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Identity Through Art

Works of northeast Valley Latino artists mirror their heritage and changing lives.


Ten members of the San Fernando Valley's burgeoning Latino artistic community reflect on identity and history in a new show called "Passages" opening Sunday at the Century Gallery.

The spiritual center of the show--and the artists' group behind it--is Frank Martinez, a Pacoima-based artist whose murals grace walls and buildings throughout the Valley and Los Angeles. He serves as a role model for younger artists while maintaining respect for classical artistic principles, said Diane Correa de Rempel, whose work is included in the Sylmar exhibition.

She said the show was a natural step for Latino artists in the northeast Valley who look to each other for support and encouragement.

"It started with some of us having artists' parties, but we all have connections with different galleries," she said. "We have been meeting for five years and still think we should have a name, but it's more important for us to get together and talk about art."

Martinez's painting "Sat. Night #1" is a centerpiece of the exhibition.

A World War II veteran who began art training on the G.I. Bill at London Polytechnic and the Chouinard School in Los Angeles, Martinez is known for his murals on Latino and Olympic themes. His work has been displayed at the Smithsonian.

Besides Correa de Rempel and Martinez, the painters and sculptors represented are Leonard E. Bermudez, Ramon Cisneros, Steven Corralejo, Lalo Garcia, Art Gonzales, Ralph Kacy, Ricardo Ortega and Joe Saenz.


Ortega's work reflects a combination of Renaissance and Aztec principles.

"For the Aztecs, there were two ways of reaching God--be a warrior and sacrifice your enemy's blood or be an artist offering your creations," Ortega said recently.

Correa de Rempel said the group named the show "Passages" because Latinos of Mexican heritage have moved from one place and identity to another--Mexico to the United States.

"From people looking for a better way of life and moving to the U. S. to people not knowing their past to people rediscovering their heritage," she said.



"Passages" opens Sunday and runs through March 4. Century Gallery, Veterans Memorial Park, 13000 Sayre St., Sylmar. Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday noon-4 p.m. Free admission and parking. Call (818) 362-3220.

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