We’ve previously written about about the award-winning film, Dark Progressivism, a documentary that explores our region’s artists and the cities they come from. The film that became a movement has now become an art exhibition at MOAH (Lancaster Museum of Art and History). Dark Progressivism: The Built Environment features internationally known and emerging artists boldly exploring the impact of urban development and Post-Recession economies in Southern California. The film’s creator, Rodrigo d’Ebre, says “The exhibition reflects the economic/socio-political recovery of Southern California, a metaphor for the 20th century social ills that we are overcoming, and the nuances and history of development that inform such practices.”
The paintings in the exhibit range from abstract to graffiti to narrative surrealism, while the sculptures include work produced in ceramic and neon. Photographs, including images from L.A. Taco’s own Erwin Recinos showing both historic and contemporary landscapes and events give a documentary context.
Curator Lisa Derrick comments, “The artists selected for Dark Progressivism: The Built Environment express the multi-faceted aspects of the Southland, revealing our region’s truths and beauty in a bold and uncompromising fashion.”
Adds d’Ebre, “MOAH, with its commitment to modern history and current art movements, is the perfect location for this show, and through the museum we will be able to secure a location for a Dark Progressivism mural by Fishe and Dreye, who created a piece specifically for the city.”
Dark Progressivsim: The Built Environment opens November 11, 2017, with an artist reception from 2pm to 6pm. Additional programming during the exhibition’s run will include a screening of the documentary, Dark Progressivism, a panel discussion and book signing.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the artists featured in the show, along with a selection of their work…
Roberto Gutierrez was born in Los Angeles in 1943 as the youngest of nine children to a father who worked in the railroad yards and as a dishwasher. His family’s lack of resources stimulated Gutierrez’s interest in simple and accessible things and in the city around him. He studied at Roosevelt High School and then went to the Philippines and Vietnam as a member of the United States Marines. Afterwards, he used the G.I. Bill to attend East Los Angeles Community College, and has since focused on his art, which depicts life in el barrio and Los Angeles. His work has been widely shown in galleries throughout the Southwest and extensively distributed through the medium of posters.
Rafael Reyes (Leafar Seyer)
Born in Cotija, Michoacán and raised in San Diego, Rafael Reyes, aka Leafar Seyer, is best known as the voice of the acclaimed Cholo goth band Prayers. Before beginning his musical career, Reyes was a gangster, a restaurateur, and author. The founder of several San Diego graffiti crews, Reyes has shown his fine art—which reconfigures Cholo iconography with spiritual symbolism based in both Olmec and Western spiritual traditions—throughout the Southland. His band Prayers has played across the United States, most recently touring with A Perfect Circle and on the NotsFest main stage.
I have always been between worlds: I was coyoted to San Diego when I was four years old, and came of age watching MTV and listening to bands like the Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, and Christian Death, all the while gang banging with Sherman GHP. For many years, I was viewed as an outcast in my gang and neighborhood because of the music I listened to and how I dressed; and I was an outcast in the goth world because I was a Mexican gangster. To find peace with the environments which would not accept the multi-faceted aspects of my nature, I turned my mind inwards and developed myself, studying both indigenous Mexican magic and Western occultism, as well as the works of Yogananda, all of which flourish in Southern California. My art strives to find a balance between worlds: The Mexican and the white, the internal and external, the spiritual and material, the dream of Califa and its reality.
Considered one 25 greatest L.A. graffiti writers of all time, Joe Prime Reza was born and raised in Los Angeles Pico Union district and began his graffiti career in 1980. He is credited with being a founding father of Los Angeles stylized graffiti lettering, a hybrid of Cholo lettering and East Coast style graffiti that is bold, aggressive and monochromatic. Violence shaped Prime’s art, both functionally and conceptually; in 1989, the artist survived a gang-related shooting, loosing full movement of his right hand for many years. Prime responded by training himself to write and paint with his left hand, which is how he primarily paints today. An original member of the K2S crew, his work was included in the L.A. Collaborative Wall, part of the 2011 Jeffrey Deitch-curated “Art in The Streets” show at MOCA. In 2013 Prime designed the cover of The Getty Research Institute’s L.A. Liber Amicorum, (The Getty Graffiti Black Book). His graffiti was included in the Alex “Defer” Kizu-curated mural Dark Progressivism at the El Segundo Museum of Art “Scratch” exhibition in 2014.
Prime artist statement
I incorporate both architectural and graphic elements to create the Los Angeles of my visions, sometimes gritty, always triumphant. I use lettering and numbers as well as cement carving to pull the past into the future, to honor and empower.
Nunca, born Francisco Silva in São Paulo, Brazil, began his art career painting graffiti on the streets of his hometown at age 12. His work combines his native past with the modern urban environment, and his tag Nunca (“never” in Portuguese) is an affirmation of his determination not to be bound by cultural or psychological constraints. For his art, Nunca researches regionalism, creating characters relatable to anyone anywhere based in his outlook on history, tradition, and legacy, while carving his iconography through a blend of climate, history, people and the components that make a culture unique. His works bring a perspective on absorbing and processing myriad influences, a process he calls “cultural cannibalism.”
Shizu Saldamando was born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her B.A. (2000) from UCLA’s School of Arts and Architecture and her M.F.A. (2005) from California Institute of the Arts. Her drawings, paintings, sculptures, and videos have been exhibited both locally and internationally. A selection of her exhibitions include: When You Sleep: A Survey of Shizu Saldamando, Vincent Price Art Museum, East Los Angeles College, Monterey Park, California; All Tomorrow’s Parties, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Asian American Portraiture Now, The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Phantom Sightings, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and We Must Risk Delight, Official Collateral Exhibition at the 2015 Venice Biennial.
Susan Logoreci’s drawings have been seen in Art in America, the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Magazine, McSweeney’s Quarterly Review, and many other periodicals. Her drawings are in several collections including the U.S. State Department, City National Bank, Creative Artists Agency, and in several law firms and urban design firms. Recently she was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission to create three, large, original drawings for a psychiatric ward that serves adolescents in a public hospital. The Los Angeles Metro commissioned her to create eight large drawings that were recreated into mosaic tile, now located at the Sepulveda Station on the Expo Line in Los Angeles. She has also completed projects at Los Angeles International Airport commissioned by the Department of Cultural Affairs. She received her B.F.A from the San Francisco Art Institute and her M.F.A. from Cal State Long Beach. She has lived, worked, and exhibited in Los Angeles for over a decade.
I make drawings of contemporary urban landscapes. My colored pencil drawings deal with themes of uncertainty and optimism within our cities. Pushing buildings and bridges to their breaking point allows elements of abstraction to blossom within their gestural and jovial forms. When you look at my work up close, you see every individual window and roof that makes up a city. From a distance, you see an intricate grid that is as planned and stable as much as it is fragile and disordered.
Los Angeles Times art critic Leah Ollman wrote in her first review of my work, “Logorechi, based in Los Angeles, reduces the built landscape to pattern and rhythm, a patchwork stitched of colored bits. Her drawings are charming in the irregularity, the way the rows of windows swell and tilt, every bit of the city drawn – and savored – by hand”.
Cities are large projects that shrink and grow over many generations. It’s easy for the individual to feel small, as if we were at the mercy of history, politics, and disasters—natural or other. However, for better or worse, we create cities together, and these manufactured spaces are where life happens at its fastest and boldest: failure and fantasy, possibility and dread, hope and disappointment, invention and destruction. Often using Los Angeles as a blueprint, my work calls attention to these differences, awakening people to the contrasts and possibilities in their cities and themselves.
Los Angeles artist Sandow Birk is a graduate of the Otis/Parson’s Art Institute whose work has dealt with contemporary life in its entirety. Past themes have included inner city violence, graffiti, various political issues, war, prisons, surfing, and skateboarding. He is the recipient of many awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fulbright scholarship to Brazil. Recent projects have dealt with the war in Iraq, the Constitution of the United States, and the Holy Qur’an. Sandow is represented by the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, P.P.O.W Gallery in New York City, and Koplin del Rio Gallery in Seattle.
Estevan Oriol is an internationally celebrated professional photographer, director, and urban lifestyle entrepreneur. Beginning his career as a hip-hop club bouncer turned tour manager for popular Los Angeles-based rap groups Cypress Hill and House of Pain, Estevan’s passion for photography developed while traveling the world. With an influential nudge and old camera from his father, renowned photographer Eriberto Oriol, Estevan began documenting life on the road and established a name for himself amid the emerging hip-hop scene.
Oriol’s extensive portfolio juxtaposes the glamorous and gritty planes of LA culture, featuring portraits of famous athletes, artists, celebrities and musicians as well as Latino, urban, gang, and tattoo counterculture lifestyles. He has photographed Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dennis Hopper, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, and Floyd Mayweather, amongst others. His work also encompasses ad campaigns, album covers, and music videos. His photography has been featured in Complex, FHM, Juxtapoz, GQ, Vibe, Rolling Stone and other publications, with appearances on popular television shows such as HBO’s Entourage and Last Call with Carson Daly.
Oriol’s photographs have been showcased in select galleries and institutions such as Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives, Mesa Contemporary Art Center, Petersen Automotive Museum, and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’ Art in the Streets exhibit, concluding with a best-selling book of his work: LA Woman, capturing the dangerous and alluring beauty of women shot in his uniquely provocative and raw style.
Internationally renowned tattoo artist David Cavazo (Big Sleeps) unique lettering style is highly revered by devotees of body art the world over. Growing up in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles, he fell victim to gang violence and spent a majority of his youth in juvenile hall, youth authority, and state prison. During that time, he practiced and perfected his styles, and has evolved his lettering into another realm of self-expression in murals and paintings. He has been included in major gallery and museum exhibits such as “Scratch” at the El Segundo Museum of Art, “Aftermath” at Robert Graham Gallery, and “Roll Call” at L.A. Louver. Sleeps has collaborated with fashion brands Hurley and Umbro, amongst others. His lettering has been featured in books and magazines, most notably the Getty Research Institute’s LA Liber Amicorum. Among his list of achievements, the most important to Big Sleeps are his youth-oriented lettering/drawing workshops and seminars, which enable him to give back to the community and serve as a symbol of hope and inspiration. Big Sleeps has created his own brand, “Letters To Live By,” an independent entity devoted to lettering, tattoo, art and design.
Carlos Ramirez grew up in Indio, California. His mother collaborated with labor organizer Cesar Chavez, and Ramirez himself worked picking dates in the palm orchards. As half of the art duo the Date Farmers, Ramirez combined painting with assemblage using materials scavenged from the desert. His solo work carries this process further, often speaking of the inequalities within Mexican American communities and championing the common man as underdog as he combines house paint, sparkly stickers, handwritten bilingual text, rusted bottle caps, discarded packaging, and an iconic stylized use of acrylic paint with deeply layered figurative workings. These layers and textures intertwine with the political while being disguised as popular, with brand logos and religious/classical icons being given the same attention and placement.
Michael Alvarez grew up in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, fully absorbed in skateboarding and graffiti culture. He later attended Pasadena City College and is a graduate of Art Center College of Design, where he earned his BFA in 2007. After graduating from Art Center, Michael exhibited paintings in galleries throughout the United States and in institutions including Cerritos College, Cal State Northridge, The Pasadena Museum of California Art and the Longmont Museum of Colorado. His paintings have been featured in Thrasher Magazine, Studio Visit, Juxtapoz Magazine, and has work in The Cheech Marin Collection. Michael is also a workshop coordinator at Artworx LA, a non-profit organization combating the high school dropout crisis by creatively engaging alternative education high school students.
Full Artist Lineup…
Michael Alvarez, Sandow Birk, Chaz Bojorquez, Liz Brizzi, David “Big Sleeps” Cavazos, Roberto Chavez, Gajin Fujita, Peter Greco, Roberto Gutierrez, Jason Hernandez, Juan Carlos Muñoz Hernandez, Louis Jacinto, Susan Logoreci, Manuel Lopez, Eva Malhotra, Horacio Martinez, Jim McHugh, Gerardo Monterrubio, Nunca, Estevan Oriol, Cleon Peterson & Lisa Schulte, Felix Quintana, Carlos Ramirez, Erwin Recinos, Rafael Reyes, Joe “Prime” Reza, Sandy Rodriguez, Shizu Saldomando, Alex Schaefer, and Jaime Scholnick.