Week 6: Other Sources and the 1970s

This week topic focuses on community activism in San Francisco in the 70s plus an oral history interview with Carlos Villa to give us brief overview of San Francisco art scene in those days. It is remarkable to note how our school (SFAI/ CSFA) plays a major role in shaping the local art scene here in the Bay Area particularly the “community mural movement” of the seventies. Are there any differences between community murals in the seventies (mentioned in Lost Murals of the Seventies by Timothy W. Drescher and Art and Social Consciousness by Margo Machida) and street/urban art today in San Francisco? in terms of subject matter, style and concern?

What was distinctive about Mujeres Muralistas on collaboration and how they deal with funding? Does it have something to do with the “rasquache” strategy of resistance and resilience?

In the article, “Third World Art is a State of Mind” by Paul Kagawa (Other Sources: An American Essay), do you agree that such “cultural cartel” exists in the art world?

In 1976, Carlos Villa organized an exhibition entitled Other Sources: An American Essay about “Third World” artists, activism and multiculturalism. Why is community action such as “bringing people together or bring cultures together” (page 274, Machida) integral to Carlos Villa’s art practice? Do you think his concerns with ethnic and cultural diversity  are somewhat autobiographical?   ( Oral History interview with Carlos Villa, 1995 June 20-July 10 by Paul Karlstrom)

7 thoughts on “Week 6: Other Sources and the 1970s

  1. “Villa’s use of blood is also strongly connected to childhood memories of celebratory family meals in which animals were butchered and cooked, their fresh blood serving as an integral ingredient in the accompanying sauces.” -Machida, Asian American and Pacific Islander Artists in San Francisco 1965-1980 pg. 275. This is probably “Dinuguan”, a popular Filipino dish comprised of pork meat and pig’s blood, which comes from the root word “dugo” or blood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinuguan

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  2. There are differences and similarities between community murals in the seventies (mentioned in Lost Murals of the Seventies by Timothy W. Drescher and Art and Social Consciousness by Margo Machida) and street/urban art today in San Francisco. The difference are that muralists in the seventies geared their art to a more political sense. The things that are similar is the mediums that these muralists are working with. There are many views about these kinds of art specifically how some people think it is vandalizing. In the seventies muralists painted about issues of housing, the Vietnam war, and the ravages of industrialization. Today muralists or street and urban artists also comment on concerning things of this time through their art. however today there are also spiritual imagery or things just made for fun or experimentation.

    Distinctive things about the Mujeres Muralistas was that they proved that they could paint monumental outdoor projects without the help of men and inspired many women. They dealt with funding by doing cluster murals and used funder based imagery (or catering to a certain movement).

    I think it could have something to do with the “rasquache” strategy of resistance and resilience because of attraction to the imagery and then you realize the message and then form your opinion of the message of the mural.

    In the article, “Third World Art is a State of Mind” by Paul Kagawa (Other Sources: An American Essay), I do you agree that such “cultural cartel” exists in the art world in the sense that artists shed light on their culture through their art and the meaning of their art infiltrates to other places in the world and builds a community.

    In 1976, Carlos Villa organized an exhibition entitled Other Sources: An American Essay about “Third World” artists, activism and multiculturalism. Community action such as “bringing people together or bringing cultures together” (page 274, Machida) is integral to Carlos Villa’s art practice because in doing this he forms connections as a culture and people understand his art more readily in forming those connections. I think Villa’s concerns with ethnic and cultural diversity are somewhat autobiographical because of the use of blood, feathers, and materials alike that signify his culture or his reminiscence.

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  3. Definitely the murals compared between before and now are different. Back then, the murals were meant to say something such as the war in Vietnam, struggle for women, struggle for people of color, struggle with housing. Today, perhaps there are some people who still do so, perhaps some that give their homage and respects to the seventies, but nowadays, it doesn’t seem to be their main concern. Most of these murals are done out of artistic expression that are free of politics or social issues.

    One of the main things about the Mujeres Muralistas that makes them distinct is obviously that they were able to make a name for themselves through “Latinoamérica” despite the fact that others looked down upon them due to the fact that they were women. Through this, they have proven that they are just as capable without the help of any men and despite their odds through such acts as assembling their own scaffolding, making dues with the rent and food situation, getting up early and working till late afternoons before the weather made working on the mural nearly impossible, ignoring men who would harass them, and even the invalidation of their cause by peers of the San Francisco Art Institute. In result, they have inspired other women to follow in their footsteps. Also, on page 86 when Patricia Rodriguez was talking about her experiences with the group, she stated “We were our own bosses… We [on the other hand] worked as a team and shared information and tasks.” So in terms of their work as a group, they obviously collaborated in terms of not only work but also vision, as opposed to male muralists like Diego Rivera. Their worked focused on celebration instead of political imagery.

    In terms of rasquache, I tend to teeter-totter on that. I tend to take the term literally, so I think about people using basic materials to express their art, but on the other hand, I can see how it can relate because of their resistance and resilience despite the doubts of peers and their lack of political imagery as well as the harassment of men while these women were working on the mural, as well as resisting the expectance of their school to paint like minimalists as well as the expectance to be women to paint only flowers and dogs instead of making large murals that gathered influences of modern art schools while incorporating influences from their own culture.

    In the article by Paul Kagawa, I also would have to agree with the existence of “cultural cartel.” As Bronte has said and I had the same thought, art shines light on one’s culture as evidenced in the Mujeres Muralistas. Rodriguez talks about while they were work, parents would bring their children to see the mural and teach about their culture, and herself onced was taught on how to screenprint and taught about her culture that she once didn’t know much about. Art has this kind of effect where it can shine light on one thing and eventually, it turns from a little table lamp to a huge spotlight.

    For Carlos Villa and his artwork and what he considers integral for his practice, perhaps it is integral because it brings people together with a mutual understanding. Forgive me because I’m not the greatest in history or remembering conversations, but did we not discuss he Carlos Villa was very into his community which was pretty diverse because he wasn’t only involved with Filipinos but also African-Americans and other people? Maybe I was just imagining that whole conversation… In terms of his concerns being considered autobiographical, I would probably have to say yes, because of the materials that he has used for his work, such as feathers and bones and even blood. The blood, especially because Villa is then using such basic elements that he has in his possession for artistic expression (rasquache, anyone?). Perhaps I’m just off my rocker in trying to relate this to what Jevi was pointing out about the Filipino dish dinuguan where the dish utilizes the most – if not all – parts of an animal for consumption (“edible rasquache,” anyone [if we were to consider food-making as an art form]?).

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  4. Of course, art and the way it manifests, I always feel, tends to be a sign of the times especially in regards to concept, political nature, creative process, general public acceptance, and formal/aesthetic decision making. I don’t think I know enough to make a conclusive call on all the nuances of what’s different of what’s the same. But I can say that in many ways it seems like communities that are marginalized still fight the same fight that they’ve always had. It just looks different due to whatever aesthetic trends we may be going with or being resistant to. To this days issues in the realms of race, class, gender, politics and economy still intersect with cultural and social values that communities of color hold dear. I mean, of course the emergence of large subcultures like hip hop do a lot to influence the street art and murals out today, and of course these are things we wouldn’t have seen before, but I think in many ways they’re still about telling a story about a community and/or describing its identity, whether that’s directly or indirectly.

    In regards to Paul Kagawa’s article, and the notion of the “cultural cartel”, I’d say that he’s definitely on to something. I mean, the art world is an institution in itself with it’s own set of canonized ideas and history. This is why Kagawa’s article was, and in many ways is, so important. I think in regards to more contemporary times, this particular work can be a little polarizing and in some ways, make artists feel a little bit limited and pigeon-holed. However, in regards to past eras or decades where multicultural representation may have passed as a sense of reconciliation of the art world’s issues in regards to race and equality, a statement like Kagawa’s is powerful.

    Lastly, in regards to Villa’s community work and community building being integral to his work…I think largely it is integral to his work because it is autobiographical. I think it many ways his own experiences of struggles in America as a Filipino American prompts him to do the work that he does and gives his work purpose. I think it’s also his own sense of being alienated by his environment that has him creating and building diverse community.

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  5. The murals I see today in San Francisco, specifically those in the Mission district, have a much more timeless feel to them. Many of them are purely aesthetically pleasing, and self derived, but very few provoke a strong sense of community or enhance the awareness of the history behind these communities. At least not compared to the murals seen in Drescher and Rodriguez’s article about 1970’s murals and especially not as strong as the murals coming out of the Mujeres Muralistas. There are far too many “graffiti” based murals in the mission, with beautiful lettering of course, that sometimes portray a positive message, but for the most part are not contributing to a voice about what is happening in their neighborhoods. Right now is another pivotal part in San Francisco history where we are seeing many evictions and displacements of people from neighborhoods taken over by increasing rent cost and technological advances. I rarely see any murals about this. I rarely see murals about the fact that housing is a right and that the city is seeing an increase in homeless populations and the harassment that comes with it. Murals that do stand out to me are ones in the Fillmore area. Although I do not see any depicted the displacement that happened there, I still see vibrant murals of jazz musicians, and ordinary colored people in their neighborhood, standing together – sometimes in paint, sometimes in beautiful mosaics. These murals that show the beauty and rich history of a neighborhood are what stand out to me. Although areas around the city may be overrun with far too many expensive restaurants and fair-trade coffee shops, the “rasquache” style of living remains strong and is present in these community based murals, even though the landscape changes.

    In terms of Carlos Villa’s work, I think ideas of multiculturalism come into play in a beautiful, and yes, autobiographical way, particularly with the materials he used. With things such as blood, feathers, bones, and paper – these are the foundations of humanity, the materials every culture has used to understand the world, document it, and re-invent it, the embodiment of “rasquache”. These materials are universal and essential to ideas of life and death and, when it comes to San Francisco, have strong ties to lots of indigenous peoples and immigrants. Carlo’s work mixes his experiences of growing up in the melting pot of America while summoning the ancestral history of his Pilipino roots through pure expression, raw materials, and bodily mark making.

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  6. I agree that the role that SFAI played is remarkable – specifically that of Dewey Crumpler – in contributing to the culture of murals in the Bay Area. I had to do a double take when I kept seeing his work pop up in the Drescher article. As a muralist myself, I have to respond directly to the prompt on mural traditions through time.
    Paul Kagawa lays a solid platform for discourse in his statement from “Third World Art as a state of Mind”:
    “In fact, most of the minority artists who have received wide recognition for their work have done so by internalizing the values of the art of the Western European tradition, and by following a few steps behind the Caucasian avant-garde.”
    Seeing as how people are both products and makers of history it is not surprising that culture – an anthropomorphic phenomena – would mirror historical phenomena. The society in which we find ourselves is a hegemonic and highly stratified, and much of individual existence is predicated on ones position within social strata – the socio-economic status (SES) of the individual. People surrounded by privilege are far less likely to spend their time thinking about oppression. Because there are more buffers between them and oppression, there is less impetus to think about oppressed peoples, the powerless, the wretched of the earth. Conversely, people who face oppression have a vested interest in – and high regard for – resistance to oppression. As such, cultures made up of individuals who are fighting for air in a sea of hegemony would inevitably reflect this struggle. The best and brightest individuals born into a social strata that is silenced or ignored, often spend their days figuring out how to assert themselves, as is part of the human vocation. Since the late 15th century most minorities that make it into history books are remembered mostly for their contribution to the struggle for equality; the struggle for humanization; the struggle for people to be treated like people.
    This is due to a hierarchy of needs. If you are oppressed, a disproportionate amount of time and energy would be spent resisting oppression compared to those who have a higher SES. Although the art world often functions like an alternate universe, it is still made up of the same people going through the same struggles or lack of struggles. Hence Eurocentric artists/historians have a tendency to overlook the nuances of highly diverse work produced by everyone who isn’t white/male/strait/moneyed. At the same time, it seems obvious that certain motifs (e.g. protest, murals, propaganda, identity) would be recurrent enough to link together “art produced by people whose ancestry stems from one of the many underdeveloped nations in the world” (Kagawa).
    As long as there has been oppression there has been resistance to it. Those who use the arts as a vehicle to defy oppression continue to apply time-honored techniques. Some anti-oppressionist techniques include those learned from forbearers, and some arise from the visceral responses to oppression emergent in human beings. The central tactic is simply telling the truth, and stemming from that is the use of veneration/beauty or resistance/protest. In short artists all over the world are working to make the world either look better, or be better, but those of us who have been politicized tend to prioritize the latter. Those who are aware that art making is an inherently political act, tend to produce work that stems from a will to power of the oppressed.

    -Ben J.

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  7. I think Carlos focuses so much on the unity between cultures because he grew up in such a mix-cultured community. I think he has a love for the way people of different ethnic backgrounds have a love for themselves and their identities. When staying at the Telegraph Neighborhood Center, he was reminded of Rasquache through the different stylistic specific choices that kids of all backgrounds made in an effort to look cool. There was pride held in who they were and what they had, so maybe Carlos saw this and wanted to share this concept with everyone else. Maybe he wanted to expose other cultures to the coolness of other cultures. Ultimately, maybe he was trying to get people to be happy with who they were and proud.

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