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An imprint on L.A.

June 15, 2008|Liesl Bradner

When TWO vanishing traditions collide, it can make for heated arguments or, just as possibly, a piece of fine art. Consider: In celebration of its 40th anniversary, Aardvark Letterpress has commissioned 18 local artists to create images based on the once-popular Mexican card game loteria, but with an L.A. twist.

Loteria, which has its roots in the Middle Ages, is similar to bingo, but instead of numbers it utilizes 54 familiar images on a deck of cards. As part of Aardvark's initial Fine Art Editions series, each artist designed a 13-by-20-inch drawing with his or her interpretations and visions of everyday life in the City of Angels.

For example, Cristina Padron's "El Tiroteo" examines the harsh reality of the city with an image of a bullet-shattered windshield set against bright yellow sun setting into a sky-blue ocean. Daniel Gonzalez's "El Puente" displays the bridges of his childhood, which transported him across the L.A. River to the neo-Gothic structures and pulsing heart of the city.

Other artists include Andre Miripolsky, Rick von Dehl, Sammy Harkham and Richard Duardo. "They are renowned and upcoming and work in the fields of graphics, hip-hop and fine and pop art," said co-curator Lisa Jane Persky, whose first contact with Aardvark was to order wedding invitations that, along with announcements and business cards, are a staple of Aardvark's business.

Letterpress is a term for printing text with movable type, in which the raised plate goes onto the press and the paper is rolled on top and an impression is made into the paper. It's an arduous process, yet it creates a tactile end product with rich textures.

"The concept behind this collection was to take a 600-year-old craft, traditionally related to the commercial world, and apply it to the world of fine art," said Cary Ocon, co-owner of the family-run press located in the MacArthur Park district.

The first "Los Angeles Loteria" series of 18 pieces is available for $5,000 for the complete suite or $300 for individual cards. Two additional sets will roll out over the next two years.

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-- Liesl Bradner

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