Acciones Plásticas プリクラ

At long last my top-secret collaboration with artist Maya Escobar can be revealed. Our artist statement follows the images. Big ups to Carianne Noga for helping Maya and I get this project going.

Acciones Plásticas プリクラ is a collaboration between St. Louis based artist Maya Escobar and San Francisco based artist Rio Yañez.

Maya Escobar is a Guatemalan-Jewish digital media and performance artist, currently living in St. Louis.  Her work addresses issues of cultural hybridity, gender, placelessness, and the construction of identity. Rio Yañez is a Chicano curator, photographer, and graphic artist based out of San Francisco. His work utilizes and challenges Chicano mythology and visual iconography.

In Acciones Plásticas Escobar created a multi-faceted “doll” by assuming the role of designer and distributor, and even posing as the actual doll itself.  Each doll was a satirical characterization of some of the many roles that have been projected upon her, and into which she has, at points, inevitably fallen. In conjunction with these images, she developed a short series of low-definition youtube video blogs through which she inhabits the lives of “real women” who have each been visibly defined by societal constructs.

Recently, Yañez has been utilizing Japanese photobooths (known as Purikura or “print-club”) as an artist’s tool for creating portraits. These booths are much more common in Japan than their United States counterparts. As a catalyst for creative expression and social interaction they are used primarily by young urban Japanese girls. A standard feature in all Purikura booths allows the user to digitally decorate their portraits after they take them. The options are vast and include wild characters, excessive starbursts of light, pre-made phrases and the option to draw your own text directly on the image. Purikura gives the subjects near-divine powers of self-expression in crafting their own portraits.

The two artists who met over the web, decided to bring together Escobar’s highly charged and evocative Acciones Plásticas characters with Yanez’s notorious Chicano graphic-art style and new found obsession with Purikura images, as a way of addressing the construction of Latina identities.

Maya posed as The Latina Hipster: a bad-ass Morrissey-lovin’, tuff-girl sexy chica; The Latina Role Model: a diploma totin’ intellectual, sexy, social media goddess; and finally, The Homegirl: a hybridized version of Escobar’s Midwestern Chach (or Chachi Mama) and Yañez’s West Coast Chola, who sticks up her middle finger in what appears to be an act of defiance, but really is her protective shield.

Maya sent digital images to Rio, who in turn drew portraits of her as each of these constructed identities, approaching each portrait with a Purikura sensibility and decorating them each as the characters represented might accessorize themselves. The final series of portraits is the result of negotiating multiple identities and influences. Guatemalan, Jewish, and Chicano sensibilities reflected back through a Japanese Purikura aesthetic. Acciones Plásticas プリクラ challenge and question the thin line between archetype and stereotype. The Purikura elements present the novel signifiers of each social construct represented in the series.

This collaboration is the first of many to come as Maya and Rio explore the commonalities and differences of their cultural identities.

Busy Chicano Omake

The week leading up to SOMArt’s Day of the Dead exhibit is always the busiest, craziest week of the year for me. I’m trying to return my life to a normal schedule while taking care of a few loose ends. I have so much to write about but not much time in the next couple of days. In the meantime enjoy these Purikura photos that I took with my homegirl Ava Alamshah.

Peace & Purikura,

Rio

プリクラ Jumpoff

It seems like I have been hustling on graphic design work 24/7 so today I took a break in the morning for an outing to Japantown with my homegirl Maya Chinchilla. We had one goal in mind: hit up pikapika and take some crazy-ass pictures. This was my second trip to pikapika and Maya’s first. Once again the guy who works there was super-friendly and helpful in helping us navigate the menus of the machines we used.

We used the Minna booth (below) and once again I was drawn to the Love Joker booth (above). This time around we used Love Joker’s Shiny Madonna theme. Love Joker has 3 aesthetic themes that you choose from before taking your photos and each theme has a different assortment of backgrounds and suggested poses. The Minna booth had an amazing array of color foil backgrounds that my scanner does not do justice to. Seen in person, they jump off each print.

I am more determined than ever to curate a Purikura exhibit. I can only imagine what kind of images artists and performers can create together with these magical photo booths. If anyone out there is interested in exhibiting or participating in such a show let me know.

Peace and プリクラ,

Rio

Anygüey Love and Lolita Guadalupes

I was interviewed this weekend by Alejandro Paz for Anygüey and it was just posted today. I do intend to keep my word and design a tattoo for Alejandro. More on that story as it develops.

Yesterday Mariela and I ventured to Japantown, our first trip there in years. Rene and I go to the Kabuki theater all the time but we rarely go into any of the shops these days. I had been dying to check out New People, a brand new shopping center that recently opened. New People was launched by Viz Media; for those of you that don’t know, I actually used to work for Viz and their publication Animerica way back when. It’s crazy to think that the small company of about 20 that I started working with is now an expanding media empire.

The most fascinating shop at New People was BABY, the Stars Shine Bright the first flagship store of the Japanese Lolita Fashion brand. I had only seen Lolita fashion through magazines & computer screens and seeing a store full of these clothes was like being in a surreal movie set. What really caught my eye was a $38.00 tote bag from the store’s Alice and the Pirates line that featured the image below.

Annie and the Pirtates

An image of the Virgin surrounded by a bleeding heart, roses, and a skull. This was very clearly not a Catholic motif but a reference to Chicano pop sensibilities. Is this a sign of things to come in Lolita fashion?

Mariela and I then walked over to the Kinokuniya building and quickly discovered pikapika. pikapika is a store with nothing but Japanese Purikura photobooths (about 10 in total I think). The place was closing soon and Mariela and I had just enough time to hop into a Love Joker booth and take a set of photos. I used to love Purikura booths as a teenager but DAMN, the technology has improved since then. The ring of diffused strobes that surround the touchscreen menu of the booth were impressive. After our shoot we were led to another section of the booth where we could decorate and draw on our photos using wacom-like pens. All the text of the machine was in Japanese but pikapika has helpful translation charts posted on the machine. The end result of our picture taking and decorating was printed out on a 4×6 sheet of sticker paper.

Making the photos was a fun experience and at $10.00 a pop, it wasn’t cheap but it was well worth it. My mind is now spinning with thoughts of curating an art exhibit of artists who create portraits of themselves with purikura booths. With all the machines at pikapika, there are endless possibilities for artists to create amazing images using them. If anyone is interested in participating in or hosting such an exhibit please let me know.

Peace,

Rio