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Chicano artists reign at museum

September 23, 2011|By Terri Martin

Forest Lawn Museum in Glendale ushered in Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15) with the opening of “Adelante! Mexican American Artists: 1960s and Beyond,” an exhibition of paintings, prints, sculpture and photography that delineate the history, culture and religion of the Mexican American community.

The artwork speaks of the Mexican American journey, the people’s sense of identity, family, respect of past and persistence for their posterity.

Much of the art is rooted in the spiritual and political sensibilities of the Chicano community, whose identity is derived from ancient Mexican tradition. Mayan and Aztec symbolic language informs several of the works displayed, serving as a sort of visual anthropology. These, along with Catholic iconography in its pure form as well as hybrid narratives, define the importance of the indigenous sources and history of Chicano identity.

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“King Jaguar One Man Army” and “Queen Jaguar with Love” (both oil on canvas, 2008) by Heriberto Luna are decorated with Mayan hieroglyphs, an early form of graffiti (writing or painting on public surfaces), repeated in flat contiguous patterns, forming three-quarter profiles of ancient Mayan deities.

A vivid primary blue and purple palette describes the queen, who holds a tall scepter in one hand, with an ornamental birdlike headdress. King Jaguar is defined with green patterns and holds a long, weapon-like scepter. The individual icons that make up the patterns represent lightning, jaguars, weather, medicine and many others. They are both primitive and modern.

One can imagine Luna’s images as fresh hieroglyphic paintings that adorned the magnificent architecture of his ancient ancestors. Luna’s grandmother spoke two dialects of Mayan, so his point of reference is very near. Luna has exhibited his work in many major museums and has received numerous awards for his accomplishments. He is a positive influence, as he continues to teach and mentor in order to serve his community and preserve his heritage.

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