Worth more than 1,000 words

Worth more than 1,000 words

30 Cal State L.A. artists interpret a Mexican master’s work in 24-foot mural

Cal State L.A. artist and alumni were invited to collaborate with a renowned Mexican and Brazilian artist, and design a mural that expresses their feelings and opinions about society for display at an exhibit at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.

Mural of ‘Mexican Masters’ in King Hall

Students pass by the hanging mural.

A mural dedicated to the greatest Mexican painters who influenced the Chicano mural movement in Los Angeles is now displayed on the first floor staircase in King Hall.

The mural, “Homage to the Mexican Masters”, was painted by Los Angeles artist John “Zender” Estrada with assistance from Nuke, Chose, Siner, Zuco, Shandu and Duce. It was donated to the University in the context of the “Walls of Passion: The Murals of Los Angeles” photo-documentary project. (For more on this project, read the winter 2009 Cal State L.A. TODAY article Walls of Passion.)

Zender said that he had been looking for a place to permanently display the work when he received an invitation to attend a grand-opening show of the photo-documentary exhibit at Cal State L.A. “I didn’t know too much about the show, but when I saw the exhibition… I was blown away by the scale of research and the number of murals being showcased,” he said. Soon after, he decided to give the artwork to the University.

According to Art Professor Manuel Aguilar-Moreno, who was the impetus behind “Walls of Passion”: “The donation by artist John Zender, who was featured in the project, recognizes the efforts of our institution in communicating with the surrounding community. …Cal State L.A. is developing strong programs that confirm our interest and concern in the communities and their people.”

More than 30 undergraduate, graduate and alumni artists have collaborated with a revered Mexican artist to have their collective voices seen and heard through the bright and bold imagery of a 24-foot-long mural.

The mural, Partitura Visual—or visual score—was commissioned by the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach to be exhibited as part of a more than 200-piece show by renowned Mexican born, Brazilian-based artist Felipe Ehrenberg. “The Manchuria: Peripheral Vision—Felipe Ehrenberg Retrospective,” which is being presented for the first time to audiences in the United States through August 15, is an exhibition of the artist’s multimedia works in performance, installation and video art produced from the 1960s to today.

The Cal State L.A. students’ piece, the only new work to be displayed, interprets Ehrenberg’s visual score, Juan Gabriel y La Palmera Roja.

“This is a celebration of a group of people coming together and expressing their voice,” said Cal State L.A. Art Professor Richard Wearn, who coordinated the project. The Pasadena Art Alliance sponsored the project, covering the cost of materials and the transportation of the mural.

“I am really happy with it. It’s a really great piece and a reflection of these guys, and the original artist Ehrenberg,” Wearn said.

The students’ mural was developed over a two week period, evolving more or less as a conversation, he said. Building from Ehrenberg’s images of Latin American singer and songwriter Juan Gabriel and the red palm—or la palmera roja—the students created their own imagery, icons and messages to demonstrate how they feel about the world, media and society today.

“There are a lot of different viewpoints coming together,” said alumna Kat Cutwright ’10, who was one of a handful of alumni invited back to campus to work alongside classmates and friends in the group art project. “We set it up so that everyone could have a space and have input, while also working together.”

For many students, this was their first endeavor in working on a collective art project—especially one that drew upon such a wide variety of skill sets, bringing painters, silk screeners, stencilers and others together under one roof.

“I really liked the idea of it, and I liked being a part of a collective project,” said junior Michael Rascon, adding that he hopes people take note of their work. “I’d like people to open their eyes to what’s going on.”

Among the assorted images in the mural, are newspaper clippings about Arizona’s recent immigration law, messages to Obama to listen to the people, to invest in education, and three white doves that bear the thoughts of a handful of participants in this year’s May Day march in Los Angeles. (Student artist Karina Rivas carried a blank canvas with her to the march and invited people to convey what they felt—then added that to the mural.)

“I decided to cut up the canvas because it was the peoples’ actual writing; it could not be duplicated,” Rivas said. “Their messages express how I feel, how many of us feel… that we want to be free from racial prejudice.”

Once the show ends, the Cal State L.A. students’ piece will be placed in the permanent collection of the museum, and it will be re-exhibited in 2011. There is also a possibility that it will be shown in Uruguay as part of another Ehrenberg exhibition.

“It was an incredible success for its objective of critical thinking and its practical application so needed for our youth to learn as a real skill in today’s world,” said Cynthia MacMullin ’06, the senior curator for the Museum of Latin American Art, who initiated the project with Cal State L.A.