New Images of Identity
An exhibition presented at Armory Center for the Arts
145 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena, California
September 23, 2007
Opening reception, Saturday, September 22, 7-9 p.m.
Pasadena, CA – A major exhibition, New Images of Identity, will be on view at the Armory Center for the Arts starting September 23 through November 18. A public opening will take place Saturday, September 22, 7-9 p.m. The exhibition includes art by Laylah Ali, Iona Rozeal Brown, Enrique Chagoya, Dinh Q. Lê, Yoshua Okon, Lezley Saar, John Trevino, and Kara Walker. Jay Belloli, the Armory’s Director of Gallery Programs, organized this show.
Exploration of racial identity, in work by artists of color, has proliferated over the last fifteen years. A number of these artists recognized or were part of the astonishing increase in immigration to the United States that began in the 1970s and 1980s. New arrivals, particularly from Central America and Southeast Asia, came to the U.S. for economic opportunity and to escape war and oppression. Their presence and participation in this country enriched mass media and advertising with a broadened sense of representation. In the decades since, art expressing cultural identity has grown and changed as artists explore synthesis and contrast rather than separation and isolation.
The work by the artists in the exhibition often unites imagery from diverse cultures in a single piece. Influenced by everything from comic books to hieroglyphs and American folk art, Laylah Ali’s precise small figurative drawings and gouache paintings often show a high level of tension in subjects that speak of human social identity. Iona Rozeal Brown takes cues from Japanese ukiyo-e prints to explore the exchange between personal cultures and personal identity as well as society’s obsession with material consumption. Kara Walker explores the raw intersection of race, gender and sexuality through her iconic, silhouetted figures; she will be represented by an extensive series of drawings in the exhibition.
Latino artist John Trevino, raised in Long Beach, California, often explores African-American themes in his richly layered and often monumental and multi-media paintings; increasingly Trevino uses computer visual software to create his compositions. Mexican-American artist Enrique Chagoya, in his works on paper, creates often biting and humorous political and social satire in which he mixes combines images from the dominant American culture and mixes them with forms from indigenous and developing-world peoples. Yoshua Okon lives both in Southern California and Mexico, and his videos often examine the strange connections between the two countries; in the 3-channel video installation Lago Bolsena, people from a “dangerous” neighborhood of Mexico City create their own faux-documentary performance as “savages”, making us examine our preconceptions about Mexican people. Dinh Q. Le employs a photoweaving technique to combine images from different cultures and cultural symbols; one of his paintings in the show combines American military helicopters with a fleeing Vietnamese family. Lezley Saar’s poignant, mixed-media portraits are often historical characters who – through racial, genetic or psychological differences – are separate from society.
A growing number of artists of color recognize and celebrate more than one heritage, acknowledging multiple ancestors from different parts of the world, Caucasian forebears, or western heritage influences. As a result their art has literally transformed the artistic dialogue, exploring a changing and challenging perception of our humanity, to create new images of identity.
New Images of Identity is part of Skin: Art & Ideas 2007, a festival of the arts, sciences, and humanities in Pasadena and surrounding communities.
The Susan and John Caldwell Gallery at the Armory is at 145 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, and is open Tuesday – Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Admission is free. The Armory is easily accessible from the Gold Line Memorial Park Station in Pasadena. For information about Armory exhibitions and events, the public may call 626.792.5101 x122. or visit the Armory website at www.armoryarts.org.