Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Frank Romero @ The Muckenthaler!

Last week I went to the opening reception of the latest exhibit at The Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton, which features the work of legendary Chicano artist Frank Romero.

Here's what the exhibit had to say about Frank:

Frank Romero was born in Los Angeles in 1941 and grew up in the Boyle Heights section of the city.  From an early age he demonstrated an affinity for picture making.  At the age of 18, his woodcut Caballeros de la Noche won First Prize in the California State Fair exhibit in Sacramento.

As a member of the 1970s Chicano art collective, Los Four, Romero and fellow artists Carlos Almaraz, Beto de la Rocha, and Gilbert Lujan helped to define and promote the new awareness of La Raza through murals, publications and exhibitions.  Los Four's historic 1974 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was the country's first show of Chicano art at a major art institution.  Los Four and other Hispanic artists throughout the West used wall murals, graffiti, and street theater to reflect the Chicano experience in the United States.

In addition to his studio work, Frank Romero has completed over 15 murals throughout the Los Angeles area, including Going to the Olympics, a one hundred foot mural which adorns one of Los Angeles' busiest freeways, Highway 101.  Commissioned for the 1984 Olympic Games, the mural is being restored through the efforts of the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.

He was the recipient of the prestigious 2001 COLA Award Grant, and has shown extensively in the United States, Europe, and Japan.  His work is in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Art in Washington D.C., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many others.

Some of Romero's most iconic work features cars and trucks prominently.  The "decking out" of cars as a kind of cultural expression has been an important part of LA's Mexican American community.

The two pieces below, "The Closing of Whittier Blvd" and "The Arrest of the Palateros" deal with conflicts between the Latino communities of East LA and law enforcement, a tenuous relationship that goes back to the infamous Zoot Suit Riots of the 1940s.

Some of Romero's cars and trucks are very ordinary and relate to the practical realities of everyday life, yet also reveal simple beauty.

The exhibit contained posters and artwork from the famous Los Four exhibit at LACMA, which was a ground-breaking show in the history of Chicano art.

The exhibit spans five decades of Romero's life as an artist, so there is great diversity of styles and subject matter represented.

I got to meet the artist himself, and took a picture holding a signed print I got (for only 10 bucks!) of Romero's painting "The History of the Chicano Movement".

The Muckenthaler's main gallery is a very beautiful and historic exhibition space.  The building itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Muckenthaler Cultural Center is located at 1201 W. Malvern Ave. in Fullerton, California.  The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12-4pm.  The Frank Romero exhibit runs December 31st.  Check out www.themuck.org for more info.

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