Walter Maciel Gallery Shines with Politics and Poetry
By Genie Davis
Through March 4th
I.D., Please! the insightful, beautiful, and poetic political group show now at Walter Maciel on La Cienega features work by Hung Liu, John Bankston, Lezley Saar, John Jurayj, Maria E. Pieres, Nike Schröder, Dana Weiser and Monica Lundy. On display through March 4th, the works serve as an elegantly wrought elegy for what could be the twilight of democracy.
Here you’ll find the sepia toned realism of Hung Liu’s “Father’s Arm,” or in contrast, the vibrantly colored, illustrative style of John Bankston’s oil and mixed media “Charmed.” Lezley Saar’s mixed media on fabric over wood “Not Born Under a Rhyming Planet” has a fairy tale quality with a surrealist edge. Monica Lundy’s “Ladies of the Barbary Coast,” created using pulverized charcoal, mica flake, gouache, acrylic, gold and coffee offers as many intellectual and emotional layers to the viewer as its mediums. The work creates a time capsule of place and person with these richly haunting portraits steeped in yearning.
These larger scale works are well matched in a companion show also at Walter Maciel Gallery. With Liberty and Justice for Some, co-curated by gallerist Walter Maciel and artist Monica Lundy, is an astonishing collection of 8 x 8 portraits – each of an immigrant. With over 100 artists contributing, there are personal portraits, those of family and friends, and depictions of the famous – such as poet Kahil Gibran, and National Parks Service icon John Muir. There’s also the infamous – the great grandfather and mother of the present POTUS are represented. Poignant and diverse, the project pays homage to the cultural mix and magic currently under attack by this administration.
Artists from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia, and New York among other locations were invited to participate, and included a bevy of Los Angeles-based artists.
Portraitists include: Kyle Abernethey, Barry Anderson, Diane Andrews Hall, Evelynn Aponte, Julie Baroh, Lili Bernard, Libby Black, Gary Brewer, Nyame Brown, Brian Caraway, Carolyn Castao, Joey Castor, Freddy Chandra, Chenhung Chen, Modesto Covarrubias, Yvette Daes, Rick Dallago, Bibi Davidson, Ray DiCapua, Diane Ding, Colin Doherty, Tim Doud, David Estrada, Diane-Sofia Estrada, Rodney Ewing, Susan Feldman, Chris Finley, John Fischer, Erik Flores, Gwen Freeman, Dwora Fried-Dreilinger, Mira Gerard, Dorothy Goode, Leonard Greco, Joshua Hagler, Michael Hall, Adrienne Heloise, Sarah Hirneisen, David Hollier, Andrea Hornick , Phillip Hua, Cynthia Ona Innis, Marlene Iyemura, Cassandra C. Jones, Kevin Jones, Soad Kader, Mark Kang-O’Higgins, Amy Kaps, Virginia Katz, Veda B. Kaya, Michael Khoele, Melanie Lacy Kusters, Danielle Lawrence, Carrie Lederer, Joshua Levine, Hung Liu, Sandra Low, Kija Lucas, Monica Lundy, Walter Maciel, Aline Mare, Kara Maria, Catherine Martini, Michael Massenburg ,Randi Matushevitz, Kelvin Ming Young, Geri Montano, Paul Mullins, Antonio Múniz, Chris Natrop, Rikki Niehaus, Damien O’Brien, Tim Okamura, Paul Paiment, Maria E. Pieres, Yulia Pinkusevich, Amy Pleasant, Mel Prest, Linda Sue Price, Calida Rawles, Kate Rhoades, Karrie Ross, Ann Marie Rousseau, Maja Ruznic, Sonja Schenk, Nike Schröder, Annie Seaton, Steve Seleska, Christine Shields, Cindy Shih, Sheli Silverio, Jessica Snow, Lisa Solomon, Tamara Stephas, Mike Street, William Swanson, Camilla Taylor, Jessie Thatcher, Lava Thomas, Lien Truong, Gina Tuzzi, Linda Vallejo, Davin Watne, Lin Wei, Dana Weiser, Rhonda Wheatley, Stephen Whistler, Diane Williams, Andrew Witrak, Sandra Yagi, and Andre Yi.
The portraits as displayed make a quilt of faces; a pattern that compels viewers to confront just who we are both individually and collectively. It’s emotional to see the proud self-portraits of artists personally known alongside figures famous for their message of tolerance, inclusiveness, and environmental legacy. The paintings, and who they depict, make up a landscape not just on the Walter Maciel Gallery walls, but of America. Or the America we have believed ourselves to be. Consider: if so many of those faces were not here, immigrants banned or vetted out of this nation, would there be blank white canvases in their place?
Some of these portraits dance with color and fierceness, like Bibi Davidson’s portrait of artist and friend Dwora Fried, making solid use of the artist’s signature color, red. Others exhibit a glowing inner strength, such as Chenhung Chen’s self-portrait, the calm blue background belying the fierce gaze. The portraits may be diminutive in size, but they are anything but that in spirit. We see grace, anguish, poise, power, hope, transcendence, anxiety. We see people on the line for their beliefs, their dreams. There’s a perfect, jewel-like quality to these works, the way in which they fill their canvasses, the spark they ignite in the viewer.
Maciel and Lundy hope the idea of this type of expressive resistance art will spread to other parts of the country. Proceeds from the sale of the portraits are shared with the artists and these charities: the ACLU, The Trevor Project, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, LA LGBT Center, and SF LGBT Center.
Walter Maciel Gallery is located at 2642 S. La Cienega.