Chicano artist John Valadez gives a free presentation at UNCA today, Tuesday, March 4, 6:30 p.m.
John Valadez, Chicano Artist and Master of Montage
UNC Asheville presentation on Tuesday, March 4, 6:30, Humanities Lecture Hall (free and open to the public)
John Valadez is well-known in the art world today. As a major figure in the Chicano Art Movement (following the rise of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement or El Movimiento in the 1960s), he aspired to create art that not only had a political dimension but also raised perceptions of the marginalized Mexican-American culture. Chicano artists sought to demonstrate pride while empowering the community. Valadez has created numerous murals in California as well as large-scale paintings and drawings. The recent retrospective exhibition, “Santa Ana Condition,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD), 2012, surveyed his work from drawings and photos as early as 1976 to more recent pastel and oil paintings. John Valadez has won numerous awards (including a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, 2001, and the Artist in Residence, Foundation d’Art de la Napoule, France, 1987) and his works have been exhibited in museums around the world and purchased by private individuals and public institutions including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), California, and the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica (CASM), Barcelona, Spain.
Valadez lives in the Los Angeles area. While scholars have often called him a photorealist, his paintings move beyond realism due, at least in part, to his working methods and mixture of images. Using a technique of assembling pieces of separate drawn or photographic images into a whole, his intent is to create a new unity (an innovative super-reality) out of the parts. His works frequently begin from a variety of drawings and/or photos and develop with imaginative additions often related to the life and experience of being a Chicano (a person of Mexican descent living in the US) in California. His works, thus, extend far beyond the initial sketches or photos themselves. He tends to create drama and tension around everyday situations. While most works include life-sized figures and seem hyperrealist, he pushes the content to suggest allegory through understated and uncanny elements (indicating a subtle undercurrent that, according to scholars, seems to recall forms of Latin American magic realism or art of the fantastic).
The recent 60-foot mural by John Valadez on a five-story building in Long Beach called Welcome to Long Beach, 2011, incorporates three-dimensional aluminum birds that protrude from the wall. His mixture of the idyllic Long Beach past (including a 50s bathing beauty) and everyday citizens with surrealist imagery (such as the destroyed Rainbow Pier mystically floating above) makes for a dynamic and supernatural mural. While the content and style of Chicano murals have varied, recurring themes often developed around the creation of images depicting Mexican spiritual aspects, past and current socio-political events (religious icons, revolutionary leaders, etc.), or ideas of reclaiming a lost indigenous Mesoamerican past. Valadez chose an alternative and very individual route, focusing on specific people and places in local communities and elevating the everyday to a symbolic level.