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AT THE GALLERIES / Robert McDonald

September 05, 1986|ROBERT MCDONALD

SAN DIEGO — The Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park is presenting an exhibition of works by emerging Chicano and Latino artists. Titled "Sangre Nueva--New Blood," it surveys California from the San Diego area (including Tijuana) to San Francisco.

Local Chicano muralist Victor Ochoa curated the show on a budget of about $4,000. It is an impressive achievement, especially when compared to other local not-for-profit organizations, both established and aspiring, with far more substantial budgets.

The exhibition is, Ochoa acknowledges, uneven in quality. Nevertheless, it evinces an almost palpable energy. And there is not one work, even the most amateurish, that does not sustain a serious viewer's interest. This is art about life in California in the broadest sense. Not all of it is formally artistically accomplished, but all of it does merit attention. And even the least of it is instructive.

The show, with works by 50 artists from ages 15 to 30, includes graffiti, barrio art, tattoos, Lowrider magazine centerfolds, mural designs, photographs, installations, paintings, drawings and sculptures.

Particularly outstanding are the works of Juan Edgar Aparicio of Los Angeles, a refugee from El Salvador. Although the artist is self-taught, his painted figurative wood wall reliefs are formally accomplished works of art with potent emotional content.

"La Familia Salvadorena," a woman with three sons who are armed and the photograph of a fourth one who is dead, and "Sanctuario," two men in a cagelike structure labeled "I.N.S. Detention Center," are meaningful and effective without explanations.

"Victor Jara," however, the image of a smiling man with golden hands holding a guitar, needs a brief wall text. The Chilean folk singer, known for his songs of protest, was mutilated during the Pinochet regime and subsequently died. Barely visible, small sutures encircle the wrists of the figure. It is an ineffably poignant work of art.

Mixed-media works by Nane Alejandrez, Sylvia Soriano and Ricardo Gonzalez, whose cultural antecedents are home altars, have been installed as a harmonious group rich with references to Latino life, as ancient as the tradition of tattoos, dating back to the Aztecs, and as contemporary as the experiences of infantrymen in Vietnam.

Collages of photocopied objects and texts or grouped photocopies by punk artist Julio of Tijuana are aggressive and challenging works of art made on a minimal (not to say pitiable) budget.

The graffiti paintings of Kenny (Ninety) Thompson and Doug Cunningham on unstretched canvas are flamboyant and engaging.

Among the other outstanding works, although it is exhibited only during weekends, is Rigo Reyes' low-rider, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala painted with green metal flake and featuring pre-Columbian imagery.

"Sangre Nueva--New Blood" is an important exhibition. It is about an influence that will be increasingly important for the future of California's heterogeneous culture.

The exhibition continues through Oct. 12.

Perspectives Gallery (835 G St.) is exhibiting wall reliefs and bowls by ceramist Leon Miller, who paints his multipartite compositions--made of hand-formed, high-fired porcelain components--using a variety of techniques, including airbrush and paintbrush.

The works are similar in appearance to many by other artists in handmade paper, but denser. Among these decorative works in pastel colors, "Fantasia," "Painted Desert" and "Tiles" are especially appealing. Miller's large gray and smaller aqua and rose bowls are elegant and seductive.

The exhibition continues through Sept. 30.

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