catalog cover. Image by Diego Rivera,
The Allegory of California. 1931, Mural, San Francisco.
Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument
Work - The Art of California Labor.
13th - August 14th, 2006
House Gallery, Olvera Street
story of labor - which comprises passionate struggles
and triumphs as well as dehumanizing forces - has figured
largely in the art of our time. At Work: The Art
of California Labor exhibition opened at the
Pico House Gallery at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical
Monument on June 13, 2006. It was the first exhibition
to explore this important topic through the eyes of
artists who witnessed or were inspired by some of the
most significant trends and events in the history of
the 20th Century.
Work delivered a powerful examination of California's
rich and tumultuous labor history since the turn of
the 20th century. From the conditions that led to the
rise of organized labor, to the farm workers movement
and contemporary issues facing workers, including globalization,
the exhibit explored the people, events and movements
that have defined and continue to shape the state. The
compilation of images offered surprising insights into
one of the most fundamental components of our daily
lives - work - and shows how our collective identity
has evolved over time.
At Work exhibition featured many of California's
most noted artists. It was a combination of original artwork
from contemporary artists, such as Yolanda Lopez, Malaquias
Montoya, Ester Hernandez, Don Normark, Mark Vallen, Jos Sances
and Slobodan Dimitrov, and also included high quality reproductions
of historical works by noted artists Diego Rivera, Dorothea
Lange, Tina Modotti and many others. The broad range of art
and artists provided a dialog between political motives and
aesthetic aspirations that occurred throughout the 20th century
and continue today.
Saturday, June 17th, 2006. 7 to 10 pm
424 North Main Street, Downtown LA
over 500 enthusiastic art lovers attended the opening of
the exhibit at the beautiful Pico House Gallery. Original
paintings, drawings, fine art prints, posters, photographs,
installations, and reproductions of historic works were
enjoyed by the multi-ethnic crowd. Live music was provided
by the acoustic group, Son Real, who entertained those gathered
with traditional Mexican folk music.
THE PICTURE?! Art & Social Change
An Artist's Panel Discussion on Art & Politics
July 15th, 6 to 9 pm - Pico House Gallery
part of the exhibition, The Pico House Gallery presented this
free July 15th forum on the history of artist's responses
to the issues of labor in California. Painter Mark
and photographers, Sheila
gave an exciting lecture and Powerpoint presentation that
showcased dozens of artworks. A question and answer roundtable
with the artists followed their talk.
Film Screening: Salt of the Earth
July 28th, 7:45 pm. - Pico House Gallery
the courtyard in front of the Pico House, there was an open-air
screening of director Herbert J. Berman's classic 1953 drama,
Salt of the Earth. Based on an actual strike by Local
890 of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union in New Mexico,
Berman's film was banned and blacklisted during the height
of the anti-communist McCarthy era witchhunts. The movie used
only two professional actors, and it was produced by blacklisted
technicians. The film not only defied the rampant anti-communism
of the day, it focused on Chicano and Anglo workers uniting
to struggle for better working conditions while the U.S. government
was actually rounding up Mexican-American immigrants under
its "Operation Wetback" program of mass deportations.
Definately a timely film for present day Los Angeles.
the Exhibit: At Work
organized by the San Francisco State University Art
Gallery and the California Historical Society, the exhibit
included artworks like Claude Clark's oil painting,
Pay Dirt, a work that points to important issues
of Civil Rights on the job during the 1960s-1970s. Fletcher
Martin's Trouble in Frisco (shown at right) depicts
the struggles of the Longshoremen's Union in San Francisco
during the 1930s, and Henrietta Shore's Artichoke
is representative of the federally funded Works Progress
Administration (WPA) projects.
Martin, Trouble in Frisco
1938, Reproduction of oil painting
creates a sense of immediacy and furthers the understanding
of the world around us. This section of the exhibit highlighted
California's strong heritage of documentary photography of
work, which is represented through the works of Dorothea
Tina Modotti, Consuelo Kanaga, and by contemporary photographers
Richard Bermack, Francisco Dominguez and others.
art prints are viewed by some artists as fundamentally more
democratic, or accessible, than one-of-a-kind works of art
because multiple copies are produced. The exhibit explored
how artists used prints and graphics to explore labor and
included works by Emmy Lou Packard, Louise
and members of the California Labor School, Giacomo Patri
and Pele deLappe. The Chicano Art Movement sought to forge
a new, more positive sense of identity for California's Mexican-American
population. Labor issues were central to the cause and inspired
artist-activists to launch the art movement. Artists such
as Yolanda López and Ester Hernandez produced art that promoted
the rights of Chicano workers and citizens, blurring the distinctions
between art and politics.
Modotti, Campesinos (Workers Parade)
1926, Gelatin silver print, 8x7"
Californians are aware of San Francisco's 1934 General
Strike, but probably few realize to what degree labor
movements shaped the state's political and social climate.
Even fewer know of the copious art which both inspired
and reflected California's labor struggles throughout
the 20th century.
one time, the strongest and most important artists in
California made art about labor," explains Mark D. Johnson,
Professor of Art at San Francisco State University.
A mid-century backlash, however, including the persecution
of labor sympathizers in the McCarthy era, has all but
erased from public memory the very "vast and compelling"
art surrounding the labor movements, he says.
with arts, history and labor organizations, Johnson
helped organize the traveling exhibition that went on
view at the Pico House Gallery, an exhibit meant to
recover that spirited working class history as well
as recognize today's artists who deal with labor themes.
on display at the Pico House Gallery include:
Arorizo, David Avalos, Marion Barkus, Javier Bautista,
Richard Bermack, Judy Branfman, Armando Cabrera, Barbara
Carrasco, Claude Clark, Robbie Conal, Michael Connor,
Jose Cortez, Richard Duffy, Ernesto de la Loza, Sergio
de la Torre, Pele de Lappe, Slobodon Dimitrov, Francisco
Dominguez, El Taller Gráfico, Christina Fernandez, Emilio
Flores, Jamey Garza, Louise Gilbert, Daniel Gonzalez,
Michael Gurka, Harman Press, Ester Hernandez, Louise
Hock, Consuela Kanaga, Dorothea Lange, Andrea Long,
Yolanda Lopez, Fletcher Martin, Nicole Miller, Doug
Minkler, Tina Modotti, Malaquias Montoya, Julio Morales,
Cathy Murphy, Leonard Nadel, Don Normark, Gil Ortiz,
Emmy Lou Packard, Giacomo Patri, Peace Press, Sheila
Pinkel, Red Pepper Posters, Diego Rivera, Jos Sances,
Allan Sekula, Henrietta Shore, Herbert Sigüenza, Elizabeth
Sisco, Zolita Sverdove, Sylvaín,
Mark Vallen, Steve Wong, Andrew Zermeño.
beautiful 176 page catalog book
is available that details the history of artists who
created works on the theme of labor in California. However,
this catalog documents the original San Francisco exhibit
- not the current L.A. show.
Lou Packard, Carpenter
1950, woodcut, 16 x12"
& Contact Information
Pico House Gallery is located at El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Historical Monument, 424 North Main Street, LA, California,
90012. It is open daily from 10 am to 3 pm. Olvera Street
is bordered by N. Spring, Arcadia and N. Alameda Sts. and
Cesar E. Chavez Ave. in downtown Los Angeles.
directions and maps to Olvera Street and the Pico House Gallery,
Marianna Gatto - Curator
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument/Historic Italian
125 Paseo de la Plaza, Suite 300. Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 485-8432 (direct) (213) 485-8238 (fax)
Pueblo de Los Angeles was first settled in 1781 by Mexican
families. Today this 44-acre park protects the city's first
church, firehouse and theater, the 1818 Avila Adobe - the
oldest existing house in the city, and of course, The Pico
House Gallery. The Pico House was commissioned in 1870 by
Pío Pico, the last governor of Mexican California.
Pico House was the first 3-story building in Los Angeles and
once the finest hotel in Southern California. It lies just
off of the old plaza, La Placita, the symbolic heart of Los
Worker - Daniel Gonzalez,
- Mark Vallen, Oil painting 2006
by Ernesto de la Loza
Work: The Art of California Labor,
was originated by the California Historical Society and the
San Francisco State University and curated by Mark Dean Johnson,
Director, Fine Arts Gallery, San Francisco State University.
At El Pueblo Historical Monument, the exhibit is made possible
through the generous support of El Pueblo Park Association
and is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Political
Graphics, The Historic Italian Hall Foundation and the Echo
Park Film Center. The L.A. show was curated by Marianna Gatto
and Shervin Shahbazi. The
exhibition tour is coordinated by the California Exhibition
Resources Alliance (CERA) and is funded through the James
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