By Jesus Figueroa
After three months and six successful events, the “Carlos Almaraz: A Life Recalled” exhibit will be on display for the last time this Saturday.
On display are not only well known paintings of Carlos Almaraz, the late Los Angeles artist, whose work was popular during the Chicano art scene that developed during the 1970s, but some that had never before been seen.
The exhibit has brought Elans, friends of the artist and members of the community to the museum.
Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria went to the opening reception in September.
Price voiced her delight to be able to exhibit such beautiful artwork at the Vincent Price Art Museum.
She stated that events like this would help to make the VPAM the center of this community like her father always envisioned it to be.
Along with the artwork, photographs, postcards and journals, the exhibit had two hit performances of the national one-man comedy “¡Gaytino!”
A panel “The Artist as a Friend,” brought ELAC alumnus Dan “Eddie” Guerrero back to moderate a panel of artists who were friends and colleagues of Almaraz.
The panel consisted of Frank Romero, who knew Almaraz from college, Barbara Carrasco who met Almaraz after college, John Valadez who met Almaraz during the United Farm Workers Chicano movement and Richard Duardo who met Almaraz in the ’70s.
All shared their personal stories about Almaraz with the audience.
The stories ranged from the first time they met Almaraz to how they felt when he died.
Almaraz’s widow Elsa Almaraz and daughter Maya Almaraz guided a special tour last Saturday through the exhibit.
Elsa told stories, gave a brief history and explained some of the symbolism in the artwork of her late-husband.
Another panel “The Artist in Context” followed the tour.
Howard Fox moderated a three-person panel discussion.
The panel included Loyola Marymount University professor of Chicana/o studies Karen Mary Davalos, art appraiser Patrick Ela, and former art critic for the Los Angeles Times Suzanne Muchnic.
Each panelist had contact with Almaraz during his life in one form or another, and each held their separate views on what made Almaraz such an important artist.
The tour and panel discussion also brought actor/comedian, and collector of Almaraz’s art, Cheech Marin to the VPAM.
“I’m a big Carlos Almaraz Collector. I came to see the show, listen to the talk and meet old friends,” Marin said.
Marin walked around the exhibit paying close attention to much of the art and talking with Guerrero, Elsa and other guests in attendance.
“The discussion was interesting as it starts at a very deep level of understanding. It’s not like you have to explain to everyone who Carlos Almaraz was. Everybody knows him and the discussion was about the issues in depth, rather than exploratory issues so it was really good,” Marin said.
Guerrero brought the idea of a Almaraz exhibit to Karen Rapp the director of the Vincent Price Art Museum.
Together, along with others who contributed art, they put together a very personal art showcase of Almaraz’s work.
“I always say ‘Legacies don’t stay alive by themselves’ and you have to remind people. He (Almaraz) has been gone a long time now. So I’m thrilled and Karen did such an amazing job on it,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero expressed having many memorable moments throughout the duration of the exhibit.
“It’s very trippy to see things that you have had hanging on your bedroom wall for 35 years in a museum setting,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero took a moment to think before expressing how important it was that this exhibit show not only the artwork of Almaraz, but his personality as well.
It was exactly what he saw happen.
“I think people leave there feeling that they kind of know about him and that was very important to me,” says Guerrero.
Guerrero said, “The reaction from serious people, art critics, patrons and everything have been fantastic and I’m just thrilled and sad. But, you know what? This is just the beginning. Hopefully this will kick off lots of exhibitions and lots of other things. That’s what I’m hoping.”
“Mexicali Biennial” will be the next exhibit to open at the VPAM once the Almarez exhibit is finished.
The new exhibit opens Jan. 18 next year, with an opening reception at 6 p.m.