Roberto Chavez at the Autry

For those of you au courant with the art world, there’s a dramatic set of exhibitions of Los Angeles artists happening in Southern California. Sponsored by the Getty, and called “Pacific Standard Time: Arti n L.A. 1945-1980.”  I went to the opening of one show at the Autry called Art Along the Hyphen: The Mexican-American Generation. Our old friend, the artist Roberto Chavez, is one of the artists featured in this stunning exhbit. (You can see a short video of him sketching here.)

We’ve know Roberto for decades, and it is a thrill to see his work displayed in such a well-curated show. I’m willing to forgive any number of hyphens for the job the organizers did.  As you come into the show there’s a wall of self portraits of the six artists in the exhibit in various media, grouped almost as you would group a wall of family photos.  Here is Roberto’s self portrait:

We used to own a wonderful small self-portrait of Roberto with a lime-green background, one of my favorite pieces of art. But we loaned it to a gallery for a show and the owner sold it–a shocking offense I haven’t gotten over 30 years later.

There were other works in the Autry show that I loved. One is the wonderful “Group Shoe” portrait as a humorous take on the first show Roberto and three friends were in (a group show, hence the pun) at the Ceejay Gallery. Here’s the photo from the catalog along with Roberto’s painting:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another favorite is “Ladies Art Class,” from the days of Roberto’s teaching career. He told another friend that after he painted this, each of the women came up to him individually and told him that he had captured all of the women in the class perfectly, except her.

The only other living artist featured in the show was Dora De Larios, a ceramicist–one of her works is here. She and Roberto were both in attendance and both gave afternoon talks and brief speeches at the gala that evening.  An artist I’d never seen before whose work captivated me was Domingo Ulloa. Two of his woodcuts were especially powerful, Painters on Strike, and Wolf Pack:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can see more images from the show, but they left out many of the ones I found most moving, including Roberto’s canvas titled Belsen.  This is a grim piece in blacks and yellow greens of bodies being stacked with a bulldozer. When asked about it after his talk, he said “I was interested in people being treated like garbage.”

Here’s a few you won’t see anywhere but here, though, a Chavez painting of apples that hangs in my daughter’s dining room, and a painting of persimmons that I think of as its twin by Bob Ross (another terrific artist) that hangs in mine:

There are more, but I think this is enough for today! (And for those of you who really notice, that’s Larry’s ear in the corner of the apples painting.)

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8 Responses to Roberto Chavez at the Autry

  1. Gina says:

    I would love to see this exhibition but won’t be able to. Thank you so much for sharing a little something about the show and Chavez. I remember the apple painting!

    (I would not be able to get over a gallery owner selling a painting I loaned, either. A shocking offense indeed.)

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  4. Garret Keith says:

    Very nice article on the artist. You mention the small green self portrait and I am just wondering if by chance I have it. I’ve had this painting a few years and I bought it from a shop in South Pasadena. It appears to have had several owners and was recently auctioned in 2006. If you email I can send you an image.

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  6. Sula Combs says:

    I was a model for Roberto when he was teaching at UCLA in the late 60s early 70s (don’t remember exact date) and then, when he moved to Mendocino in the 70s I was there and got to know him and helped him hang a show at the Mendocino Art Center, where I was the gardener. He gave me a self portrait for my help, which I treasure. He is an exciting, wonderful, vibrant artist and I have always loved him and his work! Sula Combs

    • Meryl says:

      So nice to hear from you. Did you know that there willbe a big retrospective of ROBERTO’s work at East LA College later this year?

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