Friday, June 22, 2012

Gronk!

The following is from a series of profiles of people who have contributed something meaningful to Fullerton College for the Centennial exhibit next year.  To share your story, please visit www.fullertoncollegecentennial.com




The artist known as Gronk was born in 1957 in East Los Angeles.  For a Latino kid growing up in East LA, Gronk could have joined a gang, but instead channeled his creative energy toward provoking social change.  He became an artist.




In the 1970s, he and some artist friends founded a creative collective named ASCO (Spanish for "Nausea"--the title of a book by French existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre). Inspired by the the anti-war and Chicano Walk-Out movements of Los Angeles schools, Gronk and friends took to the streets, doing performance art and making films.



In 1972, Gronk and fellow artists spray-painted their names on a footbridge of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), as a statement against the museum's underrepresentation of Latino art.  Almost forty years later, ASCO (including Gronk) was invited to exhibit their work at LACMA in an exhibit entitled "ASCO: Elite of the Obscure, a Retrospective 1972-1987."  Dizzy Gillespie said it best, "Culture rises from the bottom up, not the top down."


Of the ASCO retrospective at LACMA, the New York Times said, "The same museum the collective defaced because its doors weren’t open to artists of their kind — Mexican-American, working class and poor, highly irreverent and politicized — is not just finally welcoming them inside but rolling out a red carpet for the occasion.

Gronk is a highly respected painter, muralist and set designer, having done stage design for organizations such as the Los Angeles Opera, the Latino Theater Company, and East West Players.  In 1996, Gronk won a Los Angeles Dramalogue Award for set design of the play "La Chunga". He has collaborated with composer Joseph Julian Gonzalez on “Tormenta Cantada,” a visual/musical piece performed in 1995, withKronos Quartet at UCLA.

Gronk was the 2011 Artist-in-Residence at Fullerton College.  In a recent interview, Dean of Fine Arts Bob Jensen described the intent of the program: "The artist-in-residence program began in 1972 when artist Wayne Thiebaud joined us. Although the idea of bringing a professional artist to a college was not an original idea, it was a very new idea for southern California. In fact, people from UCLA and USC came here to see what it was all about. We invite a professional artist here for a week to give talks and demonstrations and then donate a major work to our permanent art collection, which is now valued at over 2.5 million dollars. Every year, the artist-in-residence has a show of their work at our art gallery, and every two years, we do an exhibit of our growing permanent collection. The program is about people who have a heart for students coming here to talk about their craft and their career, with the hope of helping students figure out how to navigate the strange thing called a life in the arts."
Gronk's Fullerton College Exhibit "Gronk Un-Secret" was described by OC Weekly art critic Dave Barton as "like taking a tour through the abstract personal imaginings of a friend generous enough to let you see the world from his point of view."

Gronkie at FC!
In addition to the art show, Gronk also contributed the first centennial-commissioned mural to the Fullerton College ethnic studies building.  The spontaneous, playful style provides a welcome balance to the familiar Spanish Revival Architectore of the building, showing that Fullerton College is becoming a place where past and present interact in meaningful ways.

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