Cholas, Cholos, and new Ghetto Frida Art

Photo by Lex Leifheit
Photo by Lex Leifheit

Question: How do you explain what a chola is to someone who has absolutely no frame of reference as to what one might be?

Tonight I was part of the 2009 Chicana/o Biennial artist talk at MACLA. It was great to see my peeps and peers talking about their work like my boy Jaime Guerrero, my homegirl Viva Paredes, and Seattle-bound sculptor Gustavo Martinez (additional shouts to Mariela, Rachel, and Lex for coming out to support us). I missed seeing MACLA’s wonderful Stephanie Chiara but otherwise it was the perfect night.

The discussion of my work MACLA went really well but I was stymied by a little old lady who had no idea what a Chola was. While I was talking about my portrait of Ask a Chola she wanted me to explain to her what a chola was. Every explanation was dependent on refering to some part of  urban Latino culture and she couldn’t grasp anything I tried to communicate to her. I wasn’t expecting to have to define a chola in talking about my work but it was my fault for not being able to think on my toes. What’s the best way to cleanly and concisely explain to someone what a chola is?

Speaking of Cholas, Cholo rapper Deadlee has put me on blast on his blog. He didn’t care for the review that I gave to his recent movie, homophobic cholaxploitation film Hoochie Mamma Drama. You can read my review HERE and chime in on the comments section if you want. I have no interest in any sort of blog-beef and I wish Deadlee the best of luck in his career.

After seeing Jim Mendiola’s amazing video for Girl in a Coma’s Static Mind I wanted to further explore photo sequence animation.


This was a casual first try, Mariela and I had a lot of fun taking photos in sequence throughout the Mission District. More to come, hopefully.

gfrida

I have some big Ghetto Frida news coming soon and the image at the top is a small preview of more to come. Stay tuned.

Peace,

Rio

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A Challenge to Chicano Rappers

Something that has always vexed me is the act of laying claim to Chicano identity without bearing any political responsibilities or consciousness. To me, Chicanos don’t always have to be Mexican-Americans but the line in the sand is that calling yourself Chicano is identifying with a leftist political ideology. That’s why it burns my ass to no end that there is a genre of Hip-Hop known as Chicano Rap that is all but devoid of politics.  The only references to identity in most Chicano Rap albums has to do with identifying as a Norteño or Sureño aside from vague references to “Brown Pride.” At this point in our political culture the idea of “Brown Pride” has been exhausted of its political meaning and we’ve now progressed way beyond it.

Pop in almost any mainstream Chicano Rap album and you’re more than likely to hear stories of popping caps, being king of the block, representing a clicka, slanging ‘caine, getting respect, and other acts of depoliticized patriarchal bullshit. Despite all of these Chicano rappers trying to out-badass each other there’s one person that’s got them all beat. That person is one Ms. Lily Allen.

These Chicano Rappers aint got shit on me
"These Chicano Rappers ain't got shit on me"

This weekend I was cycling through Lily Allen songs on my ipod while riding on a train to San Jose and came across Nan, You’re a Window Shopper. The song is Lily Allen’s version of 50 Cent’s Window Shopper. It’s a cheeky diss track against Allen’s own grandmother. What’s so revolutionary about it is that the song covers territory that’s essentially forbidden to Chicano Rappers. Think about it, Chicano Rap songs are filled with predictable tropes of  violence and nostalgia but even the most baddest of cholos still hold some things sacred. Lily Allen was brave enough to break one of our most basic social conventions and for that she is more dangerous than any Chicano Rapper.

Question: Despite all the hyper-masculine posturing, can you ever picture any of these supposedly hardcore Chicano Rappers cutting a track against their own dear abuelitas?

The bar has been set by Lily Allen. I dare any of you calling themselves Chicano Rappers to reach for it. Put up or shut the fuck up.

Sincerely,

Rio

Sekai Wa Subarashii

Life is good. My first solo-curated exhibit is a success, my Andy Warhol programming launches at the de Young Museum this Friday, and the reception to this year’s Valentine’s Day cards has been amazing. Sitting here at my computer tonight I feel like a lot of toil and hard work is really starting to pay off. The icing on the cake has been the warm welcome my Valentine’s cards received. I got them out a little later than usual amidst my crazy schedule but was really happy to see everyone get into them. Many thanks to everyone who posted them around and shared them with their special someones. I really want to send a special thanks to Sacred Yoli and Cindylu who have been great advocates of my work and have both put in extra effort to get the cards out there.

Speaking of Cindylu, the last post I wrote detailing our colloborative project was actually started months ago but I left it unfinished in hopes that I would create some additional artwork out of the images. I’ve been carrying those intentions with me for some time and I finally caught a break to get some work done after Hybridity finally opened. I sat down and created the piece below. I worked with a slightly different color aesthetic that de-emphasizes solid blacks and I’m really happy with the results. It gives this portrait of Cindylu a look like that of a silkscreen print. The final layout is styled in the flavor of 90’s era indie comics. I hope ya can dig it.

Peace,

Rio