The gallery’s white walls are decorated with paintings, sculptures and video projections emanating with Mexico, Central and South American influence.
With numerous museums scattered across the Los Angeles area, “Drawn from Clay” shines a spotlight on the many contributions Latinx culture and traditions have played in the advancement of the arts.
After the Sept. 13 opening of SUR:biennial’s “Drawn from Clay” exhibition, a reception took place last Wednesday at Long Beach City College’s art gallery to allow students and contributing artists to appreciate and discuss the rich history and culture embedded in the art.
LBCC is one of seven institutions in the greater Los Angeles area taking part in the fourth SUR:biennial, a conglomeration of exhibits inviting local artists of any nationality who have been influenced by Latino culture and artistic traditions to showcase their work.
“I narrowed my show down to people who either work from clay, draw from clay or combine it with another material,” said LBCC’s Art Gallery Director Trevor Norris.
Norris invited artists to contribute to the exhibit with works ranging across different mediums such as paint, sculpture and performance art. The four artists showcased included Yolanda Gonzalez, Wayne Perry, Fay Ray and Armando Cortes.
With each exhibition independently curated to allow for different themes, Norris chose to base the theme of his gallery around clay because of its ubiquitous nature and elasticity. Artists were presented with the challenge of stretching the limits of clay — literally and figuratively — by taking risks with their art and the material.
“Clay has a particular tactility — a certain feel,” said Norris. “It acts as a sort of gateway material for artists to delve into other forms of art.”
Over the sound of conversation, the occasional crash of pottery can be heard from Armando Cortes’ video performance “Tumba Para Eneclata,” which depicted a man swinging a clay pot attached to his ponytail in different motions, then smashing it to pieces.
While SUR:biennial’s goal is to allow local artists influenced by Latinx culture to display their works, Cortes saw “Drawn from Clay” as an opportunity to reach his viewers in a much deeper sense.
“[The exhibition’s] purpose is to both showcase the art and artists and more importantly, to engage students with [the] work of other artists. Hopefully seeing the work of active artists can help motivate, inspire or just inform them,” Cortes said.
Born and raised in a small rural town in Mexico, Cortes drew many of his inspirations from his home life and the industry surrounding him.
“Most of my work is inspired by family lore. Stories that are passed on, intentionally or not, by my parents and other family – and which I attempt to connect to on a more intimate level,” Cortes said. “Some of these stories end up being presented in more literal ways than others. In the end they all incorporate a sense of magical realism whether through my interpretation, that of my family or just via the nature of the story being explored.”
“Drawn from Clay” was the only venue in SUR:biennial’s roster featuring work that included different mediums of artistic expression from the artists.
“I thought it was really clever for [Norris] to have two dimensional and three dimensional works,” Gonzalez said, one of four artists with their work featured in the exhibit. “Most places only allow the artist to choose from one another.”
Having worked with clay for over 20 years, Gonzalez found it refreshing that the venue offered Chicano and Latinx artists a chance to connect with one another and to the Los Angeles community through their works.
Through her submissions to the gallery, Gonzalez hoped she was able to touch each viewer in a different way.
“I want to evoke a sense of different layers of emotion. Some intense, some fun and some beautiful,” said Gonzalez.
The “Drawn from Clay” exhibition will be open to the public at the LBCC Art Gallery until Oct.12. The gallery is open on Mondays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 8 p.m.