Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chicanonautica: Diego and Pablo in 20th Century

The Frida and Diego exhibit at the Heard Museum left my mind reeling. I also came away with some books. That got the ideas percolating . . . Ah, the creative process!

With Frida dominating the show, I feel the need to talk about Diego, one of the giants of 20th century art. It can be argued that he is responsible for the Latinoid/Chicanoid identity as we know it, and any genre of futurism it is spawning. I also couldn’t resist his My Art, My Life, especially with La Catrina from his mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park on the cover.

In her, Diego created her most magnificent manifestation--beautiful as she is monstrous, and wearing Quetzalcoatl as an accessory, pointing the way for her evolution from caricature of middle class pretension to the goddess of La Cultura to whom artists and writers must make sacrifices.

The autobiography is based on interviews with Gladys March, and gives an idea of his voice, and a taste of his mythomania--a strange word that often comes up concerning Diego. As it was with Frida, his public image and myth are just as important as his art. If you don’t create your own myths, someone else will do it for you. An important survival lesson for the age of social media.

Personally, I prefer the term mythotech.

The book reads like a fantastic novel--dare I say magic realism? Someday the story of Frida and Diego, and the way it twines through history, will probably be made into the greatest telenovela of them all.

At one point Diego calls Frida “a Mexican artist of European extraction looking to the native traditions for her inspiration.” Please allow me to throw that monkey wrench into the controversies over cultural appropriation.

Diego is a chingón of 20th century art. He has gained stature as time has gone by. When I was an art student during the Ford administration, my teachers would not have considered him any where near as important as Picasso--yet also in the museum bookstore was a catalog from another recent exhibition, Picasso & Rivera: Conversations Across Time, edited by Diana Magaloni and Michael Govan.

Sometimes I write like comic books. Sometimes I try to write like Rivera murals, or Picasso paintings. The book is also brimming over with great art. I had to have it.

A lot of the la gente these days don't like to recognize our Spanish heritage--as in Spain, the conquistadors, and the whole hijo de la chingada. They tend to know more Español than any native language. I identify with El Quijote and artists like Picasso more than I do with all the BBC stuff that Americanoids think is so damn civilized, and Spain is a bridge through Europe to Africa and the Middle East in my global barrio.

Like Rivera, Picasso had classical training. Picasso remained rooted in Europe's Greco-Roman past, providing a foundation of postwar Anglo/America-centric modernism. Rivera built off of pre-Columbian civilization. And mythology. Don't forget the mythoteching. And the mythomania.

As modernism and the 20th century cool down in living memory, who knows which artist will be seen as the biggest influence on the World Wide Latinoid Continuum of the new millennium.

Ernest Hogan is the author of High Aztech. His latest works are in Altermundos, Latin@ Rising, and Five to the Future.

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