He Had a Dream – Louis Jacinto’s onodream Gallery
Written by Genie Davis
Artist Louis Jacinto came up with the name onodream when he first joined the Internet in the early 90s. At that time, he’d planned to use his own name for his account, but a friend said no one used their own name, and he needed to make one up. “Being a huge fan of Yoko Ono I came up with onodream. It’s my way of raising Yoko Ono consciousness, one email at a time. Since then, I’ve used onodream as the name of all my projects, which include my website, the art magazine I started in 2011, and my online art gallery.”
Currently his online gallery is showing the photographic artwork of Gary Nellis. “I’ve always admired his work, and in fact, in this show, there is a photograph that he took when he was 14 years old,” Jacinto relates. The show is up through June 2022.
Nellis’ Pathways and Entrances features a mix of black and white and color images that are intense and evocative, whether depicting the burning eyes of “Coal Man and Child,” a dozing woman as still as porcelain in “Beijing Shuttle,” or a woman lying in startling, death-like repose receiving a facial mask treatment in “Masque.” In Nellis’ older image, from 1979, “Merry Xmas, NYC,” a strangely misshapen Santa stands against a backdrop of a passing bus. In a 2020 image, two reflected landscapes present a beautiful but still and surreal world, indicative of the year in which they were taken, in “Reflection.” Each photograph, whether portrait or landscape, is vividly narrative, creating a space for intimate questioning which resonates well in an online exhibition.
The gallery itself debuted in July 2020. “When the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, I noticed that art galleries were ramping up their online presence a bit more to keep their customers and the rest of the public engaged. I had always fancied owning an art gallery, but I don’t have that kind of capital. When everything surged online, I remembered I was punk and I didn’t need capital to open an art gallery,” he explains. “The gallery does not show my own work, but that of other artists whose work I admire and whom I know. I give each artist a 3-month exhibition with 30 of their artworks. The show opens with 10 art works and an exhibition essay. I add 10 more works in the 2nd month, and the final 10 works are added in the 3rd month, along with an exhibition catalog which contains an interview with the artist.”
His reasoning behind the staggered release of images is that this is the best way to engage viewers. “Because the gallery is only online, I didn’t want to show all 30 artworks at once, that way, hopefully, viewers will continue to come back to see the works that have been added. I also chose to do individual shows instead of group shows.”
As for Jacinto’s own work, his photographic art is ethereal, even strangely spiritual, even as it involves specific LA-based architecture and signage. According to the artist, “My series Getting It Backwards/Floating Away began in 2011. I was on my way to visit my friend Gronk at his downtown studio when I noticed the shadow of the large signage ‘Jesus Saves’ cast on a building across the street. I didn’t have my camera with me, and in my later attempts to capture it, the sun just wasn’t in the right position. So, I photographed it directly from behind. I used film, [and] after scanning the negative, I digitally removed the posts holding up the sign, thus making it float.”
The image was in part directed at exposing the untruth in right-wing politics. “At that time, so many right-wing politicians were draping themselves in the American flag and espousing how important God was to them, yet their actions were the exact opposite and hypocritical. I thought ‘Jesus Saves’ backwards expressed how these individuals were getting everything backwards. I continued to photograph more signage. When I encountered a sign that I could stand behind I would use black and white film; for the straight-ahead images, I used color. Many of the signs are vintage, and slowly, they are leaving us as they are being demolished and not saved; they are Floating Away from us.
Jacinto continues to create new work as well as mining his extensive archive for images he may have missed, working with curators for possible inclusion in exhibitions. “One of my photographs of the punk band The Bags, from the late 1970s just completed a 4-year run in the show, Axis Mundo: Queer Connections in Chicano L.A.” That exhibition opened in 2017 as a part of the city-wide Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, and toured the country to 7 additional museums.
This July will mark the two-year anniversary of onodream Gallery. Jacinto will mark the occasion by presenting the onodream Biannual. “[I’ll be] featuring the 8 artists who have exhibited in the gallery so far, with new works.”
In the meantime, the Nellis exhibition is there to explore online here.