour through the city, and it was parts of the city that if we had come on our own, we wouldn’t have encountered. And these types of routes, which aren’t the typical ones, activate things in your mind. This influenced us a bunch. And meeting Mario’s friends! And obviously Mario’s work too, he becomes like a community explorer and he integrates all of those elements. 

Chris: I agree that also helped us a lot in the creative process. It is the first time I came to Los Angeles, and not knowing L.A. well what you think of is well, the beach, Hollywood, what attracts tourists.

Juni: Plastic boobs.

Chris: So what have seen is the real Los Angeles. And the graffiti culture which is considerably old. The graffiti exhibit [at MOCA] too.

Juni: If you notice, we are doing printmaking, painting, redimex, so in reality what influences us is the full context.

Chris: Yes, of just being here, of being with people, Mario’s friends…we went to a street show as well.

Juni: We have met MCs, singers, and that is what we really came to do. It has been a real organic process, without it being forced. Everything has sort of just appeared before us.

Are there any pieces you would like to talk about that are currently in the show?

Juni: The bottles sculpture. What we noticed is that here you can’t drink on the street and everyone is worried about getting a ticket, that the police will see them, etc. We also saw that one way that people camouflage this or are more discreet is by putting a paper bag on the bottles. Which has a name right: “brown bag?”

Chris: And we’ll use it in the title. But it is also something that happens in Puerto Rico, but here it’s more…[severe].

Juni: Yeah, because L.A. is supposedly the place that has more police, that invests more in protection. But also while we have been working here, we have been drinking beer while we work. So what we have been trying to do is really take advantage of everything we are experiencing, and make it part of the project. So we decided that we would keep all the bottles of the beer we have been drinking and make a sculpture with the bottles. Really using everything we have consumed while we have been producing the work.

Chris: The graphic prints [with the show title] are inspired by how important advertising is in music events, these flyers made to announce different events. More than the viewers simply looking at the print made from the wood cut, I want people to do their own rubbings and take home their own posters.  With the geometric line piece I was approaching it from previous works that I have done to incorporate visible and invisible spaces in established architecture, in a space like this for example. There is a native space within a space, spaces like those that hold these types of music events.

Transcription and Translation of Video Interview to English

Betty: I’m here with artists in residence Christopher Rivera and Radames “Juni” Figueroa. They are gearing up for their show War as Spectacle: The Last Paradise, which opens this Saturday, April 23rd, from 5-10pm here at Slanguage. We wanted to introduce you to the artists with this short interview.

Who is your favorite artist and why?

Chris: To be honest, I don’t have a favorite artist. There are many groups of artists and different artists that I like a lot. I could mention a few. Felipe Gonzales Torres, for many reasons. Like more than for his ability to create objects, for his ability to unify a work. Another artist that I have been reading a lot about is Dan Graham. His superspaces, and the connection he makes between the spectator and the space that he is occupying, whether it be a museum or gallery. Robert Smithson.  I don’t know, I can’t exactly find one in particular.

Juni: In part, I feel the same way. I am heavily influenced by artwork that is produced in Puerto Rico and Latin America, obviously. And apart from that, groups like The Situationists, really movements that function outside of the artworld. I am also very influenced by the day to day, there are people who inspire me, but who are not necessarily from the artworld. Still, I am regularly referencing groups like the Situationists, muralists…

Chris: I also think that something that influences both a lot is music. Because really, music is another type of art.

Juni: It’s also like a breath of fresh air, because you see a world of possibilities there. It’s something that many artists have explored and in this case we are exploring it, and its really what’s bringing us together in this exhibition—that other world that continues to be art as well.

If you could have any superpower what would it be and how would you use it?

Juni: I would like two things. Well, one. The chiquitolina, the pill that the Chapulin took to become miniature because it is like being invisible.

Chris: That’s what I was going to say! To be invisible. Because sometimes you want to be somewhere, but without people knowing you are actually there.

In a wrestling match between Puerto Rican governor Luis Fortuño and President Obama who would win?

Chris: That’s a difficult question…

Juni: I would tie them both up and take their clothes.

Chris: Exactly. Obama started off really well, but now, I don’t know.

Juni: In this moment, I don’t feel sufficiently clear-headed to talk about politics. But in reality, neither of them really interest me.

Chris: Something that is totally crazy is that Fortuño is supposedly Republican and Obama is a Democrat, so it’s a strong contrast. But with Obama, everyone was really excited about him, and even I was excited about him. I think it had to do with the fact that he was the first Afro-American president, and everyone had that hope. But I don’t know about the way in which he has behaved in some cases, for example with respect to Libya, it has been a bit weird. Like an extension of Bush.

Juni: But in a manner that is much more camouflaged, so more discreet, but still the same thing.

Betty: You all took this question to a whole other level! Thanks guys!