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By Susana Smith Bautista. Ph.D

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Five Latino artists t hat come from different generations\, geographic conditions and cultural in fluences\, but all with one thing in common\; a commitment to artistically explore cultural artifacts that signify identity. These artifacts can be an onymous remnants from second-hand stores\, found and used by Einar and Jame x de la Torre\, or more personal artifacts such as the clothing\, jewelry\, and tattoos on the figures drawn by Shizu Saldamando\, or John Valadez’s c autious use of Chicano artifacts like the low-rider car and the Virgin. Har ry Gamboa Jr.'s characters in his photographs\, films\, and performances ha ve become artifacts of a new Chicano culture that is being constantly (re)c reated through the organic evolution of Chicano artists themselves. These f ive artists both appropriate cultural artifacts and create new ones through their artistic vision that reflects their immersion in contemporary cultur e as well as their desire to contribute to the global visual discourse.

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Notions of identity\, culture \, and community emerged in the 196os and ‘7os during the civil rights move ment with the Brown Berets and the Chicano Moratorium. Today in 2013 the wo rld has changed. Artists are no less conscious of their identity\, but that identity is a much larger assemblage of where they were born\, where they have lived\, where they exhibit\, where they travel\, and who they meet. To say that the de la Torre brothers are Mexican artists says nothing about t heir formative years in Orange County or their current experience of the U. S./Mexico border region that they cross regularly between their San Diego s tudio and their home in Ensenada. Younger artists like Saldamando don't app roach identity as monolithic\, but rather as a remix of pop culture\,  fine arts\, west side\, east side\, Mexican\, Asian\, and more. Gamboa Jr. star ted to use his camera in the 197os to document the urban Chicano experience in his subversive style\, and continues to do so as that same experience c hanges\, even as means of subversion and assumptions of normalcy change. Va ladez created a cultural iconography drawn from his neglected world to empo wer Chicanos\, but today that world is no longer confused and angry. and cr eates its own iconographies. Latino culture in the 21st century is about reflection\, creation\, and contribution of new ways of thinking\, new ideas\, and new media. The artists participate concurrently in a local and a global world\, on a Latino and an American field\, and in high and l ow cultural spaces. We cannot negate the continued presence of identity\, s ocial issues. ethnicity\, history\, and culture\, but we can try to go beyo nd to focus on what really matters\; the work as contemporary arte factum.< /span>

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Einar and Jamex de la Torre are c onstantly pushing the boundaries of their knowledge and of what is acceptab le or expected\, exploring the potential of glass sculpture\, painting\, re sin\, digital printing. and collage. The layering of sculpture onto two- di mensional panels with wall-papered or lenticular imagery - as in Spring is in the Air and DNA (Do Not Absolve) - creates a rich theatricality that ext ends out into the space of the viewer and then pulls the viewer deep inside the work\, swaying from side to side for the complete experience. Other ne w work is inspired by a recent trip to Belgium\, idealizing Pieter Bruegel for his heroic portrayal of everyday peasant life in the 16th ce ntury and adopting the genre of still-life painting that allows the artists to incorporate contrasting elements. Their work is never a choice of elimi nation but one of accumulation in order to accommodate their rich well of i nfluences\, experiences and experiments\; not a postmodern pastiche that is disconnected and isolated but a socio-cultural mash-up that obliges us to make connections\, seek out familiar signifiers\, and laugh irreverently.

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Harry Gamboa Jr. explores notions of stereotypes and media-produced perce ptions of Chicanos in his ongoing Chicano Male Unbonded series from 1991. P rompted by watching America’s Most Wanted television program\, the artist b egan to wonder how people would perceive his Chicano male friends (scholars \, lawyers\, musicians\, artists\, teachers) when standing on urban street corners at night. In these male portraits\, and the accompanying female one s from his In Sense series. the figures dominate the space regardless of th e background. Rendered more powerful in black and white\, they shout defian ce\, confidence\, pride and fearlessness. Gamboa's photographic gaze intuit ively directs their performance\, much like he directs the video projects a nd performances that continue to represent an important and inspirational p art of his artistic oeuvre. whether working with foreigners as he travels a broad or with local artists and friends in his troupe Virtual Vérité.

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John Valadez’s new work take s a stylistic turn into the satirical and surrealist\, linking disparate im ages together in his signature realist and figurative style\, but there is a distinct sense of humor in these works (Bull Slipt)\, albeit dark and sub tle. Two characters are prominent in his recent works\; the nude and the oc ean. The nude provides tension and contrast when inserted into ordinary set tings such as in Lovers Lane and Streetfight\, and the ocean provides an in tensity that brings out emotions as in Ascension that overindulges us with waves\, clouds\, and flames that all rage in harmony\, pointing to the tall white nude that balances both precipitously and serenely atop the dark nud e in the water. Dark Clown Scandals is nostalgic\, as is Streetfight that w as started in 1988 and finished in 2012\, both referencing Valadez’s Chican o culture from the past\, but with greater stylistic and iconographic compl exity that synthesizes past and present\, sad and funny\, fantasy and reali ty.

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Shizu Saldamando's work lies in the realm of figu rative realism that pays homage to John Valadez who documented his subalter n community. Saldamando’s is a different community\, also outside mainstrea m society but one that is multi-ethnic\, sexually ambivalent\, and partial to indie music. background parties\, and tattoo parlors. She is inspired by her friends and draws them with honesty and tenderness. With Rina and Cam we feel as if we are intruding on a personal and emotional moment. The two figures are awkwardly squeezed together in the corner but our focus is draw n to the wide open eyes\, causing us to ponder what they are thinking\, whe re they are looking. In Between Sets\, Waiting for the Band the three femal e figures fill the canvas. Despite the uniform of grey denim and t-shirts a nd all their eyes closed or covered with glasses\, their individuality come s through with a shock of pink hair\, a pink flower\, bracelet\, or touch o f green. Unlike the traditional reclining poses of Old Masters\, the body i n Backyard Hardcore turns away from the viewer to seek privacy\, showing on ly traces of identity on the jacket that our gaze focuses on. The grey spac e envelops the body as if in a void\, with the only references to reality a hanging hat\, a few tufts of grass surrounding the body\, and an open can in the corner.

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Susana Bautista is a scho lar on museums and the arts\, technology and digital culture\, and Latino/C hicano art and culture. She received her Ph.D. in Communication as a Provos t Fellow and her Masters degree in Art History/ Museum Studies\, both at th e University of Southern California. Susana has over 20 years of experience in the art world in Los Angeles\, New York\, and Greece working with museu ms\, commercial galleries and non-profit art spaces\, curating exhibitions\ , lecturing\, and writing art criticism and articles. She was Executive Dir ector of the Mexican Cultural Institute\, Editorial Director of LatinArt.co m\, and Arts and Culture Commissioner for the city of Pasadena. 

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Gallery closed Thursday and Friday for the holiday.

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DTEND:20130706 DTSTAMP:20141220T160544 DTSTART:20130518 GEO:34.0316947;-118.3771554 LOCATION:Koplin Del Rio Gallery\,6031 Washington Blvd. \nCulver City\, CA 9 0232 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:Artifex\, Einar and Jamex de la Torre\, Harry Gamboa Jr.\, Shizu Sa ldamando\, JOHN VALADEZ UID:272259 END:VEVENT BEGIN:VEVENT DTEND:20130518T200000 DTSTAMP:20141220T160544 DTSTART:20130518T180000 GEO:34.0316947;-118.3771554 LOCATION:Koplin Del Rio Gallery\,6031 Washington Blvd. \nCulver City\, CA 9 0232 SEQUENCE:0 SUMMARY:Artifex\, Einar and Jamex de la Torre\, Harry Gamboa Jr.\, Shizu Sa ldamando\, JOHN VALADEZ UID:272260 END:VEVENT END:VCALENDAR