August 10, 2007

Urban Latino art thriving in San Diego

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

The fact that during August there will be three different exhibitions featuring young Latino artists in San Diego might be a good indication that there’s a whole new generation taking the local arts scene by storm.

The three exhibitions feature urban art, which doesn’t necessarily follow on the steps of older Chicano artists in the area. In fact, the art being showed is like a break from traditional Chicano art that includes references to Mexican heroes, Pre-Columbian mythology, or political figures like Che Guevara.

“The Latino arts scene in San Diego is starting to change,” said Andy Gonzalez, owner of La Onda Arte Latino and curator at Barrio Logan’s 24K Gallery, which will present a collection of art by local artist Chikle and other Latinos starting on August 25.”

“It’s becoming such a prominent force that we’re in a time when people can’t ignore it anymore.”

The 24K gallery exhibition will include the work of popular Latino artists such as Michael Rios, who has donde several album covers for Santana and Poncho Sanchez, and award-wnning Kathleen Carrillo.

But the exhibition also includes the works of Enrique Lugo “Chikle” and Carlos Beltrán, both San Diego underground artists.

Chikle’s work features political statements using popular culture to criticize th consumer culture that dominates American society and media. One of his pieces has a television set committing suicide.

Chikle said that although young Latinos are becoming an important part of new, urban art in San Diego, the artists are barely starting to make their presence felt. He said that, hopefully, the end of the seven year boycott of the Centro Cultural de la Raza will mark a new beginning.

“I think this new wave is barely getting strong. The Centro Cultural de la Raza has reached a new era showing that it’s a new era for Latino artists here as well,” Chikle said.

Another local artist that’s having an exhibition this month is Ensenada-native, long-time San Diego-resident Gerardo Yepiz “Acamonchi.”

Extrañas Conexiones Guey, which opened on Aug. 3 and will be on exhibit at Voz Alta until Aug. 31, includes recent work by Acamonchi, who paints, stencils, stamps, spray paints, screenprints and hand-draws his work onto large and small wood panels.

Kinsee Morlan, curator of Extrañas Conexiones Guey, said that Acamonchi’s work includes symbols from popular culture, Tijuana underground life, and contemporary life in America.

“It’s fun to look at one of his pieces. Each is like a little game he plays,” Morlan said. “He has a great sense of humor on his work.”

Acamonchi, who started making graffiti art and stencils in the 90s in Tijuana, said that, amid the apparent chaos that is portrayed in his work, there’s harmony in his paintings.

“It resembles Tijuana, which seems like a chaotic, badly shaped, unplanned city, but underneath all the mess, there’s order,” Yepiz said.

For Morlan, Acamonchi represents a new type of artist that doesn’t like to be tagged with labels such as “Latino,” “Chicano,” or even “underground.”

“He’s more than just a Mexican, transnational artist. He’s created his own culture through art,” she said. “He speaks to a younger generation.”

In addition to the Acamonchi show, Morlan is also curating Phantasmagoria, an Adapta Project exhibition that opens Aug. 24 at Buzz Clothing Warehouse, in San Diego.

The Adapta Project is a collective of San Diego-Tijuana artists that includes Latino members such as Jorge Tellaeche and Jaime Davis .

Morlan, who lives in Tijuana and works in San Diego, said that the project was created to find more non-traditional spaces where artists could exhibit their work.

“Adapta born out of necessity. We got frustrated because there aren’t enough art spaces to exhibit,” she said.

Phantasmagoria features recent work of Tellaeche, who said used a dream-like atmosphere in the paintings he will exhibitit there.

“Looking at these paintings is like going from dream to dream,” he said. “It’s like pure fantasy.”

Exhibitions like the ones mentioned above make a statement that urban, contemporary Latino art is presente in San Diego.

Acamonchi’s Conexiones Extrañas Guey
Through Aug. 31
Voz Alta, 1544 Broadway, San Diego
www.myspace.com/gerardoyepiz.

Chikle and others
24K Gallery, National Ave., San Diego. (619) 656-6150.
Opening reception Aug. 25 at 6 p.m.

Phantasmagoria
Buzz Clothing Warehouse, 630 10th. St., San Diego.
Opening reception Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.

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