Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Three Art Shows at East Los' Chimaya Gallery

Michael Sedano

This week has started out as a gallery week. Sunday, bloguera Ann Hagman Cardinal relates an experience with an irritating woman who made it her business to fault Cardinal's choice of clothing. Although the altercation happens in a department store rather than an art gallery, it is a fine piece of performance art that would have made a superb set of photographs.

Monday, bloguero Daniel Olivas extols the entrepreneurial treats he discovers down in the OC, Santa Ana to be exact, at Calacas, one of those welcoming mercantile and arts hot spots the internet hasn't managed to kill.

Today, I'm happy to introduce ChimMaya, a spot of entrepreneurial genius located in eastern East Los Angeles. ChimMaya has the distinction of being one of those rare eastside galleries to have gotten some ink from the Los Angeles Times. Felicidades, ChimMaya.

El Lay gente will find a trip to this Land of Nod (it is at the east of ELAC) well worth their time. Art collectors with a few thousand dollars can pick and choose from a tempting array of genuine bargains in the three shows running concurrently, 16 X 20, Duality, and Frida.

Visitors on a summer vacation jaunt into Southern California will deprive themselves of one of LA's hidden treasures if they do not find time to make the trek out the Pomona Freeway. Beverly Drive is not in Beverly Hills, but ChimMaya has all the cachet of a chicano Rodeo Drive.

In addition to artwork, Chimaya Gallery offers a dazzling array of women's accessories, particularly purses and exquisite sparkly jewelry. I ran into poet extraordinaire Olga Garcia at the register, as well as Margaret Quiñones-Perez from El Camino College, whose husband Monte Perez, of Moreno Valley College, was buying his wife a glamorous trinket. Garcia emailed me that "I had to control myself at that place yesterday. I did buy the best yellow purse ever! Unfortunately, the art was way out of my budget." My feelings exactly. If I had unlimited funds I would have bought ten or twelve of the works on display.

Ricardo Ortega's stunning pair of canvases captured many an admiring eye. The dark triple portrait expresses the model's beauty stunningly. Unfortunately, the not-dancing Shiva-like figure is so compellingly imaginative that it steals the show.

The woman in red, above, was dancing like Shiva when I happened upon her. Seeing the camera, she stopped and stepped out of the frame. "No, no," I implored, I need people in the shot." She obliged admiringly. I wish gente would realize they have more right to space than a camera. Don't duck under the lens, don't step out of the shot, don't halt your forward progress.

Ortega's wall stands alongside the Frida show featuring San Diego and Baja California artists, in the West Gallery.

The signature piece, the blue Frida illustrating the show poster, is far subtler than web colors allow. It will make you stop and stare, then come back and stop and stare again.

The Frida collection includes one stunning portrait that depicts middle-aged Frida, what she must have looked like at the end of her life, or maybe older. So many paintings, including Kahlo's own, depict her at younger ages, so this older Frida stands uniquely beauteous.

Sadly, I did not photograph this gallery, owing to close quarters and lingering gente, testimony to the enduring popularity of Frida images.

In the main and east galleries, Chimaya was opening the 16 X 20 group show featuring 32 artists. The 16" x 20" canvases hang side by side, encouraging comments and comparison of various painters' styles. This wall shows Dolores Haro, Aydee Lopez Martinez, Yolanda Gonzales, Joe Bravo. Opposite wall, not illustrated, contains additional work by Bravo, Gonzales, Ernie Herrera, and other outstanding creators.

The north gallery offers "Duality," a perplexing display of stylistic syncretism that left me scratching my head in confusion, wishing I could have engaged painter CiCi Segura Gonzales in an extended platica about her work. Filling the east wall was a large abstract canvas of colors and shapes that offers little to challenge the eye and, had this been her single contribution, would have led me to about face in search of something interesting. I have nothing against Segura's abstracts; I own a small piece bought at the now-closed Carlotta's Passion.

On the north wall she hung a circus triptych of colorful doll-like figures that resemble illustrations in a children's picture book. Although well executed, the canvases would have limited appeal to a wide audience. This was evidenced by the passersby who spent scant moments scanning the canvases.

Ni modo, I thought, when I looked to the south wall of the room where people stopped and studied, conversing excitedly about the work here. Arresting portraits. Compellingly executed, dramatic, and highly refined technique. These, too, are "circus" pieces, though the reference is irrelevant to the quality contained within the bounds of each portrait. As the artist notes in her statement, I was inspired by the photographer, Irina Ionesco, who was born into an eastern European circus and worked as a snake charmer. She challenged me to create paintings of her exotic photographs. They lent themselves well to the darker mood that runs through my small circus scenes. My abstracts capture the rhythm and color of the theme. I wish I could show you close-ups of all these, the highlight of the show, which is tough to say when I think of Shiva, most of the Frida, and numerous pieces not mentioned here. Silence on my part is no excuse on your part not to visit ChimMaya. This is a trip you owe yourself, even if just to get that fabulous yellow purse. Oh, that's right. Olga Garcia purchased that one. Better get there soon, que no?

That's the second Tuesday of July, 2009. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except you are here, or on your way to East Los and ChimMaya gallery and boutique. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.


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paco torres said...

Great Gallery, GREAT ARTICLE,
Can you tell me about future exhibits @ this gallery?

msedano said...

Paco, thank you for visiting La Bloga. You can contact ChimMay via their website: http://www.chimmaya.com/home.htm

michael sedano

Anita Rehker said...

Mr. Sedano's experience at ChimMaya is thoroughly echoed by my own and by friends whom I have taken there. From the moment you enter the front door, beauty in a variety of forms greets you not only through the artists' works, but from every corner of the gallery. The dedication and commitment of ChimMaya's owners, Steven and Danny, is on display throughout. Their obvious respect for the artists is matched by their commitment to the East LA barrio. In my estimation what sets them apart is the heart that they invest in every event. Whether it's a book signing, a music performance, or a new artist's exhibition, I try never to miss it for purely selfish reasons: the art is as provocative as it is uplifting; I meet fascinating people; I have the opportunity to purchase art at a price that is fair to me, to the proprietors, and to the artist. Everyone wins! So thank you ChimMaya for all that you do for the local community and metropolitan Los Angeles.
Anita Rehker