Artist Raul Guerrero seeks his place in the world –

For much of his life, artist Raul Guerrero reflected on his place in the world. He was born and raised in National City, California, a coastal city that is part of the San Diego metro area. After a year of art studies at a local community college, Guerrero, then just 19, began hitchhiking through Mexico, from Tijuana to the Yucatan Peninsula, hoping his ancestral homeland might offer answers.

“I was looking for myself, you might say,” Guerrero recalled recently in an interview with ARTnews. “As an American Mexican, I never really felt out of place, culturally speaking. I thought maybe Mexico would be the place. Over the years, I have realized that Mexico is not my country – my country is the United States. At the same time, my affinity with this country was blocked due to the cultural environment which was very Eurocentric and Anglo-centric.

Related Articles

This quest has informed his artistic practice over the years since his first visit to Mexico in the mid-1960s. Guerrero said that a set of underlying questions guiding his practice are: “Where do I go?” belong? What am I talking about? What context did I come out of?

Guerrero’s artistic journey will be the subject of an upcoming solo exhibition opening in July at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, which has added the artist to its list. (The gallery will also feature six works by Guerrero as part of Art Basel’s “OVR: Portals”, which launches on June 16.) For his next exhibition at the gallery, Guerrero has created a suite of entirely new paintings from different sizes. When we spoke through Zoom in May, they lined the walls of his LA studio. The majority of them are based on earlier works he had painted at some point – he felt they were not where he wanted them to be in terms of technique. He sees this part of the show as a “synopsis” of his previous explorations.

“His work is an exploration of Los Angeles as a hyper-complex and diverse space,” said dealer David Kordansky. “For the show, he doesn’t just map the invention of California, especially Southern California, but he creates these bridges between where the natives and northern Mexico collide.”

Some of the plays are Guerrero’s own take on historical fiction, “a reconciliation of fact and fiction to create a representation of the things I think about,” he said. Two paintings imagine the sinking of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, which sank in a hurricane of 1622 off the Florida Keys on its way to Spain from the empire’s colonies in the Americas. Guerrero imagines it seen from the bottom of the ocean, with the ship’s treasures in plain view. “When it sank,” Guerrero said, “in my mind, that’s what happened.”

Another new painting, Exile: The Untold Story of Francisco Madero (2021), depicts a revolutionary who initiated the Mexican Revolution in 1911 but was assassinated in 1913. Guerrero also has a personal connection to Madero; his maternal grandfather grew up and worked on the Madero estate until he moved to the United States in 1896. In the painting, Madero sits at a desk and looks at what appears to be a pre-Columbian statue but which is actually a trinket that Guerrero bought from Tijuana. Above Madero is a portrait of the revolutionary. “He’s a kind of fictional character who could be Francisco Madero, ”he said.

Raul Guerrero, Portrait of Guadalupe Marin, 2021, which is a recreation of the portrait of Diego Rivera de Marin.

by Raul Guerrero Portrait of Guadalupe Marin (2021) is a recreation of Diego Rivera’s portrait of his second wife, Marin. It will be included in his next exhibition at the David Kordansky Gallery.
Photo: Elon Schoenholz / Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

Other works are direct copies of works by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, including a portrait of Rivera by his second wife Guadalupe Marin. Scenes from white American artists, such as Alfred Jacob Miller and George Catlin, who painted Native Americans in the Great Plains region, are also appropriate. One of these paintings uses an image of a buffalo hunt by Catlin, which Guerrero appropriated to highlight the “outright attempt by the US government to create genocide against the native population by eliminating their food source,” who is the bison, ”he told me. While doing this work, he asked himself: “What are we doing really know the story?

In his growing family, Guerrero said: “There has always been a kind of artistic sensibility that I think has affected the way I see the world.” It didn’t necessarily make him believe he would be an artist, even though an older brother and cousin were both art-inclined. During the summers of his teenage years, Guerrero’s parents sent him to pick grapes to earn money. Around this time, he started to think about what he could do with his life and came to the conclusion that he wanted to be an artist.

After high school, Guerrero enrolled at Southwestern College in the nearby town of Chula Vista to study visual arts, where he had John Baldessari as a teacher. Guerrero did not get top marks and quickly dropped out of school for his trip to Mexico. After having traveled a large part of the country, he returned to Mexico City and took ceramics courses at the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes for a few months.

Upon returning to the United States in 1964, at the height of the Vietnam War, Guerrero learned that a conscription notice awaited him. If he wasn’t enrolled in an American school, he said, he would have to attend basic training. Guerrero’s cousin was already a student at the legendary Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and suggested he apply for a place. It’s a bet that paid off: Guerrero was accepted and avoided being drafted.

Raul Guerrero, Las Indes, 2006.

Raul Guerrero, Las Indies, 2006.
Photo: Elon Schoenholz / Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

In 1969, the year before he graduated from Chouinard, Guerrero wondered what he wanted to do as an artist. He found an answer in Marcel Duchamp, whose famous retrospective of 1963 he saw at the Pasadena Art Museum. Guerrero started doing ready-made object-based installations. A sculptural installation comprising a cast of the artist’s body (made in collaboration with Ed Kienholz) and other elements, an installation resembling an inverted nylon pyramid, and a sculpture in which a Yaqui mask was mounted on a motor which was spinning it at 15 rpm. among Guerrero’s first mature works. Then, after a little over a decade, Guerrero’s work took a whole new direction.

“Eventually I started to think that I needed a different way of expressing my thoughts, because the given object has limits – it’s not as plastic as something you might create, like a painting, ”he said. “I needed something that would allow me to introduce color, form, movement and storytelling.”

In 1984, Guerrero returned to Oaxaca and rented a studio there for six months, during which time he learned painting on his own. Although he attended one of the most respected art schools in the United States, Chouinard was more focused on the ideas of a work than on its aesthetics, so he had never learned painting techniques.

When he arrived at the bed and breakfast where he was to stay in Oaxaca, another artist was finishing his stay in the workshop of the hostel.

Guerrero asked him, “How do you start with a painting? “

To which the artist colleague replied, “Well, you’re working from the back to the front.”

“That’s all he said, nothing else,” Guerrero recalls.

So Guerrero bought his painting supplies and his technique-oriented books and just started experimenting on canvas. It took him about two months “to get to the heart of the matter”.

The paintings he created there became an examination of Oaxaca, his own personal interpretation of the city based on his time there and the conversations he had with locals in the area. In one painting, a pre-Columbian pyramid is made bright red and surrounded by lush flora and fauna. In another, an indigenous mask is shown floating in the air in a blue forest under the gaze of a bull frog.

This approach has become an approach that Guerrero has often relied on: making paintings on a certain place based on the time spent there, mixed with fantastic elements that deepen its history. Other places he took as his topic were Venice and Tijuana, and after finishing those he quickly traveled to Iowa, which he thought “it would be like going back in time and seeing the ‘Authentic Anglo before going out to California,’ he mentioned.

On his way back to California from Iowa, he found himself in the Black Hills of the Dakotas, where he realized that everything he knew about this place was from the movies, typically westerns. He quickly began to create art there as well.

“Until then, the Black Hills seemed more mythical than real,” he said. “But once there, I am in this reality. It made me discover this idea that our reality is informed by the media, and this is how we filter our history.

Raul Guerrero, Chinlé, 2021.

Raul Guerrero, Chinle, 2021.
Photo: Jeff McLane / Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles

One of the Guerrero work bodies presents images of people in bars in Kordansky this summer. “When you go to a bar and sit there, you have a drink and you sympathize with life,” he said. Among these paintings is a portrait of bartender Ruben Rueda, who worked at the famous Hollywood restaurant Musso & Frank Grill for 50 years before his death in 2019.

But these paintings are not just bar scenes, they are also much more than that. This set of works, along with the other works to be featured in the exhibit, represents Guerrero’s attempt to map what he considers to be the true history of Southern California, depicting the region’s early indigenous people and the conquistadors. Spanish, as well as the region’s relationship with Mexico and the white settlers who arrived there as part of Manifest Destiny. Speaking of the people who frequent these waterholes, Guerrero said, “It was the historical images that created them, that gave them their context. You turn around and you can see this story in the afterlife.

And has Guerrero understood where he belongs in this afterlife? “Absolutely, I settled this for yesterday,” he said with a laugh. Then he got serious and said he realized five to eight years ago. “I’m not Mexican, but at the same time I’m not Anglo. I am a hybrid who lives in this country and I embrace it fully.

Source link

About Wesley Williamson

Check Also

Upper Sioux community artist explores merging audio and visual in ‘Wiwicakekage: To Make Reality’ – West Central Tribune

GRANITE FALLS – Autumn Cavender Wilson began her artistic journey as a mother-to-be with a …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.