Latino youth culture celebrated through art, style and music

By Ivan Cazares 

More than 70 years of Los Angeles youth culture in the form of candid art, music and photography is on display at the Vincent Price Art Museum until February 25.

Tastemakers and Earthshakers: Notes From Los Angeles Youth Culture opened to the public Saturday.

The exhibit cites Latino  youth experiences post-World War 2 to present time and display a correlation between Los Angeles youth culture, important social movements and countercultures in the postwar era.

The exhibit also includes elements of mass media and the visually and striking painting called the Three Horsemen by Salomon Huerta.

The exhibit focuses on Latino youth culture, however, VPAM Director Pilar Tompkins Rivas said there are intercultural connections that make the exhibit relatable across cultures. Rivas also said the diverse minorities and cultures of Los Angeles face many of the same social economic issues.

For example, zoot suit attire was not only popular among Latino youth in the postwar era, but among African American, Japanese and Filipino youth as well.

The exhibit displays the visual and musical  acoustic forms of these cultures’ self expression, using television monitors to showcase the style and music of youth post-World War 2.

“I wanted our fall show to be something very relatable for our students. I also wanted to bring different generations of artists whose art reflects different moments in time,” Rivas said.

It also focuses on the criminalization of youth and its categorization as a social class. The exhibit displays organized and unorganized forms of youth resistance against discrimination, police brutality, war and other social issues.

The photography on display captures the lives, styles and culture of the people of Los Angeles in great detail from 1943 to 2016.

Huerta’s Three Horsemen is an oil on panel painting that depicts the angst felt by youth after the 1992 Los Angeles Riots.

Other equally striking paintings showcase the Zoot Suit Riots and provide social commentary on police and civilian interactions.

   “I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to tell these stories (stories of adversity). Identity is everything. I believe one of the most radical ideas is the idea of seeing ourselves as people of color in a positive light,” Juan Carlos de Luna. Luna also runs a photo archive on Instagram under the name “Barrio Dandy.”

Luna worked on the Pachuco men and women’s clothing display at the exhibit. He said the style is a form of unorganized resistance against oppression and a form of expression that helped establish a sense of identity among youths.

Luna said the exhibit was a good opportunity to recount the history of social justice movements in our country and the roles youths played in them. He also said many of the social injustices those movements fought against are still  being challenged by movements like Black Lives Matter.   

Admission to the VPAM is free, but visitors must arrange a tour. The VPAM is open Tuesday through Saturday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays. To schedule a tour or for more information call (323) 265-8841.

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