Alone And Together (Solos y Juntos)

USC Fisher Museum of Art

Presented by the USC Fisher Museum of Art

In the spirit of National Hispanic Heritage Month, in which the histories, cultures, and contributions of people descending from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, are celebrated – along with those presently living in those countries – USC Fisher Museum of Art is proud to present Alone and Together (Solos y Juntos).

In 2003, Fisher displayed three solo installations for Human Conditions, which examined the destruction and renewal of life as seen by artists Laurie Litowitz, Manfred Müller and Marta Palau. Palau’s artwork, Front-era, is once again featured in Alone and Together. As in that earlier exhibition, Alone and Together explores our psychological, spiritual and physical states through these two particular states of being fundamental to our humanity, those of aloneness and togetherness. The artworks in this show, all selected from the Fisher permanent collection, and all created by contemporary artists who represent in some way the countries feted by National Hispanic Heritage Month, are emblematic of the inner tensions humans all face when alone or together.

Under this frame of reference, it is important to define what we consider to be those situations of being alone and together:

“Alone” should be understood as a state of being by oneself, a state of solitude and self-reflection. The condition of “aloneness” differs significantly from “loneliness,” a state of mind, a sense of emotional abandon, the feeling of being disconnected, and yearning for an absence to be filled. Loneliness depends on others to bring you happiness; aloneness finds happiness within yourself.

On the other hand, “together” is both a state of being and a state of mind, whether it be through physical proximity or disposition. An important aspect of the human experience, togetherness embraces closeness, communal bonds, intimacy, and gives us a sense of belonging, support, and security.

It is a rare human being who does not, throughout a lifetime choose or have to accept the state of aloneness or the state of togetherness – depending on their emotional needs at the time.

Alone (Solo)

Miguel Angel Reyes was born in Colima, Mexico in 1964, and immigrated with his family to the United States in 1975. Today, the Los Angeles-based artist is known as a portrait and figurative painter, but is also a printmaker, muralist, and illustrator. In this untitled portrait, Reyes imbues his subject with a fierce spirit that is revelatory of his experience in the fashion industry.

Salomón Huerta’s portrait entitled Cabeza supersedes traditional modes of portraiture by depicting the back of the subjects’ heads, rather than focusing on distinguishing facial features that typically make one recognizable. Huerta subverts the viewer's expectations by purposefully isolating the head, “so you could only focus on the nuances [of the head] and what makes a portrait.” [1]


[1] Devis, Juan. “Salomon Huerta: My SoCal Art History.” KCET. KCETLink Media Group (Sept. 23, 2012).
Source link

The act of cropping the subject in Cabeza encourages inspection of fine details that may have been overlooked otherwise. The surreal elements of this painting, juxtaposed to the clean, realistic style employed by Huerta examines the nature of aloneness. Namely, when we face away from others, what can we learn about ourselves? Internal reflection is just one of many avenues you can take to unlock the mystery of your individuality and personhood.

Salomón Huerta was born in Tijuana, Mexico and moved to Los Angeles at the age of five. He earned a BFA from the Art Center College of Design in 1991 and an MFA from UCLA in 1998.

In Marta Palau’s Front-era, the issue of the border as a thin, human imposed barrier to the realization of a new life is addressed with intensity in a painting whose perspective is the “promised land” north of Tijuana, Mexico... Palau painted the borderline as a black wall, which cuts across the large canvas, as if arising out of the landscape to stand inexorably etched against an inviolate background.

The only hint of color—a thin blue line where the sky touches the earth—recedes into the distance, well past the border and looks unreachable… A lone figure stands and looks over the fence, towards the United States.

Representing the community of aspiring immigrants, this figure suggests the hopes and fears, longings and desires, disillusionments and delusions, involved in the decision of trying to cross the border. [2]

[2] Modified excerpt from Lisa Merighi. "Displacement and the Question of Identity." In Insatiable Desires, 39-40. Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California (2005).

Elsa Flores was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 5, 1955. At a young age, she moved to Los Angeles with her family. Flores’ love of the rural environment in which she was raised influenced her love of landscapes, and is an element that frequently appears in Flores’ work. [3]


In this untitled woodblock print, a lone woman fully extends her arms and soars high above a rural terrain. The combination of her graceful pose and the concentric waves of light radiating off her body emanate angelic, ephemeral, and uplifting qualities. With the ground far beneath, the woman, untethered from her worries and fears, embraces a moment of self-acceptance and solitude.

[3] Oral history interview with Elsa Flores, 18 Feb. - 30 Apr. 1997. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Cuban artist Eduardo Leyva's large portrait presents itself as a well-executed realistic drawing.

On closer inspection however, it reveals itself to be made up of thousands of tiny stamps, all reading "aérea". Leyva is referring to "those who left" Cuba.

If each stamp represents a person who left, the portrait created by layering the stamps on top of the other can be viewed as an homage to the people who stayed. [4] It can also be seen as a kind of “salute” to those who left. In its ambiguity lies its strength as a work of art.

[4] Modified excerpt from museum label for Eduardo Leyva Herrera, Untitled from Resolución Series, featured in “¡Cuba!” written by curator, Selma Holo. Los Angeles, USC Fisher Museum of Art (13 Sept. – 19 Nov. 2016).

This work entitled Conexión depicts a double portrait of Cuban artist, Aimée García. Enhanced by elegant stitchery, García's work voices an overt political statement, alluding to press censorship in Cuba. [9]

[9] Modified excerpt from museum label for Aimée García, Connection (Conexión), featured in “¡Cuba!” written by curator, Selma Holo, Los Angeles, USC Fisher Museum of Art (13 Sept. – 19 Nov. 2016).

Nude Female with Dark Mask by Argentinean artist José Alberto Marchi is made of two separate canvases joined together. Orchestrated in a grey-scale color palette, the dual canvases echo the visual quality of just-developed film being viewed for the first time on a light table.

Contrast and duality, two notable themes present within this painting, are working in opposition and challenging the viewer to look inwards; to question his/her/their personal state of being. This painting contemplates inner tension that may hoist personal beliefs against societal values, reminding us that until we undergo the process of self-reflection, what we do not know is ourselves. [5]

[5] Madelyne Gordon, “Nude Female with Dark Mask,” in USC Fisher Museum of Art / Art Division: Artists in Residence, Los Angeles: USC Fisher Museum of Art, 26 (2017).

Contemporary Puerto Rican-American artist Arnaldo Roche (also known as Arnaldo Roche Rabell) is considered to be one of the most important Latin American artists today. Difficult to Hide "hides" a face behind bold patches of blue.

This translucent face has paradoxical effects of calm and calamity, of self-confidence and self-consciousness. The chaos of blues parallels Roche's personal struggles of being at once American and Puerto Rican. This confusion, however, has gone through age and acceptance: the face lies with eyes closed, its long lashes pointing downwards the subtle smile on its lips; the blue echoes peacefulness and solitude rather than sadness and loneliness. [6]

[6] Jade Bell, “Difficult to Hide,” in USC Fisher Museum of Art / Art Division: Artists in Residence, Los Angeles: USC Fisher Museum of Art (2017).

Los Angeles-based Chicano painter, printmaker, and performance artist, Gronk, maintains the uncanny ability to conjure through his monotype Oh! the inconclusive pairing of such human qualities as anxiety and pleasure. The hollow scream of the figure voices the “the sublime notion of a divided self-stable yet uncertain, adoring yet repulsed.” [7]

[7] Andrew James Wulf. "Narcissus in the Depths: Variations on Self in Art." In Insatiable Desires, 20-21. Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California (2005).

Gronk’s use of the monotype medium (taking an impression of a painting while still wet, usually onto a sheet of paper) underscores the freezing of the image agitated self and its paroxysmal scream in the monotype’s blurring of line.

Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Javier Carrillo moved to Los Angeles at the age of seven. Carrillo, who is inspired by his culture, identity, and self-exploration, blends his cultural roots and personal experiences in his artwork.

Vicente is a large scale oil painting of a balloon vendor. It shows the man seated on a small stool carrying his balloons.

Carrillo explained, “I tried to express how tired he was from walking miles all day long. One day I helped him carry the pole, it was much heavier than I expected. He explained that years of carrying this pole caused his shoulder to become indented." [8]

[8] Javier Carrillo, interview by Madelyne Gordon, “Artist Interview” in USC Fisher Museum of Art / Art Division: Artists in Residence, Los Angeles: USC Fisher Museum of Art, 37 (2017).

Maria’s Great Expedition is a series of seven photographs depicting the migration of Maria Gonzalez, the great-grandmother of Californian artist Christina Fernandez. Each image, accompanied by didactic text narrating her journey, shows different moments throughout Maria’s life. Fernandez first researched, then visualized, staged, acted and documented her ancestor’s journey through photography. Following orally handed-down stories, Fernandez re-creates her own family’s migration. By narrating her family’s story, she simultaneously describes the fate of over one million Mexicans, who, in 1910 in the course of the revolution Porfiriato, participated in the northern migration to the recently expropriated American Southwest.

Using a red line to trace Maria’s passage, Fernandez opens the series with a map of the Southwest United States, which helps to not only contextualize the images, but also ground the mythology of family stories in real space. The first photograph of the series is set in 1910, when she first leaves Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, and the last in 1950, one year after Maria moves in with her sons in San Diego. Each moment Christina Fernandez re-enacts from her great grandmother’s journey uses photographic technology appropriate for each era. The photos’ staged quality is evident and intentional, but at the same time, there is an uncalculated vulnerability to each one; what might have come across as fraudulence instead feels intensely honest. Fernandez, as Maria, is alive; she acknowledges, dodges, and dominates our gaze.

Everyone embarks on an expedition in life, which Fernandez considers to be “something that one takes to expand oneself.” [10] Whether the expedition leads you thousands of miles through the Southwest United States, or simply manifested in internal reflection, the relatability of Maria’s story is easily translated to others. The intimate concept behind this work, as well as the loving attention to mundane detail in each image, pushes it into the canon of the USC Fisher Museum permanent collection. [11]

[10] Christina Fernandez, in an interview by Jennifer Jaskowiak for Intersecting Identities, ex. Cat. Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 14 (1996).

[11] Inga Funck. "Curator's Report, Proposed Purchase: Maria's Great Expedition." USC Fisher Museum of Art, Los Angeles, (8 April 2002).

1910, Leaving Morelia, Michoacán

In 1910, María left the ranch she lived on with her family near Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. She was fourteen. Between 1910 and 1920, over one million Mexicans headed north into the recently expropriated U.S. Southwest. The Revolution had begun and the Porfiriato or Díaz dictatorship, which nationalized communal lands and accorded it to foreign interests (including the U.S.), had forced many small farmers off their land and looking for work. The Southern Pacific Railroad's Sunset line had stops in the border towns with linkage to Mexico's most populated areas, providing transportation for Mexican workers heading north. Immigration head taxes and literacy provisions were waived for Mexican laborers, supplying the U.S. industrialists with enough cheap labor to sustain the burgeoning industries of the Southwest: railways, mines, and agriculture.

The main entry point into the U.S. from Mexico was El Paso, Texas. María's husband was part owner of a cantina in Juárez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. She joined him in 1911 and gave birth to her first son, Onofre, soon after. María often crossed into El Paso to work cleaning houses. In 1914, even though she was pregnant with a second child, she decided to leave her husband. During this time, nearly one third of Mexican American families in the urban areas of the Southwest were headed by women, primarily because of long-term separations and abandonment caused by migrant occupations.

1930, Transporting produce, outskirts Phoenix, Arizona

From her home in Avon, María could see the boxcar camps where the enganchiste* workers hung their clothes to dry. Soon the clotheslines began to disappear as workers left for higher paying jobs in the cities. Some of María's friends decided to leave for Arizona and she left with them. Onofre, or Frank as he was now called, drove the truck and María drove the car. María and her family lived in Tolleson, then Glendale, and Florence, Arizona, earning money by hauling produce from packing sheds to local markets.

In 1928, María married a baker named Ylario Velasquez. She gave birth to her only daughter, Natalia, a year later. The family moved to Eighth Street in Phoenix. María cleaned house and laundered for a madam who lived close by. Her straight pleats and creases, bright linens and shirts, and intricate crochet and embroidery soon brought her many new customers. There was a crocheted bedspread that María would not sell even though many people asked. It had small white squares with rosettes in the center of each square. María kept it in a dark green wooden trunk that held her personal belongings. By the time María had married Ylario she was used to living on her own and, after a few years, they separated. María continued to live in Phoenix, making it her home for longer than she had lived anywhere else. As a girl, Natalia saw her father often, stopping by his bakery after school to visit him.

*colloquialism for a labor contractor, from the Spanish verb enganchar (to hook).

1950, San Diego, California

In 1949, María left Phoenix to live with her sons in California because she was sick. Both Dolores and Charlie's wife, Lupe, took care of her when María's health was particularly bad. María helped Dolores who was hard of hearing due to a childhood illness. Lupe also became a good friend to María although she was different than Dolores; Lupe was more rambunctious.

María did not talk much about her life with her grandchildren. She was very self conscious— about her several husbands, about the jailing in Pueblo— but they remember her for her loving but stern manner and her ability to transform an old shirt into a sparkling white and embroidered garment. On her way to Juárez in 1910, María had stayed for a while with her grandparents who lived near the border. They were very kind to María and in return for their kindness she gave all of her children their last name, Gonzales. María died in 1952 in a Los Angeles hospital. Weakened by a long-term illness, she came out of surgery alive, but died a few hours later.

Working across media, Elsa Flores’ photograph of her late husband, Carlos Almaraz, is transformed and mythologized 17 years after the original photograph was taken through the addition of color and paint. [12]

[12] Museum label for Elsa Flores, Carlos, Soho 1980, for “A Generosity of Spirit: Celebrating the Gift of Eugene Rogolsky, MD,” written by curator, Tim B. Wride, Los Angeles, USC Fisher Museum of Art, (13 Sept. – 3 Dec. 2016).

Los Angeles native, Tony de Carlo, was a self-taught artist whose work was inspired by “the mixing of culture and people.” [13] Sadly, Tony passed away in his Savannah, Georgia home August, 2014 after a short illness. His paintings depicted what he knew best, and what surrounded him in his daily life, often painting his friends, fellow LGBT community members, and men—either together or alone—homes, gardens, and dogs.

[13] De La Hunt, Deanna. “Tony de Carlo.” Queer Arts in Los Angeles. UCLA Diversity Program for Innovative Courses in Undergraduate Education (2012). Source link

“Spanish painter Matías Sánchez in his homage to Velásquez, El fantasma de Diego, conjures the self as artist haunted by unconscious and fantastic forces."

"By aligning himself with the ghost of an Old Master, Sánchez irreverently critiques both academic painting and the traditional Baroque style Velásquez’s ghost is meant to represent."

"Sánchez like most artists, contents in his reinterpretations against discontinued but not forgotten visual languages, and through this self-examination intensifies like Narcissus his own image in the depths. In this way, he discovers his own terrifyingly and courageously differentiated self.” [14]

[14] Excerpt, Andrew James Wulf. "Narcissus in the Depths: Variations on Self in Art." In Insatiable Desires. Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 23 (2005).

Sin Título, by Uruguayan artist Arturo Mallmann, is a mixed-media painting that can be aptly described as a landscape of light. Known for his mixed-media paintings, Mallmann uses materials like fragments of eighteenth-century doors to evoke a dreamlike, luminous journey through space. Combining the distinct technique, “…applying innumerable coats of translucent acrylic paint between thick coats of resin,” Mallmann’s Sin Título achieves a hazy, ephemeral quality.

The soft white-ochre light radiating outward from the center—specifically, the area of transition where the lightest colors first begin receding into depths of the composition’s bottom half—anchors perspective, reinforced by Mallmann’s subtle inclusion of a ground line extending across the horizon. This technique produces a work of art best enjoyed piece upon which to meditate. In an artist statement, Mallmann wrote,


“To me that thick foggy atmosphere where we constantly wander around and are unable to trespass, represents the barrier beyond which lie the answers to those questions that we so frequently pose to ourselves and to the universe, questions about our unknown origins and the meaning of our existence.”

With these remarks in mind, Sin Título undeniably fits into the primary mission of Alone (Solo), which addresses the ways artists acknowledge or reconcile the aloneness as a perpetual fixture in human existence. [15]

[15] Modified excerpt, Madelyne Gordon, “Sin Título,” in USC Fisher Museum of Art / Art Division: Artists in Residence, Los Angeles: USC Fisher Museum of Art, 29 (2017).

Together (Junto)

Carlos Almaraz was born in Mexico City in 1941 and grew up in Chicago and Los Angeles. Almaraz, a leading figure in the Chicano rights movement, created artwork in support of the United Farm Workers Association and protested alongside Cesar Chavez during the 1970s. In 1973, Almaraz along with Frank Romero, Gilbert Lujan, and Robert de la Rocha founded Los Four, a group whose collaborations brought a Chicano perspective to the attention of an oblivious Los Angeles art community. Almaraz died from AIDS-related complications in 1989, yet his pastels, paintings, and murals remain a major influence on subsequent generations of Latino artists. [16] This print is placed next to Elsa Flores, Carlos’ wife of 10 years, with whom Carlos shared his studio.

[16] Museum label for Carlos Almaraz, Untitled, in “A Generosity of Spirit: Celebrating the Gift of Eugene Rogolsky, MD.” Written by curator Tim B. Wride. Los Angeles, USC Fisher Museum of Art (13 Sept. – 3 Dec. 2016).

Guatemala-born, Mexico-based artist (1891– 1984), Carlos Mérida is regarded as a pioneer of Modern art in Latin America. [17]

[17] “Carlos Mérida.” Latin American Masters | Specialists in 20th and 21st Century Latin American Art. Latin American Masters, n.d. Source link

Rather than creating large scale paintings, Mérida often preferred to work with small-scale easel paintings. Mérida’s use of sleek lines in the clothing and faces of the women in Mujeres con Velas and Dos Mujeres con Canasta enhances their delicate features underscored by a strong communal bond.

Laura Aguilar is a self-taught photographer who addresses personal issues as well as the social invisibility of minority communities from her perspective as a large-bodied Lesbian-Latina. [18]

[18] Museum label for Laura Aguilar, Untitled, for “A Generosity of Spirit: Celebrating the Gift of Eugene Rogolsky, MD,” written by curator, Tim B. Wride, Los Angeles, USC Fisher Museum of Art (13 Sept. – 3 Dec. 2016).

In this untitled family portrait Aguilar captures a seemingly candid moment of a family in skeleton makeup, reminiscent of Día de los Muertos.

In an artist statement, the Los Angeles native said:

“My artistic goal is to create photographic images that compassionately render the human experience, revealed through the lives of individuals in the lesbian/gay and/or persons of color communities. My work is a collaboration between the sitters and myself, intended to be viewed by a cross-cultural audience. Hopefully the universal elements in the work can be recognized by other individuals' communities and can initiate the viewer to new experiences about gays, lesbians and people of color.” [19]

[19] Laura Aguilar, "Artist’s Statement," Nueva Luz: A Photographic Journal 4, no. 2 (1993); Laura Aguilar, "Artist's Statement," Gallerie: Women's Art 1, no. 1 (1988).

This untitled family portrait by renowned Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide shows a family of three resting in a hammock. The family dynamic of Iturbide’s portrait contrasts with Laura Aguilar’s Untitled family portrait.

The natural expressions exchanged between the parents suggest an intimate closeness is shared. The mother, gazing across at her loved one, holds her child close to her chest.

The father, staring up with his hand to his chin, keeps his feet close to the ground as he partially reclines.

Credits: Story

USC Fisher Museum of Art sincerely appreciates and gratefully acknowledges the contributions of USC’s Archaeology Research Center and West Semitic Research Project for lending photography equipment, and Johnna Tyrell for providing technical photography expertise.

Special thanks to Billy Vela and El Centro Chicano, USC Office of the Provost, Dr. Eugene Rogolsky, Latin American Masters Gallery, Elsa Flores, and Google Arts and Culture.


Curated by Madelyne Gordon, Collection Management Intern, B.A. Candidate, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences


Sources

Bell, Jade. "Everyday Miracles, Curator Comments." In USC Fisher Museum of Art / Art Division: Artists in Residence. Los Angeles: USC Fisher Museum of Art, 2017.

“Carlos Merida.” Latin American Masters | Specialists in 20th and 21st Century Latin American Art. Latin American Masters, n.d. Source link

De La Hunt, Deanna. “Tony de Carlo.” Queer Arts in Los Angeles. UCLA Diversity Program for Innovative Courses in Undergraduate Education, 2012. Source link

Devis, Juan. “Salomon Huerta: My SoCal Art History.” KCET. KCETLink Media Group (Sept. 23, 2012).
Source link


Funck, Inga. "Curator's Report, Proposed Purchase: Maria's Great Expedition." USC Fisher Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 8 April 2002.

Gordon, Madelyne. "Unknown, Curator Comments." In USC Fisher Museum of Art / Art Division: Artists in Residence. Los Angeles: USC Fisher Museum of Art, 2017.

Jaskowiak, Jennifer. "Christina Fernandez." In Intersecting Identities/ Señas De Identidad. Translated by Kim, Jorge and Dolores Aguirre, 14. Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 1996.

Laura Aguilar, "Artist’s Statement," Nueva Luz: A Photographic Journal 4, no. 2, 1993.

Laura Aguilar, "Artist's Statement," Gallerie: Women's Art 1, no. 1, 1988.

Merighi, Lisa. "Displacement and the Question of Identity." In Insatiable Desires, 38-42. Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 2005.

USC Fisher Museum of Art. Modified excerpt from museum label for Aimée García, Connection (Conexión). In “¡Cuba!” curated by Selma Holo, Los Angeles, 13 Sept. – 19 Nov. 2016.

USC Fisher Museum of Art. Modified excerpt from museum label for Eduardo Leyva Herrera, Untitled from Resolución Series. In “¡Cuba!” curated by Selma Holo, Los Angeles, 13 Sept. – 19 Nov. 2016.

USC Fisher Museum of Art. Museum label for Laura Aguilar, Untitled. In “A Generosity of Spirit: Celebrating the Gift of Eugene Rogolsky, MD,” curated by Tim B. Wride, Los Angeles, 13 Sept. – 3 Dec. 2016.

USC Fisher Museum of Art. Museum label for Carlos Almaraz Untitled. In “A Generosity of Spirit: Celebrating the Gift of Eugene Rogolsky, MD,” curated by Tim B. Wride, Los Angeles, 13 Sept. – 3 Dec. 2016.

USC Fisher Museum of Art. Museum label for Elsa Flores, Carlos, Soho 1980. In “A Generosity of Spirit: Celebrating the Gift of Eugene Rogolsky, MD,” curated by Tim B. Wride, Los Angeles, 13 Sept. – 3 Dec. 2016.

Wulf, Andrew James. "Narcissus in the Depths: Variations on Self in Art." In Insatiable Desires, 20-23. Los Angeles: Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 2005.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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