Friday, November 11, 2005

Arte, Familia y Juerga de Crimen

Manuel Ramos

In this post, Chicana/o Art, Five Families, and a little BSP.

Chicana/o Art
A review of a few (very few) books on Chicana/o Art:

Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge by Cheech Marin (Little, Brown and Company, 2002), published in connection with the traveling art exhibit of the same name, this classy book has 96 full-color illustrations of art by Chicana/o artists such as Carlos Almaraz, Diane Gamboa, Carmen Lomas Garza, Gronk, Jesse Treviño, John Valadez, and twenty others. Three exhaustive essays that trace the history and development of Chicano art are included in the book, written by Max Benvidez, Tere Romo and Constance Cortez. Cheech, called "the country's foremost collector of Chicano art" adds his own observations. This book is attractive and, unlike most art books, not too pricey ($19.95), especially considering the overall excellent quality of the represented art.

Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art (Various authors and contributors, Bilingual Press, 2002) sets the standard for all Chicano art books. The publisher says: "The result of years of careful preparation, this two-volume work of art covers the artistic production and biographies of nearly 200 individual artists from across the United States as well as Chicano/a artists residing in Mexico and elsewhere. This unique work was published both as a full-color, coffee-table-quality set of books, produced to exacting standards, and electronically, with its own separate Web site provides bibliography, indexing, artists’ statements, new works by the included artists, and other information that is continually updated." This is about as complete as one can get - up to the time of publication, of course. The two volumes in paper don't come cheap - $130 - but if you are lucky enough to get your hands on these books you will know that you have something special.

Something unique is The Road to Aztlan: Art From A Mythic Homeland , by Virginia M. Fields and Victor Zamudio-Taylor, (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2001). This is a truly impressive book produced to accompany an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It contains nineteen essays by scholars who "investigate the concept of Aztlan as a metaphoric center and allegorical place of origin for the various peoples of the Southwest and Mexico." In addition to the essays, 314 illustrations grace the pages; everything from an overhead shot of the Chaco Canyon ruins to the photographic essay by James Luna entitled Half Indian, Half Mexican. Not bad at $39.95.

Five Families
My cuñado sent a quick, off-the-cuff message to several in the family about a book he recently read and I liked his message so much that I asked him to let me reprint it on La Bloga. Here it is, Pepe Hernandez's take on a classic piece of Anthropology.

I read Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty by Oscar Lewis (HarperCollins, 1975) I highly recommend it to everyone. It was first published in 1959 and reprinted in 1975 but the various economic levels and the lifestyles they allow remain reality today.

I personally recall the visits to la colonia in Lamar and our families in Juarez, Mexico DF, Penas Blancas in Chihuahua and my 'tourist' visits while in the Navy and can say that some things are the same today as written 50 years ago. I recall visits to family and friends in Ordway, Crowley and Sugar City, Colorado.

Did I mention that the five families presented are real...this is not a novel and their experiences and actions are documented.

I noticed that the Spanish is translated literally and truly loses some of its flavor. When a couple address/refer to each other as old man/woman, that is not the same as the use of viejo/vieja in Spanish. Children addressed as mihita/mihito/papacito/mamcita is translated as my little son/daughter.

Overall the book is a window into the past of our ancestors - a path many walked that has ultimately led to where we are today. A path that daily leads us further into a better future but that originated with their coping and struggling with the hardships on their path. Our sons and daughters would find it hard to believe that their great grandparents and perhaps grandparents lived as described in the book.

Again, I highly recommend this read.
Hernandez, Jose L.

CrimeSpree Magazine has rapidly become one of the best sources available for reviews, interviews, short fiction, news - everything you want to know about the state of crime fiction. I'm pleased to note that I am all over the current issue, #9. First, my latest short story, Bad Haircut Day, is premiered in this issue. Second, Steven Torres, author of the very cool Precinct Puerto Rico series, interviewed me for the magazine. He asked some unique and unexpected questions. Finally, I interviewed one of my favorites, Brian Azzarello, the prolific graphic novel writer: 100 Bullets, Batman, Sgt. Rock, Hellblazer, many more, and now his latest, a western, Loveless. This guy is quite an interesting cat. The editors and publishers of CrimeSpree, Jon and Ruth Jordan, produce a quality publication - hope you have a subscription or can get a copy at your favorite book store.



msedano said...

hey, crime spree looks like a totally cool mag. does it have a web presence, or does one read it only via subscription?

that cheech collection is likewise wondrous. mine has several artist sigs on their work. when it first emerged, margaret garcia staged a sale/signing. later, another of the artists was over to the pad for an afternoon and he saw the book and signed his stuff. LA has a great art scene. Hope the rest of the nation shares similar events.

Manuel Ramos said...

Michael -You can read a selection from the current issue of Crime Spree on its website, - it's carried in a few book stores, most of its business is by subscription. You might ask at Book 'em, the mystery book store in your neck of the South Pasadena woods.

Here in Denver we have a few places that provide us Chicano art relief - CHAC, Museo de las Americas, Pirate (especially for Dia de los Muertos), my wife's office - nothing like LA, of course. We are blessed with an excellent group of Colorado artists (many of whom are profiled in the Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art volumes): Meggan de Anza, Jerry de la Cruz, Carlos Fresquez, Emanuel Martinez,Tony Ortega, Jerry Vigil, to name just a few. Very exciting stuff happening with the next generation of artists - the exhibit Leaving Aztlan showcases some of the new talent and new perspectives.

daniel olivas said...

love that cheech art book as well as bilingual press's two-volume set.