CHAC ignites the conversation between generations of Chicano artists

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Over forty years ago, Chicano and Latino artists in the Denver area recognized the importance of establishing a community presence in the face of a predominantly white-dominated art world. A group of artists came together and founded the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council in 1978 and opened a long-standing gallery on Santa Fe Drive, where these artists could support each other and highlight each other’s work.

During the pandemic and due to the rapid development of the Arts District in Santa Fe, the gallery was forced to close. Now he’s on the move, looking for a new brick-and-mortar gallery and bringing his lineup to venues around the city. The deep legacy of CHAC’s work lives on in the distinctive portfolios and careers of younger generations of artists, who borrow patterns from the works of their elders – and just as often stray from those styles to give birth to creations. hybrids.

Eager to pay tribute to the ancient Chicanos / Latinos who paved the way for today’s young artists, Alicia Cardenas, also owner of Sol Tribe, a tattoo art store – asked the management of CHAC to organize a series of shows. They agreed. The three parts Generations: an intergenerational art exhibition, co-sponsored by CHAC and Transforming Creatives, opens its doors on Tuesday July 6 and will host exhibitions until the end of September in the RiNo Art District coworking space Converge Denver. A vernissage will take place on July 9 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Each month, the exhibition will spotlight two artists working in similar mediums, one older and one younger. In July, the Generations exhibition will feature ceramist and sculptor Cal Duran and the sculptor Alfredo Cardenas for Telling stories in sculpture, a show that questions the relationship between story and form.

Duran, who grew up in Colorado and uses ancient processes in his work, sees art as a means of accessing “his native ancestors… and the brothers and sisters of the earth paved the way” for his creative energy . Born in 1942 in Denver, Alfredo, Alicia’s father, welds sheet metal and is inspired by pre-Columbian Mexican and Aztec art.

A sculpture by Denver artist Cal Duran.

A sculpture by Denver artist Cal Duran.

Cal Duran

In August, an exhibition in the series will address the rich history of Denver Muralism and how artists today carry on that legacy. The Santa Fe Arts District, the former home of the CHAC Gallery, is home to some thirty historic Chicano murals, a testament to the artistic imprint of the Denver mural movement of the 1960s and 1970s when Denver was building its reputation as a major center of Chicano muralism and artistic expression.

Jher clark, a long-time figure in Denver’s underground art scene and renowned tattoo artist, and Emmanuel Martinez, a pioneering Colorado muralist and civil rights activist, will also engage in dialogue through their works on display throughout the month.

Finally, in September, Aliciahis own paintings will be exhibited side by side with a metarealist and neo-pre-Columbian artist Stevon Lucero. Lucero, who has been painting for 56 years, is currently working on more than twenty pieces simultaneously and plans to exhibit some in September.

“The work I do now is more metaphysical – it is stronger in terms of intellectual and spiritual content. This is to say to the viewer, if you want a pretty picture, go elsewhere; if you want to see something that’s trying to get you thinking, that’s what I meant, ”says Lucero. The main concern of his paintings, he says, is “the inner spirit” and he sees each as a “spiritual visual metaphor.” Lucero, one of the original founders of CHAC, had a huge influence on Alicia’s own works.

In addition to the exhibition itself, the exhibition organizers will record interviews with artists and upload the conversations to the Converge website. Alicia sees these interviews as an opportunity to build oral tradition and oral history, “something that has not been well appreciated by this culture, but which is very important to indigenous peoples,” she says.

“After COVID, we lost a lot of people. We have lost elders in the Navajo Nation… in Italy… across the country. And when we lose our elders, we lose oral history. We lose the songs and we lose the stories, because these things are not written down and because this culture does not value elders, ”continues Alicia. Interviewing these artists is an opportunity to rectify the archival silence.

His passion for cultivating intergenerational dialogue among Chicano artists stems in part from his feeling that the elders in his community are being unfairly sidelined.

“It’s something common in our culture right now, where we kind of throw our elders out and don’t give them the space and time they deserve because they’re not on Instagram,” says. it. “It breaks my heart every day that there are artists who don’t participate in Instagram or social media who are not ‘relevant’, and my mission and core value is that the fact that I can sell a painting and making money with it – or I can exhibit a painting right now – is due to the work of my dad’s generation.

What message would Lucero have for the entire art community?

Lucero is disappointed that Chicano artists are still being ripped off by collectors and buyers for work created by white artists. As CHAC searches for a new home, it delivers the following message on Chicano Community Art.

“Tell people to support him,” he says. “You pay the plumber, you pay the electrician, you pay your auto mechanic, and you pay him dearly, but you won’t buy a work of art.”

Generations: an intergenerational art exhibition, co-sponsored by CHAC and Transforming Creatives, will take place from July 6 to September 30 in Converge Denver, 3327 Brighton Boulevard. The opening takes place from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., on July 9, at the same place. The Chicano Arts and Humanities Council will also be holding classes over the next few months to raise funds for its future; For more information visit CHAC online.

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