September 13 - November 9, 2014
Guillermo Bert: Encoded Text
Juan Delgado & Thomas McGovern: Vital Signs
Linda Vallejo: Make 'Em All Mexican
Johnny Nicoloro: Virgin Mary
Luis Fileto: Pasajeros
Pageantry: Roping, Riding, Escaramuza
Andrea Kaus, Leslie Mazoch, Omar Mireles, Libby Wendt & Robin Rosenthal
Wells Fargo Gallery
Vital Signs Book cover
Guillermo Bert: Encoded Text
Guillermo Bert's Encoded Textiles creates hand-woven, large-scale tapestries that combine electronic scanning codes with Indigenous design methods and the first-person voices of Native peoples. The series was inspired by the artist's observation that QR (“quick response”) codes, which electronically read data, closely resemble graphic designs in the textile arts of Native peoples. Using software that translates words into barcode patterns, the personal stories of indigenous participants become woven into the tapestries, forming new designs and relationships. By combining high-tech software and industrial processes with Indigenous design and loom techniques, and then translating spoken narratives into tapestries themselves, the artist highlights the interaction of the “ancient” and “modern” in our intertwined globalized world. Through the weavings, laser cut cubes, podcasts and film clips that comprise the exhibition, the artist offers his commentary on the issues of identity and cultural loss in our global society.
Guillermo Bert and the Lancaster Museum of Art and History would like to thank Michael and Francis Weber and the Lancaster Museum and Public Art Foundation for their support in making this exhibition possible.
The narrative thread that forms the baseline for the project began through Bert's own personal journey as a Chilean artist among the Mapuche people of his home country. There, he interviewed weavers and other community members, bringing to light the relationship of symbolic culture, environmental concerns, and the impact of economic interventions on the Indigenous land base.
By enlisting the input of Indigenous weavers to re-insert the codes into traditional design motifs, the artist collapses the duality of Indigenous/Contemporary and enables a new and more timely conversation to take place. The conversion of a poem or piece of spoken history into a high-tech bar code - and then its re-conversion back to a traditional weaving - represents the creation of an innovative cultural artifact that celebrates and revives traditional art forms.
The Incubator cubes that form the sculptural element of the series derive from the same principles of recognition and reconciliation. Drawing from similarities in ancient symbols and contemporary matrix bar codes, the laser-cut cubes and their associated designs explore the link between the cryptic and the quotidian.
Entering through the portal of the bar codes and QR codes, the viewer is transported into the world of oral traditions, poems, and first-person narratives from the Mapuche community of Southern Chile, Zapotec weavers from Oaxaca, Mexico, and Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico. In effect, the artist Guillermo Bert serves as a visionary and curator to a much larger project – one that connects international communities through the forms best known to their own traditions, while centering our current modes of technological communication and commercialization into a growing awareness of the need to use them for greater purposes of inter-connectedness.
Thomas McGovern and Juan Delgado: Vital Signs
Vital Signs is a collaborative photography/poetry project about the Inland Empire region of Southern California, starting with the City of San Bernardino. The combination of images and words suggest the expansive nature of art-making where seemingly unrelated things, memories, impressions and relationships coalesce through the shared sensibility of the artists and viewers.
The project began in 2006, when Thomas McGovern started photographing hand-painted signs and murals throughout the Inland Empire. His photographs are emblematic of the rich cultural heritage of the community and region and represent the recent past, when hand painted signs were an inexpensive way to advertise a business and decorate a building. As digital technology brings printing costs down and makes vinyl signs affordable, these unique icons are becoming obsolete. Unfortunately, as neighborhoods develop and prosper these signs— and the vitality and shared cultural heritage they represent—are painted over or destroyed, homogenizing what was once unique.
Like Thomas McGovern, Juan Delgado has lived a major part of his life in San Bernardino, writing about the region for decades. His poetry for Vital Signs evolved through extensive discussions while the collaborators were driving, walking and celebrating their city. In Delgado's poetry, narrators focus on the unappreciated, exploring the relationship between identity and place. One poem celebrates vecinas (neighborhood women) who fight to regain their streets. Another narrative points to the closing of a local grocery store and the burdens of change on families. Some lament the tragic lives of people deeply rooted to this place, and others tell of journeys of migrants whose stories are uplifting because they embody the best of the human spirit.
The fusion of cultures and the shared sensibilities of the artists are apparent in both the book and exhibition, which are a tribute to the region and a celebration of cultural diversity, ingenuity, and entrepreneurship.
McGovern is a photographer, writer, and art professor at California State University, San Bernardino. His photographs are in the permanent collection of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Museum of the City of New York; and The Baltimore Museum of Art, among others. He received his BA from Empire State College, New York and his MFA from California State University, Fullerton.
Delgado is an English professor and director of the MFA program in creative writing at California State University, San Bernardino. He has won the Embers Press Poetry Contest for A Change of Worlds and received the Contemporary Poetry Series Awards for his collection of poetry Green Web. He received his BA from California State University, San Bernardino and his MFA from the University of California, Irvine.
The artists thank California State University, San Bernardino, for their support, and the Robert and Frances Museum of Art (RAFFMA) in San Bernardino for mounting the first incarnation of this exhibition.
Linda Vallejo: Make ‘Em All Mexican
Los Angeles-based artist Linda Vallejo consolidates multiple international influences gained from a life of study and travel throughout Europe, the United States and Mexico to create paintings, sculptures and installations that investigate contemporary cultural, political, spiritual and environmental issues. Critically acclaimed as breakthrough work, Vallejo’s Make ‘Em All Mexican re-contextualizes familiar iconography through a culturally personal lens by re-purposing objects ranging from postcards and posters to figurines and statues. Karen Mary Davalos, Professor and Chair of Chicana/Chicano Studies Department, Loyola Marymount University notes:
“Vallejo has produced a provocative new series that re-appropriates Western and American icons. Using widely recognized images, such as Hollywood celebrities, Norman Rockwell paintings, Victorian figurines, classical European portraiture, and the school primer, Dick and Jane, Vallejo repaints the figures as Mexicans. From one perspective, Vallejo creates the fear of every anti-immigration activist and recolors the world with brown skin and black hair and eyes. Vallejo is conceptually performing two critical acts, first she defaces the work that she recolors, and second, she takes the image (and its history, power and meaning) and changes it for her own purpose.”
Vallejo carefully selects her objects from antique stores, yard sales and estate sales then gives them new identities with auto body paints, acrylic, gold leaf, oil and Wite-Out. By transforming figurines of pop icons such as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe into chocolate-skinned El Vis and Mariela, Vallejo imbues her figures with the polarities between the iconic and kitsch and tongue-in-cheek humor while questioning the politics of color. These transformed characters bring questions of race and class to the forefront.
Each item is potentially comical and unfamiliar all in one glance. For Vallejo these issues hit close to home; she states “even as a third generation American, I remain invisible in the cultural landscape. Thus, Make ‘Em All Mexican creates a space that is inclusive of the Latino community while at the same time exposing its absence and the cultural divides that exist in our country.”
Highly accomplished, Vallejo has enjoyed numerous solo exhibitions of Make ’Em All Mexican at the Soto Clemente Velez Cultural Center in New York in 2014, the George Lawson Gallery and the University Art Gallery of New Mexico State University and at Arte Americas in collaboration with the Fresno Art Museum and the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art at California State University, San Bernardino. In 2014, Vallejo received the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs COLA Individual Artist Fellowship. She has exhibited at the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art New York, the San Antonio Museum and Mexico City Modern Art Museum. She was included in two exhibitions associated with the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945–1980 initiative: Mapping Another LA: The Chicano Art Movement, at the UCLA Fowler Museum; and Doin’ It in Public: Art and Feminism at the Woman’s Building, at the Otis College of Art and Design Ben Maltz Gallery. Her work is in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard, California, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the California Multicultural and Ethnic Archives at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Chicano Studies Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. The George Lawson Gallery in San Francisco, California currently represents Vallejo.
Johnny Nicoloro: Virgin Mary
Johnny Nicoloro is an award-winning artist who creates colorful layers of visual imagery by utilizing his signature technique of double-exposed compositions created entirely in his camera. Recently, the artist turned his lens to the Virgin Mary, one of the most revered and iconic figures in the world. In Virgin Mary, the artist layered images of the Virgin Mary with signs, objects and the commercial artifacts of urbanity in collages depicting the hardships and challenges of our times. Of note are his often-whimsical titles that share his deeply personal devotion for the protection and grace the Virgin Mary is honored for in communities across the Southern California landscape and beyond. His Virgin Mary series, showcased in the intimate setting of the Education Gallery, offers a contemplative space where the viewer may take in his personal and creative manifestations of the Virgin in relationship to contemporary times—times we all can relate to.
The work of Johnny Nicoloro has been featured at the Farmington Art Museum in Farmington, New Mexico; The Latino Art Museum in the Pomona Art Colony in Pomona, California; The Annex @ Core New Art Space in Denver, Colorado and the Los Angeles Center for Digital Arts in Los Angeles, California. His work is also part of the permanent collection at The Latino Museum of History, Art and Culture in Los Angeles, California. Nicoloro, a native of Los Angeles with a BA in Theatre from UCLA and self-taught camera artist, has also taught Creative Photography for Personal Growth at The Village in Hollywood and has been an art and photography instructor for CoachArt, a non-profit charity providing free lessons in the arts to kids with life-threatening illnesses.
Luis Fileto: Pasajeros
Palmdale-based artist Luis Fileto’s current body of work is driven by action, emotion, intuition and his search for meaning through painting, photography and mixed media. Drawing from the legacy of abstract expressionist painters, his material application ranges from using nail polish to finger painting and action painting. In his work, Fileto embraces his connection to spirituality and the importance of family, friends and the big picture of life. Fileto has shown extensively across Southern California including KGB Gallery in Los Angeles, SCA Project Gallery in Pomona and Garboushian Gallery in Beverly Hills.
Pageantry: Roping, Riding, Escaramuza
A grand spectacle, a dazzling display—of flying manes and flaring nostrils, palpable air and rivers of dust, sun and shadow, silk and sweat, well-worn leather and glinting silver—this is the visual allure of rodeo. In a split second the unique moment is captured, and even what the camera can’t see—the smell of damp hide, the outburst of a bull’s wet snort, the skill, the pride, the centuries of tradition, the years of practice—the photographer knows, and all are present in the photograph.
Pageantry: Roping, Riding, Escaramuza, guest curated by filmmaker Robin Rosenthal, invites the viewer to experience these sensory details and the timeless beauty of our shared rodeo heritage as seen through the eyes of
photographers Andrea Kaus, Leslie Mazoch, Omar Mireles
and Libby Wendt.
Andrea Kaus first picked up an SLR camera under the instruction of her physicist father. “Those early lessons are mostly forgotten, apart from his introductory sentence that light is made up of photons and waves and a foreboding feeling that it gets a lot more complicated after that.” While undertaking fieldwork for a doctoral degree in anthropology, Kaus used photos as a way to connect with ranching families in northern Mexico. They taught her that a photograph is not taken but is instead a random moment captured as one might catch a wild horse. The thrill of photography remains for her the thrill of the hunt for a universally recognizable tick mark in time. Shooting rodeo allows Kaus to combine her own experience with horses with observations of people, in search of unpredictable and unrepeatable moments. The photos included in this exhibition were taken at rodeos across Southern California.
Texas-born photojournalist Leslie Mazoch began her career on the Mexican border with a stint at The Brownsville Herald, and continued southward as an Associated Press photographer covering political, financial and social issues in Venezuela. She became a photo editor in 2007, and is now based at the A.P. headquarters for Latin America and the Caribbean in Mexico City. Becoming a photo editor has allowed Mazoch the time to work on personal projects, chief among them her documentary photography series on the Escaramuza (“skirmish”)—the women’s sport in La Charrería. Rooted in the cattle culture of Colonial Mexico, Charrería blends the equestrian skills, handcrafted tack, elegant costumes, music, and food of that rich heritage into a living folk tradition. Between the men’s riding and roping contests, the escaramuzas charras perform their perilous, precision horse ballets, bending and twisting their galloping reining horses around each other in intricate synchronized patterns. Mazoch’s Escaramuza photographs have been honored with awards from the National Press Photography Association, and will soon be published in book form. Ten images from the series are here at MOAH.
Omar Mireles’s body of work documents the Charrería tradition and culture he grew up with and sees daily. In his birthplace of Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico, Mireles’s grandfather schooled him in all things charro—horses, ranch life, coleaderos, charreadas. When his grandfather passed, Mireles devoted himself to photographing this lifestyle in his honor. From his current home in Oxnard, CA he began by shadowing the local escaramuza team Charras Unidas De Villa, and is now a well-known presence at charreadas throughout Southern California, capturing the characteristic combination of skill and artistry of all the participants —charras and charros alike. Mireles returns to Jerez every spring for his hometown’s Sábado de Gloria (Holy Saturday) celebration, a fiesta comparable to Mardi Gras. On the Saturday before Easter, charros gather from all over Mexico to break the Lenten fast. The main event of the day is a cabalgata (procession) of mounted charros numbering in the thousands. The photographs shown here are from a series taken at Sábado de Gloria Jerez in 2014.
A tag-along to her best friend’s beginning photography class at Chaffey College in Alta Loma, CA started Libby Wendt down a 35-year path as a photographer—shooting everything from pro football to college and high school sports; newspaper features to breaking news; music concerts and CD covers to animal portraits. When her daughter began running for rodeo queen titles, Wendt put her sports photography background to good use, and started looking for those special moments in the rodeo events. Several of these photographs were taken at last year’s California Finals Rodeo at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, including two portraits of 2013 PRCA Specialty Act of the Year and Charro Ambassador Tomas Garcilazo and his matinee-idol stallion “Hollywood.”
Guest Curator Robin Rosenthal is an independent filmmaker based in Littlerock, California. An avid horsewoman and rodeo fan, her most recent documentary, with Bill Yahraus, Escaramuza: Riding from the Heart, delved into the equestrian culture of La Charrería, deepening her appreciation for the connections between Mexican and American rodeo traditions. Rosenthal’s documentary practice draws from her background as an artist, educator, and motion picture industry professional. Rosenthal received her bachelors degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and went on to Queens College, City University of New York, for her Master of Fine Arts. She taught studio art at San Antonio College and the San Antonio Art Institute, and exhibited her video art throughout the Southwest, before moving toward documentary work. She edited Chamoru Dreams for Pacific Islanders in Communications' Pacific Diaries series, and the award-winning Mary Jane Colter: House Made of Dawn, both broadcast nationally on PBS. With filmmaking partner Bill Yahraus, she made the feature documentary A Circus Season: Travels with Tarzan (PBS) and the Eclipse-winning series On the Muscle: Portrait of a Thoroughbred Racing Stable. Robin also oversees a small niche market distribution arm for their company Pony Highway Productions.