Make ‘Em All Mexican: Mi Amor

Linda VallejoLos AngelesUnited States

2012Acrylic, 14k gold leaf, pigment print of original painting, repurposed plaster, pedestal

20.32 x 10.9982 x 50.8 cm

WOOCS 2.1.9

$ 3,441

1 in stock

My formative years were spent in far flung locations throughout the United States and Europe.  During my artistic grounding, I became increasingly immersed in the Chicano/Latino/Mexican-American arts and the indigenous communities – experiences that have informed my cultural perspectives and, by extension, my art practice.

It has taken my entire artistic career to fuse an image that defines my multicultural experience of the world and my place in it. Like most of my contemporaries I was taught the finer points of the Western classics, art and architecture, but later found myself living and creating in a milieu where symbols of beauty and culture were manifest in a decidedly alternate circumstance.

Make ‘Em All Mexican leads you down an ironic path to find yourself confronted by some of the most difficult questions of our time, “Do race, color, and class define our status in the world?” “Is it possible to be a part of and earnestly contribute to multiple cultures simultaneously?”  “Does color and class define our understanding and appreciation of culture?”

Several years ago, I made a series of trips that included a visit to China as well as to New York and several other major cities in the U.S. It is my custom to include museums and galleries in my itinerary to get a sense of what is happening in the national and international art scene.

On these trips I noticed a growing trend from the mundane to the fantastic—sculpture made of pre-produced objects, wildly untamed images created from found objects put to fascinating new uses, photographic collages combining digital work and hand drawn forms, and images that juxtaposed seemingly contrary cultural symbols and icons.

After seeing these works and hundreds more, my thought and creative processes began to shift. I found myself ruminating, “I’m a person of the world. What would the world of contemporary images look like from my own personal Mexican-American, Chicano lens?”  I found myself furiously painting directly on antique photographs and figurines to deconstruct iconic images to create an America that included me.  I began aimlessly browsing antique malls to find images that I could “call my own.

The Make ‘Em All Mexican series carries a strong electric charge. To some viewers, the images are hyper-political; for others, they are emotional portals to a past remembered and sometimes forgotten; and for another group, they are just down right hilarious.  The series is definitely strange and unfamiliar.  Recently on television sculptor Richard Serra stated that the work of the artist is not necessarily to create the unique, but rather “the unfamiliar.”  I have re-created a familiar world to create a new unfamiliar image, one that is unfamiliar to everyone that’s not Mexican….

After creating the Make ‘Em All Mexican – MEAM (2011—2016)  series of sculptures, handmade books, and manipulated aluminum sublimation prints, I was still interested in “keepin’ it brown.” The original MEAM series was realized on repurposed antique objects, photos, and book pages. That work tended to be detailed, complex, gaudy, and over-the-top, and, going forth, I wanted to produce a cleaner, simple image. For the next series I decided to focus on simpler, entirely abstract works on canvas and paper.

The first question was, “How do I translate the MEAM message to a two dimensional painted surface?” I went through several experiments, with unhappy results. Some of these experiments were based on personal memory and catharsis. But all the while In the back of my head I was ruminating about “brown electric portraits,” using small squares of different shades of brown, harking back to my earlier series, “The Electrics” (2008—2010).

In another part of my head I was thinking about data. The Los Angeles Latino community is always talking about Latino numbers and how the population is growing by leaps and bounds. The consensus is that the growing numbers should equal growing prosperity and influence. MEAM had been based on the politics of color and class. So The Brown Dot Project continues this question by asking if the growing numbers are changing our attitudes about color and class.

I finally realized The Brown Dot Project by bringing together the painting style employed in “The Electrics” (small squares of color) with Latino statistics and thinking about how abstract painted works could talk about these numbers and their influence on our perception of race and class. Then I thought of doing grids of color based on Latino data – little painted squares. But I wasn’t eager to take this approach; honestly, the thought of painting a zillion tiny squares was going to be a boring and exhausting process.

I needed to find a surface with the squares already in place. One day, as I was shopping for art supplies, the idea of architectural-grid vellum suddenly came to mind. The idea of small squares with painted dots based on numerical value was the resulting image.

The “brown dot” abstract image of these Latino data numbers emerged after several trials and errors.  Once I had the grids and began dividing them into quadrants I realized that a pattern was appearing. This was what clinched The Brown Dot Project. Experimenting with formal variations based on Latino percentages and numbers happened more or less automatically, coming out of my experiences with indigenous weaving. The first images recalled American Indian and Mesoamerican blankets and weavings and ancient ceremonial sites. The abstract images appeared because I was forced to create new variations. Mondrian, Chuck Close, Agnes Martin, Charles Gaines, and other grid-oriented modernists came to mind.

I find myself studying a variety of sets of data, including topics such as the number of Latinos in any given city or state, the national number of Latino executives, the number of Latinos involved in the American Civil war. The amount and kinds of data are inexhaustible! The works have grown in size from 9 square inches to 24 square inches to 36 square inches.  As an example: The Los Angeles (48.3% Latino population) 24 square-inch images entail 48,400 total squares (100% of the field), with 23,377 dots (48.3%), or 467 sets of 50 dots + 27 additional. Counting squares and dots, completing the corresponding mathematics, and “dotting” the page takes hours of concentration on both topic and execution.

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