Monday, March 12, 2007

GRONK by Max Benavidez

A new book from the A Ver Series

Published by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press and distributed by the University of Minnesota Press

ISBN: 978-0-89551-105-8 hardcover (comes with DVD about the artist) $60.00; ISBN: 978-0-89551-101-0 paperback $24.95

From the publisher: Gronk was born in 1954 in the barrios of East Los Angeles. An autodidact by circumstance, he began his career as an urban muralist who had to look up the word “mural” to know whether he could paint one. Over time, he has grown into an international figure who has created grand sets for operas and computerized animation for panoramic screens.

In this sweeping examination of Gronk’s oeuvre, Max Benavidez elucidates how the artist can cross genres, sexual categories, and ethnic barriers, yet still remain true to himself. From street murals to mail art, from large-scale action painting to performance art and operatic set design, Gronk has made a lasting mark on the Chicano art movement, the punk scene, gay art, and the cultural world stage. As a founder of the East L.A. avant-garde art collective Asco (Spanish for nausea), Gronk and his contemporaries responded to Hollywood’s rejection of Chicanos by creating a conceptual countercinema, the No Movie, that incorporated Hollywood imagery and style even as it wickedly dissected the banality and biases of the mass media. In collaborations with Cyclona, Mundo Meza, Jerry Dreva, and Tomata DuPlenty, Gronk challenged the limits of sexuality, gender norms, and taste.

What Benavidez ultimately reveals is Gronk’s uncanny power to reinvent himself and his art, moving through one vivid artistic and subcultural scene to another. Add large doses of Gronk’s wit, irony, and talent and you have the story of his major contribution not only to Chicano art but to late twentieth-century culture.

For more information, including the table of contents, visit the book’s webpage. For more information on the A Ver Series, see the UMP page or the Chicano Studies Research Center page.

◙ NUEVO LIBRO: In Sunday’s El Paso Times, Rigoberto González offers his review of a debut novel, Tales from the Town of Widows (& Chronicles from the Land of Men) (HarperCollins), by James Cañón. It takes place in Colombia in the midst of "yet another undeclared civil war" where a “town [is] plundered of all its males by forced enlistment.” González calls it “ambitious” and recommends it to readers. By the way, González has a powerful and beautiful new poetry collection out, Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (Tupelo Press).

◙ RACKING UP KUDOS: Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature (University of New Mexico Press), edited by Dagoberto Gilb, is garnering much praise including reviews from The Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, and El Paso’s Newspaper Tree. And Sunday’s El Paso Times notes that the Juntos Art Association and the El Paso Public Library plan a two-day celebration of Hecho en Tejas. Several writers represented in the book will present literary readings and discussions at El Paso-area high schools on March 30; a March 31 event at the library will include panel discussions, literary readings, art exhibitions and book signings. Visit the library's website for more information. On a personal note, Gilb's writing was (and is) part of my inspiration to keep writing fiction, book reviews and essays. His work, along with that of others such as Sandra Cisneros and Luis Rodriguez, affirmed for me the importance of Chicanos telling our own complex and rich stories thereby defining who we are rather than letting others do that job (and messing it up in the process). I had a chance to attend a panel that he was on about six years ago at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books when I had just a few published short stories to my name. I chatted with him afterwards; he was encouraging and gracious and very, very funny. Woodcuts of Women (Grove Press) is still one of my favorite books.

◙ BEYOND GUYAVERAS: For all those La Bloga fashionistas out there, please note that the March issue of Tu Ciudad, the English-language guide to Latino L.A., features 12 pages of spring fashion that includes a photo shoot with actress Dania Ramirez (The Sopranos, Illegal Tender) modeling outfits by Eduardo Lucero and Emiliano Moreno, two of the city’s hottest Latino designers. Also in the March issue:

• Councilman Eric Garcetti wants his constituents to know that he’s Latino. Ayn Carrillo’s "Sex y L.A." column hilariously sheds light on hooking up at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar.

• A feature on the duo responsible for Nickelodeon’s first-animated series created by Latinos; a profile on Ana Ortiz from ABC’s Ugly Betty; and a review on the latest CD from local favorite, Ozomatli.

• Blood+Ink is a feature story about Mario Rocha, a budding literary talent who spent more than a decade in prison for murder before the courts ordered him released because he wasn’t properly defended in his trial. Rocha, who has consistently claimed his innocence, is awaiting a retrial decision and an ending to his amazing story.

Tu Ciudad Magazine is now available 10 times a year. Copies sold at stores throughout Southern California including Ralphs, Albertson’s, Vons, Rite-Aid, Barnes & Noble, Borders and newsstands throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties. Or, you can subscribe. And don't forget to take Tu Ciudad's Best of Latino L.A. readers poll. Make your voice heard!

◙ NEW LITERATURE: The new issue of Southern Cross Review is now live and filled with provocative fiction, book reviews, poetry and essays.

◙ I VANT TO DRINK YOUR BLOG: Marta Acosta, one of our two favorite writers in the vampire genre (the other being Mario Acevedo), is blogging her heart out as she awaits the publication this April of her second novel, Midnight Brunch at Casa Dracula (Pocket Books). Acosta has a wonderfully odd and special way of looking at the world. Drop on by and say hola.

All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro! --Daniel Olivas


Anonymous said...

By the way, there was a great interview with Gronk (by the fantastic LA poet Marisela Norte) in the Winter issue of Bomb:

daniel olivas said...

Thank you! I'll check it out.

Lisa Alvarado said...

Your ears should be burning! My comadre, Ann Cardinal is SO IN LOVE with your writing, she's recc'ing it to faculty at her college in VT! I look forward to reading your column every week for a broad ranging and varied pallete of books and culture.

daniel olivas said...

Lisa, I am grinning like a silly person...gracias and send un abrazo to Ann Cardinal!