Monday, December 12


For a long time I was confused about what Pacific Standard Time was. I was just too busy at work to stop and read the materials they gave us and most of the time I feel pushed out by the museum art world to invest in understanding. But when I heard of an art group from East LA with a show at LACMA, I was first-shocked, second-relieved, and third-compelled to go. These are the things we don't learn about.


mexican murder comix
Gronk, Patssi Valdez, Willie Heron, Harry Gamboa Jr.

I was mesmerized at the show, mostly hit by the courage they had to do this kind of art in East LA, and precisely for that reason of it being so unrecognizable, they made it public: dragging a huge cross down the street to the Vets office, staging photos on an island off Whittier Blvd, a No Movie shot at Philippe's. I know first and second generation stories of growing up in City Terrace and Commerce and parts in between. I can see my dad and tio running across the freeway for fun and my nana driving to Santa Monica to try to get therapy, my popi working at Farmer John's and maybe not coming home. And there's the stories of my dad courting my mom, meeting at the tennis courts, when he saw Jimi Hendrix at a little club in Hollywood. This was the same time, the same neighborhood, the same anger and frustration of growing up there.

And they lived through it by making art.

Then I had questions: was this just obscure and held within their group or did people of the neighborhood react, who knew this was happening-other young people?

Then we got home. My dad asked us, "Hey, have you ever heard of a guy named Gronk in the art world?" We told him we just went to go see the Asco exhibit, and I thought he was messing with us, but he had no idea. Then he answered my questions. My dad was at East LA City College at the same time Gronk and the other guys were. He took classes with them, marched with them as part of the Chicano Movement protests, went to Los Illegals shows. This was in the 60s before Asco officially formed, so he witnessed the precursor to the more organized version of their art.

If that wasn't enough to blow my mind, later in the night after some thinking, he remembered that Gronk would go to the cleaner's my nana owned ( it was a brief business) and hung out with her ( it makes a lot of sense that they would both get along, eccentric people were drawn to her). I can imagine them having a lot of fun together.

A still from Agnes Varda's Mur Murs, a film of murals in Los Angeles. These girls pose against the wall, and then they walk away. I could watch this scene over and over.

And then I felt connected, not to the artists, but to my family's history within this city. Maybe that's what was hard about living far away-I didn't have any ties to what happened there before. But here I can go to Canter's with my mom and she'll tell stories of eating there with my dad after going to the movies and that before my popi lived on the west side. And this is what I crave and want more than anything, I'm comforted by the interactions of memories.

Oh, and then I friended Gronk on FB and saw a picture of him and Beatrice Wood together, which took it all to the next level. I actually cried because I couldn't believe it was all connecting even more. I want to write to him and tell him everything.


Dyan said...

wow, this is such a special post! finding heroes in art and finding the connection and meaning and memories it had on your own family. so special! it really is all coming together.

i enjoyed learning about this art group here too :) haven't heard of it before.


mari said...

I hadn't either!

It does feel cosmically connected... I'm sure I'll gush about this more over our holiday reunion : )

Natalie (Fashion Intel) said...

I went to this show as well and was really blown away, not only by the amazing people but the documentation of it all. Being Chicano is totally radical and I hope more of our art is displayed for the world to see.

My mom was a Brown Beret, maybe our parents crossed paths at some time. It is a fun thought!