Comics of Anniversaries Past

To mark every anniversary Mariela and I have had, I usually make some sort of graphic work for Mariela to commemorate the occasion. To be honest, each of those graphics from anniversaries past have fallen into the category of “old work” that makes me cringe when I look back at them. I’m really happy with my recent work but now my art from the recent past is not holding up like it once did.

Regardless of how I feel about my graphic work I am still really proud of the various comics I’ve done to commemorate our love. Below are a few highlights from the last two years

A tribute to our love (and Pinky & The Brain)
A tribute to our love (and Pinky & The Brain) Click to see full size
Click to see it full size
Click to see if full size
Click to see it full size

Be awesome to each other,

Rio

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The 2009 Chicana/o Biennial

A print of my most recent portrait of Ask A Chola will be included as part of the 2009 Chicana/o Biennial at MACLA in San Jose, CA.

Exhibition: June 5 – August 8, 2009

Opening Reception: Friday June 5, 8:00 – 10:00pm

Book signing: Friday June 5, 7:00 – 8:00pm

Join us in celebrating the second publication of the A Ver: Revisioning Art History series, highlighting the artistic contributions by Yolanda M. López.

Artist talk: Friday August 7, 7:00pm

Join selected artists for a gallery walkthrough and an engaging conversation about their work.

MACLA

510 South First Street
San Jose, CA 95113

tel: (408) 998-2783
fax: (408) 998-2817

Gallery Hours:

Wednesdays & Thursdays 12 noon —7:00pm
Fridays & Saturdays 12 noon—5:00pm

Happy Mother’s Day!

My mom was an artistic troublemaker even back in the day. Here she is stirring up the pot at the age of 18. Her contempt of elbow paintings runs concurrent of some of my own opinions about art. She really is my mom!

Today we went out for breakfast with Mariela and then saw Star Trek at the Empire in West Portal. I think we both shed a little tear during Leonard Nimoy’s narration at the end. Happy Mother’s Day and live long & prosper y’all.

Peace,

Rio

Reclaiming the Animated Gif Part 3

In these early days of May there’s a lot pushed on us that will supposedly make me proud to be Mexican (er, Chicano). I can appreciate the politics of May 1st but when it comes to Cinco de Mayo I usually associate it with simplifying history, beer ads, and drunk college kids. I’m all for gettin’ sauced up now and then but please don’t do that shit in the name of my people.

That said, what’s made me proud to be Mexican American recently is the work of Mexican artist Jaime Martinez. With all the writing I’ve done about animated gifs so far I was excited to discover that these works of art were done by a Mexicano. I’m not sure what technique he uses for capturing his images, if he’s quick on the draw with the shutter or he uses multiple cameras. His methods give them the visual depth of old fashioned stereograms.

According to his site, Jaime Martínez was born in Monterrey México (1978) and he is currently living in Mexico City. His art sheds light on the potential of animated gifs. These mind-blowing images are truly state of the art. Enjoy.

Peace,

Rio

Becoming Media with Dadanoias

Part of maintaining credibility amongst Chicano peers is striking a delicate balance between identifying with our indigenous roots and acknowledging our European influences. Cindylu wrote a great blog on the occasionally laughable difficulties of doing this. Performing race and culture (or the implication that someone is doing it only to show that they down with brown) can be a sensitive subject for us.

I say this because I always give my Chicano friends a lot of shit whenever they pay deference to anything from Spain, mostly to give them a hard time in jest. My confession today is that I’m super excited to receive the new art book by Spanish artist Dadanoias (A.K.A. Kahlo, real name Marta Castro Suarez). As a present to myself for filing my taxes on my own for the first time I pre-ordered the book from Amazon.

Dadanoias’ artwork has been circulating throughout a handful of Chicano blogs recently. When I first stumbled across her work on flickr I have to admit that I thought she was Chicana. The digital collage aesthetic and color combinations screamed Chicano art to me.

The interventions in her images are exciting and alluring. In each piece she inserts herself as a part of the medium of the image and layers on original and borrowed images. Dadanoias doesn’t caption her pieces so there’s a lot of meaning left open for interpretation. Visually peeling back layers and meaning in her images does indeed make a good challenge.

Dadanoias gets extra nerd points for co-opting Urusei Yatsura illustrations for her work. I wonder what Rumiko Takahashi would think of her images?

Peace,

Rio

The Mystery of Amber Rose

I have to confess that I’m both very fascinated and very smitten with Amber Rose, the mysterious girlfriend of Kanye West. The pair have been photographed jet-setting all over the world dressed in the flyest Blade Runner-esque gear. Part of her appeal to me is that Ms. Rose is ethnically ambiguous and startling beautiful with her nearly bald head. Both she and Kanye West have been the subjects of a lot of negative speculation online but I think they’re kinda endearing as a glamorously futuristic couple.

That negative speculation is just about the only information I could find on Amber Rose. Almost all of it is gossip that she may have been a stripper at some point in her life or homophobic condemnation over her short hair and previous relationships with women. Her story thus far has only really been told in the photos of her out and about in public. The only information I could find coming from Ms. Rose herself is this interview with her – Download MP3 (Warning contains LOTS of salty language and sex talk).

Those of you who have been keeping up with my videos on facebook know I’ve recently developed a penchant for crazy/ridiculous/amazing sunglasses. Amber and Kanye have both been photographed a lot lately wearing some impressive specs, check out the ones Amber is rocking below.

The portrait I created of her is both a response and a reclamation of her public image. It’s based on a photo I found of her online, the double-barreled middle fingers really appealed to me. When I saw the image I knew I wanted to make something out of it.

My first draft of the piece (above) was a lot more detailed than where I ended up with it. It didn’t have the pop I was looking for so I went back into Photoshop to adjust the tones and details. I like the final version, it’s very simple and stripped down.

I feel like I’m at a crossroads with my style and aesthetics. I spent years mastering the impractical mouse in creating my art and now that I’m using a tablet it has opened up too many possibilities for me. I’ve been strugling to figure out what stylistic direction to head into. The tablet has enabled me to me more detailed but I’ve also become interested in this simpler and more contrasty aesthetic.

What do you think of the two styles?

and can anyone shed some light on the mystery of Amber Rose?

Peace,

Rio

Clash of the Titans

In talking about my own artwork I often bring up the idea of combining disparate mythologies. My love for this concept is one of the reasons I come to my job at SOMArts with a smile. Every time I arrive at SOMArts I am greeted by a series of sculpted portraits that line the walkway into the entrance of our lobby.

As one walks by, you can witness an eternal stare down between two of my favorite icons from VERY different worlds: Guillermo Gomez-Peña and Cthulhu. One is a master performance artist, world renowned for his work. The other is a fictional cosmic entity, a worshipped evil being that was a fixture in the works of writer H.P. Lovecraft.

I often wonder if anyone else appreciates the interaction between these two legendary beings. Their endless waltz of gazes, smirks, and scowls brings a smile to my face every time. The next time you come to SOMArts take a look at it as you walk by.

Speaking of SOMArts, we now have our own blog, twitter account, and flickr group. I’ll be posting to the blog every now and then so check it out.

Peace,

Rio

Oakland’s Gettin’ Hot

I spent this past Sunday hanging out with my good friends Manny Martinez and Sandra Garcia Rivera. Both Manny and Sandra are singers, writers, and poets whom I met last year while taking photos and doing graphics for their band Benito Cereno. I woke up Sunday morning and while I drank my morning coffee checked my facebook page. I came across a posting by Manny titled Oakland’s Gettin’ Hot, a written piece in reaction to the murder of four Oakland police officers the day before. I left a comment on the note, talking about the profundity of his words, and Sandra responded inviting me to a reading/performance they were both having that day at Rebecca’s Books in Oakland.

I knew I wanted to get Manny’s performance of the piece on video so I grabbed my flip minoHD camera and got on the BART to Oakland. There was a nervous energy in the air when I got out at the Ashby station in Oakland. Walking down the three blocks to the bookstore I felt the nervousness in the air, it was intense.

After the bookstore event I proposed to Manny and Sandra that we travel somewhere so that I could shoot some footage of them performing their recent works. They agreed and Manny picked Lake Merritt in Oakland as the backdrop for the shoot. I spent about an hour filming Manny and Sandra and interviewing them about their relationship and how they relate to the Bay Area as two Puerto Ricans. Below is the pair doing their thing with Oakland’s Gettin’ Hot and Manny’s original text.

Oakland’s getting hot-March 22, 2009
the day after four Oakland police officers were gunned down

Oakland’s getting hot
Four cops shot
bystanders applaud
Oh-lordy lord
Media machine is hummin’
Schwarzenegger’s comin’
To talk to Mayor Dellums
Wonder what he’ll tell ‘em

Four cops shot
Oakland’s gettin’ hot
Crowd starts to chant
“this is for Oscar Grant”
Last cop to die
Was back in ‘99
But how many brothers
Have died within that time

Four cops shot
Oakland’s gettin’ hot
When bodies start to stack
Most of them are black
The man who pulled the trigger
Just another Black man
It’s kind of strange
There was Love in his name

Now Oakland’s gettin’ hot
Four cops shot
To some it means nothin’
To some it means a lot
If you live in Oakland
Please watch your back
Things are getting’ wack
Be careful if your Black.

At the end of the shoot Manny brought things to a close with a freestyle.

My original work with Manny is the portrait below that I completed almost a year ago. It’s one of my personal favorites from my portrait series.

Peace,

Rio

Ps. I’ve made no secret of my mad love for the Chica’s Project on Mun2 and as it turns out Sandra was featured in an episode of the show. Check out Sandra schoolin’ Crash and Yasmin in Nuyorican Poetry and performing an original piece.

[Note: For more videos of Manny and Sandra, please check out my facebook page. I can’t seem to embed facebook videos in wordpress and flickr limits videos to only 90 seconds each.]

Reclaiming the Animated Gif Part 1

Much has been written about the differences between myspace and facebook and the implications of class, race, and education that fill the divide. Nothing has signified this paradigm better than facebook not displaying animated gifs on their site. People fleeing bling graphics and the gaudy pimped-out layouts of myspace have found peace and tranquility within the rigid boundaries of facebook.

I can understand the issues that people have with animated gifs. Aside from their mostly vulgar aesthetics that can make your eyes bleed they can also present technical problems as well. Back in the day when I only had a dial-up connection at home (about 3 months ago) I had to avoid the myspace profiles of certain friends because, quite frankly, they filled their pages up with so many gaudy ghetto graphics that the shit would cause  my computer to crash. Even now with a solid wi-fi connection too many “100% Sexy Mami”, “Just dropping by to say hi”, and “(insert name of Latin American country) pride” animated gifs will still fuck up my mac.

As a Chicano, I do have strong interest in these graphics that I so frequently condescend to. Animated gifs are the Paño art for the current generation of young people. They are art created with the available tools and resources at their disposal. In this transition they have lost their technical hand made quality in exchange for color, motion, and easy deliverance. Art in magazines like Lowrider, Teen Angel, and Mi Vida Loca have also become outmoded in the rise of the animated gif.

The cultural and social dynamics and ghetto notoriety of the gif has made me interested in artists who work in the medium with this stigma in mind. My favorite is Colombian graphic artist Mariana Rojas (also known as La Furia). Her artwork embraces the gaudy aesthetics of animated gifs and turns them into something bombastic. My favorites are below.

Friday Im in Love by La Furia
Friday I'm in Love by La Furia
Feliz viernes 13 para ti! by La Furia
Feliz viernes 13 para ti! by La Furia
Amor Electrico by La Furia
Amor Electrico by La Furia

More on this subject to come,

Rio

My art featured in Ask a Chola’s latest video

I should be sleeping right now. In about six hours I’m boarding a flight for Los Angeles to attend this event at UCLA for my mom , Yolanda Lopez. Before I sleep for a quick second I wanted to share this latest video from Ask a Chola featuring my recent portrait of her.

I hope y’all tune into Chola’s show tonight. She’s hands down  my favorite performance artist and I’ve tried to support her work with my own art on many occasions. I thought I’d share my contributions to her presidential campaign of 2008.

If anyone I know is going to be around UCLA this Wednesday and Thursday give me a call and we can hang out.

Peace,

Rio