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Trazos: Myth and Memory
7/16/2005 - 9/3/2005
The second of three 35th anniversary exhibitions, Trazos presented 18 multi-generational artists, primarily Chicano/a, whose artworks resort to history, myth and traditional Chicano and Mexicano cultural symbols as a means to articulate contemporary issues. Click on number next to the STAR to download PDF catalogue.
  Galería Exhibitions SU ARTE HERE: Five Years of Galería’s Digital Mural Project <2005>
Digital Mural Project: Omid Rashidi <2005>
WEEDE PEEPO: Icons, Portraits y Gente <2005>
Digital Mural Project: Linda G. Wilson <2005>
Youth Rock Laboratory 2 <2005>
In Conversation with Yolanda Lopez, Isis Rodriguez, and Yadira Casares <2005>
Digital Mural Project: Youth & Public Media <2005>
Trazos: Myth and Memory <2005>
Digital Mural Project: Victor Cartagena <2005>
In Conversation with Ester Hernandez and Dolissa Medina <2005>
What's Not To Love? <2005>
Digital Mural Project: Victor Cartagena <2005>
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Trazos: Myth and Memory
By Carolina Ponce de León

The second of three 35th anniversary exhibitions, Trazos: Myth and Memory presents eighteen multi-generational artists, primarily Chicano/a, whose artworks resort to history, myth and traditional Chicano and Mexicano cultural symbols as a means to articulate contemporary issues.

In Spanish, ‘trazo’ refers to the act of drawing. It can be an outline, a hand-made line painted onto a canvas, or sketched in the sand. In English, ‘trazo’ can also be literally interpreted as ‘trace.’ The works in the show encompass either one of these interpretations, and in many instances are hybrids of both Spanish/English interpretations. Where on the one hand a majority of the works is drawing based, revealing the solid draftsmanship that distinguishes the diverse and remarkable qualities of Chicano drawings, on the other, ‘trace’ brings to mind more varied associations. A trace can be a vestige, the unexpected evidence that persists, or the physical traces left by someone or something that, while shedding light on the past, transforms the present. Ultimately, ‘trazos’ suggests a process of revelation and discovery accessible in both English and Spanish.

Chicano art often reiterates themes, motifs and symbols drawn from the rich iconography of pre-Columbian mythology, centuries-old Mexican traditions, and the multicultural perspective of the Chicano experience. These motifs trace a lineage of self and history that asserts the mestizo cultural background of Chicano artists. Across generations, the reiteration and transformation of these symbols has served to articulate and redefine the ever-evolving distinctiveness of Chicano art and practice.

Altogether, the artworks on view here draw on the multifaceted nature of the Chicano artistic legacy. Along with a multigenerational perspective, Trazos reasserts this legacy as a process of discovery in which Chicano imagery and symbols are continuously deepened and renewed by the ever-contrasting realities of North and South, of past and present, and memory and myth. From Aztec warriors and deities to the Virgin of Guadalupe and from pachucos to lucha libre wrestlers, the recurring symbols in Trazos outline the complex cultural matrix from which Chicano imagery evolves.

Participating Artists:
Juana Alicia, Victor Cartagena, Alex Donis, Caleb Duarte, Juan R. Fuentes, Lorraine García- Nakata, Al Hernandez, Nancy Hom, Carmen Lomas Garza, Alma Lopez, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Rhode Montijo, Julio C. Morales, Mike Rios, Calixto Robles, Patricia Rodríguez, and Xavier Viramontes.

About the artists and/or artworks:

La Llorona's Sacred Waters (2004), a drawing by Juana Alicia is the sketch for the mural she painted at the corner of York and 24th Street. It addresses the worldwide environmental crisis over water. This allegorical landscape is an example of how artists can use the past, both mythical and historical, to articulate contemporary concerns.

For Mexicans and Chicanos, “La Llorona” (The Weeping Woman) is the protagonist of an oral history that has its roots in the conquest of Mexico, and is still told to children today. She is a mythical woman who haunts the riverbanks in search of her lost children. Children have been warned to stay away from the riverbanks because La Llorona might capture them, mistaking them for her own children. In Alicia’s image, La Llorona is a heroine, pictured in the act of saving her children. The river is pictured as a source of life and restoration.

Untitled (La Mentira, 1 & 2) (2005) by Victor Cartagena are part of a series titled The Anatomy of La Mentira (The Lie), in which the artist comments on the pervasiveness of lies in contemporary society and politics.

We lie. We lie all the time, constantly, systematically. We lie for pleasure, we lie out of compassion, we lie to get out of an obligation, and we lie to win someone over. We lie about our age, out of pity, to be mischievous, to take advantage of one another, to gain electoral votes, to start wars, out of fear and we lie, just because, to lie.

Lying, like laughing, is a human trait. Human beings have always lied to themselves and others. In lying, words become creative tools. We lie as a form of attack, and as a form of defense. Lies. Lying. Liars with red noses. Sad puppet behind the mask.
—Victor Cartagena, Extract from the artist’s statement

Alex Donis’ WAR series uses the LAPD and gangs to speak about acceptance, both of homosexuality and race differences. Donis inverts the LAPD’s history with homophobia by not only depicting police officers engaging in compromising activities, but also thoroughly enjoying themselves in the process. —From the artist’s website .

Caleb Duarte works with driftwood and dry wall, which he builds into construction type frames, suggesting basic shelter. His images are developed with means as diverse as painting, installation, and sculpture, and follow a tradition of socially engaged artistic practices.

A graduate of San Francisco State University, since the early 1970's, Juan R. Fuentes has been an active printmaker and member of the Chicano/Latino arts community in the Mission District. He is the director of Mission Gráfica, the printmaking component of the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. He is known for his remarkable linocut prints in which he uses photography or newspaper images as a starting point, then transforming them from their original source to create a new idea or concept. His artworks focus on the human condition and on offering positive portraits of Chicana/os and Latina/os to countervail the negative representations of Chicanos and Mexicanos in U.S. film and media.

The diptych Gorillas (1989) is one of Eva C. García’s most impressive works. Her sister Lorraine shares that they often spoke about her identification with the primate guerrilla. “While intimidating, guerrillas are complex, intelligent, sensitive and struggling to have their place on this earth. Eva collected and kept guerilla images, objects and iconography always near her.”

“I feel strongly about my subject otherwise it’s just not worth the torture I go through with each piece. Working with an individual’s persona pushes me to dig deep and that doesn’t always make for safe art. I like the edge. And I suppose I’m comfortable with the figure after spending hours watching my mother do infant portraits to supplement her income as a nurse. I honor my mother with each piece I do because once I resolve a drawing there are not many other pleasures in life I value more.” (Eva Carole García)

Eva García was born in 1949 in Sacramento, CA and moved to San Francisco in 1985. Eva established herself as one of the Mission District’s important muralists. Employed at the Galería de la Raza, her presence and artistry at the infamous sidewalk billboard mural became legendary. Her life ended abruptly in May of 1991, her passing was not only a loss to her family and community, but to what surely would have been a remarkable artistic life.

Lorraine García-Nakata is a recognized visual artist who has exhibited since 1965 on a local, regional, national and international level. Working a range of visual arts mediums, she is noted for her large-scale works on paper and canvas as well as mixed media, printmaking, installation work, ceramics and sculpture. Since 1974, Lorraine has been a member of the Sacramento Chicano artist collective, the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF).

“In Retrospect” is a very personal piece. The young woman in this drawing has paused to take stock of her choices and the slow but steady losses in both spirit and physical form that are the result. It is shocking, like loss of hair on the floor or, in this case, the pile of leaves that have fallen from the vine of life. This piece is the moment where it all begins to change because her next move will be to reconcile all her lost and yet undiscovered parts.” —Lorraine García-Nakata, Extract from the artist’s statement

In Glass Snail Eyes and other Symmetrical Apparitions (2005) , a 6-minute video by Al Hernandez, apparitions made up of ordinary objects become the nightmares and wondrous reveries of Señor Alfred Hufroin (represented by the filmmaker). Al Hernandez has been involved in producing film and video for over 15 years. He uses the media as a way to self-discovery and personal transformation, and to foster a deeper connection to reality. His films and videos have shown at various festivals and screenings including the Chicago International Film Festival, the New York Museum of Modern Art, on PBS stations as part of the Independent Television Service series American Independents, and at Galería de la Raza.

Nancy Hom is a multifaceted artist, writer, organizer, and arts administrator with over 30 years of experience creating artwork for numerous political, social, and community events. Since 1974, she has played a key role in the development of neighborhood arts organizations in San Francisco and often participated in Galería’s artistic programs. Her art has always been inspired by community life. My Mother’s Opera (2005) uses the metaphor of the Chinese opera to pay homage to her mother and her generation.

An active member of the Galería in its early years, where she organized exhibitions and community events, Carmen Lomas Garza is one of the leading artists and visual storytellers in the Chicana/o art community. She is renown for her depictions of the collective regional memory of the traditions and customs of her native South Texas.

Alma Lopez is an artist, activist and visual storyteller working in painting, photo-based digital prints, and video. She is internationally recognized for her innovative digital images, which recontextualize cultural icons such as the Virgin of Guadalupe, Coyolxauhqui (the Aztec moon goddess) and La Llorona, which bring issues of race, gender and sexuality into relationship with trans-nationalist myths.

An original member and active supporter of Galería, Amalia Mesa-Bains is an artist, scholar, curator, and writer who has been involved in the Chicano art movement since the 1960s. Her works incorporate Chicano culture and folk traditions, which represent aspects of a redemptive and resilient struggle to maintain a personal and collective narrative of Chicano/Mexicano history and cultural continuity in the face of colonial domination.

In her series, Spiritual Landscapes (2003) , Amalia Mesa-Bains uses digital media to build on what she calls the “politicizing spirituality” she previously developed through the ceremonial aesthetics of her installation work. Her landscapes are immersed in the visual history and human stories of immigration, racial intolerance, and the politics of land.

Rhode Montijo received his BFA in Illustration from California College of Arts and Crafts in 1996. These drawings are primarily sketches for his self-published comic, Pablo’s Inferno, which tells the story of Pablo’s journey in hell after he is killed in a car accident, and his encounters with demons and characters inspired by Aztec imagery and Latino pop culture.

Undocumented Interventions, by Julio César Morales, is a series of 20 hand-colored watercolor on paper images, which explore the cultural phenomena of human trafficking documented through the failure of smuggling attempts, drawn both from the artist’s memory of growing up in the Tijuana/San Diego area and from actual photographs from the U.S. Customs archives. Most recently the number of undocumented minors, including infants and youngsters, apprehended during fiscal year 2004 at ports of entry on the California/Mexico border climbed to 6,478, up almost 17 percent over the previous year.

Michael V. Rios is a multifaceted painter and artist who has also created children's books, billboards, and "high end" commercial art. In the 1970’s, Michael found his way to the Mission District, where he created some of the first large murals that made the Mission District nationally renown. In 1986, Michael Rios began to collaborate with musician Carlos Santana. Their artistic collaborations included concert backdrops, custom clothing designs, guitars, and several record album covers, including the Grammy Award winning "Supernatural."

Calixto Robles’ poetic imagery is inspired by the myths and symbols of the ancient traditions of Mexico. He is a San Francisco-based painter, printmaker, and arts instructor and a longtime member of the Chicano arts community.

Patricia Rodriguez’s beautifully crafted nichos, address questions of spirituality, gender and Chicana identity. She has had exhibitions at the Oakland Museum, The Jewish Museum, and Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. She is currently serving as Gallery Director at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco.

Xavier Viramontes has been a printmaker and painter for more than 30 years. His narrative, colorful, and detailed work focuses on his life growing up in a Mexican/American household as well as on rituals and themes that are specific to Latino culture.

In the 1970’s, he worked with the Galería on a number of projects, such as creating billboards, murals, posters and calendars like the one exhibited here. During this time, he also designed a poster for the United Farmworkers Union, Boycott Grapes, which has become one of the most representative works of the 1970s Chicano arts movement. This print is now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute, National Museum of American Art, in Washington, D.C.