At Work: The Art of California Labor

At Work: The Art of California Labor, is a major exhibit to take place at the Pico House Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. Opening on June 13th, 2006, the exhibit displays the works of artists past and present who’ve documented the dignity and struggle of California’s labor movements, from the chaotic 20th century to the present. I’m honored that four of my oil paintings have been selected for display in this historic exhibition.

At Work puts on view works by Diego Rivera, Tina Modotti, Dorothea Lange and other greats from the 1930’s school of social realism; being in such company is humbling to say the least, especially since I’ve long regarded such artists as exemplars and major influences. I’ve set out to create a new oil painting specifically for the exhibition. Titled Solidaridad (Solidarity), the painting depicts a women participating in a demonstration. The action itself is left ambiguous, it could be anything from a striking union’s picket line to a march expressing unity with worker’s demands. However, one thing is made clear by my painting, the new face of labor in California is female and non-white, and this reality has infused the modern-day labor movement with new energy and leadership.

The artist at work

[ A work in progress. Painting Solidaridad for At Work: The Art of California Labor. ]


Curated by Marianna Gatto and Shervin Shahbazi, the Los Angeles presentation of At Work also incorporates the works of contemporary artists like Malaquias Montoya, Richard Duffy, Doug Minkler, Ester Hernandez, Sheila Pinkel, Yolanda Lopez, Robbie Conal and others too numerous to mention. Originally a collaboration between the San Francisco State University Art Gallery and the California Historical Society, the exhibit was first shown in San Francisco in September 2003 and has since traveled across the Golden State. I’ve been asked by the organizers of the L.A. exhibit to put together an artist’s panel discussion and slide show/lecture that will further explore the theme of the show. On Saturday, July 15th, from 6 to 9 pm, I’ll be participating in the forum titled, Get The Picture?! Art & Social Change, along with my associates - photographers Sheila Pinkel and Slobodan Dimitrov.

On Wednesday, June 7th, Marianna Gatto, Herbert Sigüenza and I discussed At Work with Gabriel Gutierrez, host of The Morning Review radio show - an early morning public affairs broadcast on KPFK Radio (90.7 FM). Gutierrez gave us nearly a half hour to talk about the exhibition, its history and relevance to the people of Los Angeles, and also an opportunity to enlighten the listening audience regarding some of the amazing artists in the exhibit. Herbert Sigüenza is known to many as one of the members of the theatrical group, Culture Clash, but he also has a background in graphic design and poster making, having worked primarily in the San Francisco Bay area in the early 1980’s with important groups like the Centro Cultural de la Raza and the La Raza Graphic Center.

One of Sigüenza’s early serigraphs will be displayed in the At Work show, but during the broadcast he modestly deferred to printmaker Malaquias Montoya as a primary source of inspiration. Montoya is a significant name in Chicano art circles, and widely hailed as one of the founders of the social serigraphy print movement that came out of San Francisco starting in the mid-1960’s. His works will also be on view in the L.A. At Work exhibit.

At Work: The Art of California Labor, runs from June 13th through August 14th, 2006, at The Pico House Gallery. The gallery lies just off of the old plaza on Olvera Street, the city’s first street and the symbolic heart of Los Angeles. The Pico House is located at 424 North Main Street, Los Angeles, California 90012. Phone: 213 485-6855. Open daily 10 am - 3 pm. For more information on the At Work exhibit, including a full listing of scheduled events, previews of artworks, and maps to guide you to the gallery, please visit: www.art-for-a-change.com/exhibits/atwork.htm

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