The Work of a Master: An open letter from an artist to a Mexican crime cartel boss

Guillermo Gomez-Peña just published this profound reflection on his personal relationship to Mexico and his national identity in relation to the increasingly bleak drug violence in the country and along the border. As a second generation Chicano I have been thinking a lot about the post-national identity that Guillermo refers to throughout his letter and how I fit into it. I highly recommend that you give it a read.

An open letter from an artist to a Mexican crime cartel boss

Peace,

Rio

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La Pura Cura Purikura

This past weekend I embarked on my second collaboration with the brilliant and loco por sure Guillermo Gomez-Peña (along with members of his performance troupe La Pocho Nostra). Our project is La Pura Cura Purikura. It’s an ongoing project of purikura photos costumed, performed, and decorated by Gomez-Pena, facilitated and decorated by myself.

For this first shoot we were joined by La Pocha member Kika Olsen (below).

Gomez-Peña had the idea to dress himself as a post-apocalyptic border-shaman. With that in mind we all packed up our costumes and props and traveled to Pikapika in Japantown for a purikura adventure. Suffice to say we turned a few heads while we took photos and as Guillermo and Kika got into their characters amongst confused Japanese teenagers.

Below is a sampling of the images we created together. There are more planned Purikura sessions on the way with La Pocha Nostra so stay tuned! For a full gallery of La Pura Cura Purikura CLICK HERE.

Peace,

Rio

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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

World’s Finest Collaboration

I’ve been experimenting with my new Wacom Bamboo tablet. People are shocked to hear that I’ve always done my drawing with a mouse. I got the tablet for my birthday and have had to start to learn to draw all over again. After struggling through a handful of awkward sketches I came up with the image below. The image above is my second attempt using the tablet. World’s Finest Collaboration combines two of my heroes from two very different mythologies. Much love to the Dark Knight and GGP.

The tablet will change a lot of how I make my work. I’ll probably fumble a few times along the way but I’m excited about all the potential in it.

Peace,

Rio

Ain’t no party like a Gomez-Peña photoshoot

About two months ago I participated in a photoshoot for Guillermo Gomez-Peña’s La Pocha Nostra performance troupe. Guillermo had invited a series of artists and performers to model alongside his troupe for photographer RJ Muna. It was an amazing night of S&M costumes, nudity, glam makeup, and improvisation that I’ll never forget. At the shoot I ran into Emma Mankin a dear friend from waaaaay back in the day. We hadn’t seen each other since we both graduated from the 8th grade. I was glad to know that 16 years later we had both followed through with our goals of being artists. It was crazy and amazing catching up with Emma and her mom Joan at the shoot and then going up and posing in the set with her in various states of glam and undress.

Today Rene and I received the link to the final photos from that shoot. I didn’t make the cut (*sniff*) but Emma and Rene did.

photo by RJ Muna
photo by RJ Muna

That’s Emma to the right with one of Guillermo’s performers. Of all the photos that we’re shot, I’m a little surprised and disappointed that this is the only one that was selected. Aside from being an skilled painter and jewelry maker, Emma has always been a great performer and she was awesome that night.

Rene had three images make the cut. He came to the shoot with a posse of Fridas from his recent tableau vivant project at the SFMOMA. My dad always knows how to rock a Mexican wrestling mask in style, check out the images below.

Photo by RJ Muna
Photo by RJ Muna
Photo by RJ Muna
Photo by RJ Muna
Photo by RJ Muna
Photo by RJ Muna

You can see the rest of these amazing photos at http://www.rjmuna.com/2008/pocha/portraits/ and http://www.rjmuna.com/2008/pocha/karaoke/

Peace,

Rio