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“It seems right in one pandemic to consider the life of an artist felled by another,” writes Los Angeles Times columnist Carolina A. Miranda about “Carlos Almaraz, the Mexico City-born, L.A.-raised painter whose expressionistic canvases of fiery car crashes found strange beauty in destruction and in L.A.’s indifferent, industrial landscapes. Almaraz died in 1989 at the age of 48 from AIDS-related complications. But his paintings have remained vital to the ways in which Los Angeles sees itself.

“The artist, who was the subject of a major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2017, is now at the heart of a new documentary, Carlos Almaraz: Playing With Fire, directed by Elsa Flores Almaraz, a painter who is also Almaraz’s widow, and actor and filmmaker Richard Montoya, a founding member of the theater troupe Culture Clash.” (latimes.com)

The documentary, available to stream on Netflix, is an intimate and moving portrait that features archival footage, interviews with Almaraz, and commentary by Chicano luminaries Dolores Huerta, Cheech Marin, and Edward James Olmos. “[The film] is at its best,” Miranda continues, “when focused on Almaraz and his work—examining how theater inspired his painting; how he infused chilly, grid-based minimalism with his own more buoyant language; and how in the activist-minded 1970s he sought a new way of working with Los Four, the collective that included painters Frank Romero, Gilbert ‘Magú’ Lujan and Beto de la Rocha.” (latimes.com)

IMCA is pleased to include a number of works by Carlos Almaraz in its collection, including Echo Park Bridge at Night (1989), pictured above. Other works in IMCA’s collection, including Magic Green Stage (1982), Car Crash (1983), and Suburban Nightmare (1983), are among those seen in the documentary.
 

UCI Alumni Spotlight
Hồng-Ân Trương (b. 1976) earned her MFA from the University of California, Irvine in 2008 and earlier this year was recognized as a Lauds & Laurels recipient—UCI Alumni Association’s highest honor. Trương lives and works in Durham, NC, where she is an activist, teacher, associate professor of art, and director of graduate studies in the MFA Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 
 
“Hồng-Ân Trương uses photography, video, sound, and sculpture to examine histories of war as well as immigrant, refugee, and decolonial narratives. Her work engages with the concept that politics is the struggle for equal recognition within society, with aesthetics at the core of this battle. Starting with the premise that memory is political, her projects examine structures of time, memory, and the production of knowledge by engaging with archival materials, individual and collective narratives, and histories that span cultural and national borders.” (wattis.org)
 
Trương is a 2019 – 2020 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in Fine Art and is currently the Capp Street Project Artist-in-Residence at the Wattis Institute at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. The fellowship supports the initial phase of We Are Beside Ourselves, an interdisciplinary, web-based project that uses photography, video, sound, and sculpture to frame the American War in Vietnam. Compelled by the multi-faceted work of Trinh T. Minh-ha, the project responds to the anti-Asian xenophobia of the pandemic crisis and the Black Lives Matter uprising, and features conversations between Latipa (née Michelle Dizon) and Gina Osterloh; denisse andrade and Betty Yu; Michelle Phương Ting and Kristiana Chan; Việt Lê, Bruce Yonemoto, and Đỉnh Q. Lê. (wattis.org)
 
Listen to We are Beside Ourselves.
 
Follow @sadly_temporary
 
“In 1966, Ed Ruscha (b. 1937) drove along the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, Los Angeles. Using a motorized camera mounted on the back of a pickup truck, he methodically photographed all of the buildings on each side of the street. He assembled the photos in the artists’ book Every Building on the Sunset Strip, which challenged how people thought about Los Angeles, art, and photography.

“The resulting archive of Los Angeles evolving through time has remained mostly-unseen for decades; it is so vast that even Ruscha and his team have not seen many of the images. The Getty has digitized more than 60,000 negatives from this collection of more than a half a million total images.” (getty.edu)

The Getty Research Institute launched 12 Sunsets: Exploring Ed Ruscha’s Archive, a clever and interactive website that allows visitors to choose their ride, “drive” up and down the Sunset Strip, and view Ruscha’s photographs of the famous street made between 1965 and 2007.
 
“Ed Ruscha’s engagement with the Los Angeles cityscape is profound. Since the mid-1960s he has taken more than a half-million photographs of the streets of Los Angeles, which have been at Getty Research Institute since 2012,” said Mary Miller, director of Getty Research Institute. “We aim to activate this rich material and make it widely accessible and appealing to anyone interested in art or the recent history of this great city. The vast majority of these photographs have never been seen before and making them accessible opens up new avenues for inquiry about one of the most significant artists of the postwar period, as well as a major part of Los Angeles history.” (artfixdaily.com)
 
Multiple works by Ed Ruscha are housed in IMCA’s collection. 
 
Follow @edruschaofficial
 
Staff Pick
It may not look it, but this shapely geometric abstraction carries a secret wish. Oskar Fischinger gifted Abstraction (Spheres) to his friend, art dealer Frank Perls, on December 28, 1951, requesting, as written in a note attached to the back of the work, that he “accept the square painting with the red ball as a Christmas present.” What resonates with me about this gift is the statement it makes about the evocative power of art. 
 
Fischinger’s use of form—his dancing orbs that seem to thread between one another like planets in orbit or scattering billiard balls—balances a textured color field with harmonic movement. Yet, the brilliant, glassy red that colors the foremost sphere suggests none other than the ubiquitous ornamentation that crowns the edges of evergreen trees and their plastic facsimiles each winter. I enjoy Fischinger’s lighthearted jest, to see in his deft arrangement of geometry and color contrast the simple pleasure of a merry pun.
 
Erin Stout
Curatorial and Research Associate, IMCA
 
In a June 11, 1933 article, the San Francisco Chronicle published the following about Helen Forbes’ paintings of Death Valley: “… The very name of the place calls forth a picture of breathless, thirsty heat, alkaline waterholes and bones whitening in the sun. But rather than the atmospheric or legendary quality of the spot, Helen Forbes sees there an endless variety of pattern and color. A snowstorm blotting out the peaks of purple mountain; copper and iron, piles of sulphur, the gray of sterile earth, or patches brilliantly dyed by rich mineral deposits—black, poisonous green and rusty brown—all those twist and heap and interlace into marvelous patterns for her.”  
 
Furnace Creek Wash by Forbes (1891 – 1945)pictured above, depicts the sun baked landscape that visitors still see today from Zabriskie Point, the vista that overlooks the golden colored volcanic and sedimentary hills of the Furnace Creek Formation in Death Valley National Park. Located south of Furnace Creek is the Artist Drive Formation, evidence of one of Death Valley’s most explosive volcanic periods. The Miocene-aged formation is made up of cemented gravel, playa deposits, and volcanic debris. Chemical weathering and hydrothermal alteration cause the oxidation and other reactions that produce the variety of colors displayed there and also at the Furnace Creek Formation.
 
The hottest, driest, and lowest national park, Death Valley is known for its blistering summer temperatures. “In the popular imagination, Death Valley in Southern California is the hottest place on earth. At 3:41 p.m. on Sunday [August 16, 2020], it lived up to that reputation when the temperature at the aptly named Furnace Creek reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the NOAA Weather Prediction Center.” (nytimes.com) If this reading is verified by climate scientists, it will be the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth. 
 
If you are looking for a socially distant, outdoor adventure, now is the best time of year to visit Death Valley during what is considered off-season in most other parks (mid-October to mid-May).
 
Llyn Foulkes (b.1934) has been called the Zelig of contemporary art. Over the past five decades he has been consistently inconsistent, confounding critics and galleries with dramatic changes of direction whenever it seemed he was about to be overtaken by popular acclaim.”
 
Remembering his childhood in Yakima, WA, Foulkes said “… [I] began drawing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck at the age of five. When I was ten I wanted to be a cartoonist, and at the same time discovered the cartoon music of Spike Jones. That started me collecting horns and bells and playing music. Then I gave it all up when I was seventeen and discovered art through The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, a book I borrowed from the library. (tate.org.uk)
 
“After attending Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), Foulkes began showing at Ferus Gallery in 1961, joining Robert Irwin, Ed Ruscha, Ed Kienholz, and Ken Price, many of whom had been his Chouinard classmates; he parted ways with the gallery the next year. His early, multi-panel paintings often incorporate found objects.” (artnews.com)
 
Foulkes' Geometry Teacher #1, pictured above, is an example of “... the disturbing portraits that mark the beginning of his mature aesthetic. They began as scalped and bleeding self-portraits and evolved into mutilated heads of geometry teachers, corporate fat cats, art dealers, and politicians. Obscure symbols—triangles, dollars, industrial appliances, mail—disfigure their faces.” (x-traonline.org)
 
Foulkes’ painting Pop (1985 -1990) was included in the 1992 exhibition Helter Skelter, L.A. Art in the 1990s at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The iconic exhibition featured other California artists including Chris Burden, Mike Kelley, Liz Larner, Paul McCarthy, Raymond Pettibon, and Nancy Rubin, among others, whose work presented a distinct alternative to the Finish Fetish and Light and Space movements of the 60s and 70s.
 
Check out Llyn Foulkes: One Man Band (2013)—available on AmazoniTunes, and
Kino Lorber. “During the seven years chronicled in the film, artist and musician Llyn Foulkes creates, destroys, and recreates a pair of large-scale, three-dimensional paintings, one that costs him his marriage, while trying to keep afloat in the fickle art market. With interviews from veterans of the 1960s Los Angeles art scene such as Dennis Hopper and George Herms, the film reconstructs Foulkes’ uncompromising, up-and-down career as he was kicked out of the legendary Ferus Gallery and walked away from a successful career as an L.A. pop artist. Structured like one of Foulkes’ constantly reworked paintings, the film tracks his artistic struggles, ending as he is at last rediscovered by the international art world at age 77.” (itunes.apple.com)
 
José Antonio Burciaga (1940 – 1996) was a Chicano artist, poet, and writer who explored issues of Chicano identity and American society. Born in Texas, Burciaga moved to Northern California in 1974. As a writer, he became successful in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the publication of several books including Drink Cultura: Chicanismo (1992), in which he writes about the complicated history of la cuetlaxochitl, known in Mexico as flor de Nochebuena and in the US as poinsettia. 
 
Poinsettia by Paul Lauritz (1885 – 1975), pictured above, may have been inspired by his painting excursions to Mexico in the early 1920’s. Cuetlaxochitl grows wild in deciduous tropical forests from southern Sinaloa down the entire Pacific coast of Mexico to Chiapas and Guatemala. It is also found in the interior of Mexico in the hot, seasonally dry forests of Guerrero and Oaxaca.
 
From Drink Cultura:
The popular Christmas flower known in this country as the poinsettia was first called a cuetlaxochitl by the Aztecs. It represented purity and its name signified ‘Flower that withers, mortal flower that perishes like all that is pure’. The cuetlaxochitl was cultivated as an exotic gift from nature and admired but never touched. Its bright red color had been given by the gods as a reminder of the periodic sacrificial offerings in accordance with the creation of the Fifth Sun. 
 
“Beautiful botanical gardens existed throughout the Aztec empire in pre-Hispanic times. Flowers and herbal plants were cultivated for their beauty and medicinal purposes. From October to mid-May, the cuetlaxochitl was admired and observed as it flowered like ‘birds aflame’.
 
“Circa 1440–1446, the great Aztec leader Tlacalel and his half-brother Montezuma Ilhuicamina visited the most beautiful of these gardens in Oaxatcpec, in what is now the Mexican state of Morelos, and revitalized the cultivation of the cuetlaxochitl there.
 
“In the United States, the flower has another history and another name, but its origin is still Mexican. It all began when Joel Robert Poinsett was appointed as ambassador to Mexico. On Christmas day, 1825, Ambassador Poinsett visited the Taxco church in Santa Prisca, where the Franciscans had adorned the nativity scene with exotic red flowers that gave it a very elegant and uncommon appearance. Enamored of the flowers named Nochebuena, he shipped some to his friends back home in Charleston, South Carolina. This was the origin of naming these flowers poinsettias in this century.”
Image Credits

Carlos Almaraz, Echo Park Bridge at Night, 1989, Oil on canvas, 60 x 72 in. The Buck Collection at the UCI Institute and Museum of California Art. © The Carlos Almaraz Estate 2018
 
Photo of Hồng-An Trương. Courtesy of the artist
 
Screenshot of 12 Sunsets: Exploring Ed Ruscha’s Archive, 12sunsets.getty.edu
 
Oskar Fischinger, Abstraction (Spheres), 1941, Oil on Celotex, 19 1/4 x 19 1/4 in. The Buck Collection at the UCI Institute and Museum of California Art. © Courtesy of the Elfriede Fischinger Trust

Helen Forbes, Furnace Creek Wash, 1933, Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in. The Irvine Museum Collection at the University of California, Irvine
 
Llyn Foulkes, Geometry Teacher #1, 1973, Mixed media (oil on board with assemblage on board, including paper, wood, glass), 15 1/4 x 13 3/8 in. The Buck Collection at the UCI Institute and Museum of California Art. © Llyn Foulkes. Courtesy of Sprüth Magers
 
Paul Lauritz, Poinsettia, circa 1925, Oil on canvas, 32 x 36 in. The Irvine Museum Collection at the University of California, Irvine

IMCA's ongoing collections research continues to provide new information, which will result in updates, revisions, and enhancements to object records. At the time of publication image credits are reviewed by IMCA's curatorial staff and reflect the most current information the museum has in its database but may be incomplete. 
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