Collectors are rarely asked to curate an art exhibition. The conflict seems inherent. That a collector should be asked to organize several exhibitions at around the same time is even more extraordinary. Yet Armando Durón holds a unique position in the art world of Chicano Los Angeles. A long-time collector, a passionate chronicler and a much sought opinion-maker, Durón has earned a trust that places him in the vortex of culture.
The Latino Art Museum is fortunate to bring together Time Refocused: The Photographs of Luis Garza, and a two-part exhibition: Collector’s Choice and Hidden Treasures, all curated by Durón.
With Collector’s Choice Durón challenged artists to draw out the refined and essential line in their work, the point of their artistic existence, to reach into deeper levels of your aesthetic consciousness, out of their comfort zone, to produce a new work that is from another part of their essence, the part that because of economic, political, social or simple time pressures, they hadn’t been able to get to lately, to exemplify the disinterestedness and purposelessness of the clear, perhaps unconscious mind. It was neither the formal qualities of their work or a particular image that was sought. There was no theme.
The second show, entitled Hidden Treasures is for previously-owned seminal works of Chicano art to be exhibited and sold. That exhibition had two goals: to provoke collectors to question their collecting practices and to help establish the virtually non-existent secondary market in Chicano art. Collectors were asked to consider whether there were special works in their collection that they are ready to part with. The response was extraordinary.
Like a message in a bottle cast off many years ago, the images in Time Refocused reemerged in 2009. The images are not presented according to place or chronology. The intent is to subvert the usual distinction between documentation and art that form the two main branches of photography as usually presented. The attempt here is to suggest a narrative for the viewer to construct. Images are paired or joined, not in an attempt to be glib, but to encourage the viewer to form new images from the combination (s)he is witnessing. All of the images were taken within a span of about ten years (the late 60s and early 70s) in four distinct geographies. Yet at each stop, some of the photos’ subjects who weren’t from there are seemingly placed to play a role that through this narrative become more fully revealed. With this first exhibition, Garza has resurfaced, perhaps to begin anew where he left off, recovering the message from the bottle, writing new messages, tossing the bottle back.