"¡Gentromancer!" is a creative response to gentrification in San Francisco.
I put a call out to poets; to feature voices of those in the community who have been directly affected. Through submissions of poetry and prose, I compiled a broadsheet spread that was featured in the September 8th issue ofEl Tecolote (prior to the opening).
The goal of the "¡Gentromancer!" project is to provide the space for artists to creatively assert their values as they are attached to San Francisco.
An excerpt from Caille Millner's piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, September 30th, 2016.
"It was on 24th Street in the Mission, normally a sleepy area for nightlife. I was passing the Juan R. Fuentes Gallery, and there was a crowd filling the space and spilling into the street. There was laughter; families had brought children ...
From within the building, I heard old-school songs playing. Pulled in as if by centripetal force, I saw the stunning women from the Chulita Vinyl Club spinning. I started dancing and snapping photos, so it took me a while to recognize that there were big, beautiful, mural-style paintings on the walls. Looking closer at them, I saw images of the neighborhood’s struggles — burning Victorian buildings, a portrait of Alex Nieto, who was killed by police — and its iconography, in the form of Mayan and volcanic gods.
In a flash I realized that the community was here because they needed to be here. What I’d thought was a party was actually a healing ceremony. It was the opening night of “¡Géntromancer!,” a solo exhibition and community project by Josué Rojas. Rojas, 36, wanted to create a positive community response to the “large, scary, looming monster” of gentrification."
My current body of work, “The Joy of Exile: in three acts” is a continuing stream of exploration of the concept of literal and inner migrations. This is my MFA Thesis Collection created during my tenure at Boston University's College of Fine Arts.
In this body of work, I use words and images together in the exploration of my inner life. The installation of this work is largely paintings on canvas and paper– presented in such a way that paint extends beyond the boundaries of the canvas on to the wall. The work has lots of literary references; the poetry of Walter Benjamin (and Paul Klee) for example in "Angel of progress." I see the drawings on the wall as a Junot Diaz style fun with footnotes.
In addition, I've been lucky enough to count on the collaboration with a friend, poet Anthony Cody. His poem, "Llegando al Toldería" (after a painting of mine) is the anchor for my installation. The pieces are placed within stanzas of the poem. My installation is an allegorical- poem-comic-mural –– the play within words and images are the key to the experience. The installation is a three-part poem with a prologue (four parts total).
I use the corn kernel as a metaphor for the migrant. Donuts as a metaphor for experience. Debris as travel companions. Popcorn as the culmination of experience of human mobility. It's a bit challenging to speak about these works individually, I se them as chapters of a single piece, yet pieces in of themselves.
Throughout the process, I've sought to make peace with experiences, to understand some things. I've been lucky enough to do that.
My style varies– though my intent is pretty much uniform. I always intend to play. Play with various languages is integral to my practice and thought. The piece "The Transgression Machine" is facetious rendition of a blueprint. It's a depiction of the causes for migration and an introduction to my vocabulary. "Son" is a celebration of brokenness, a promise of healing, of acceptance. The piece "La Palabra y La Imagen: Heroes Gemelos /The Word and the Image: Hero Twins" is a celebration of the sisterhood between words and images. In the Mayan creation story, the Popol Vuh, two twin brothers die and resurrect and vanquish evil through cunning and sportsmanship. The two brothers are also artists, one is a poet, the other a painter. I depict them as part of an kinetic eruption of energy. Lastly, the piece "Man’s Way to (Face the) Music" celebrates femininity. The quasi-cryptic, bi-lingual statement roughly states, "My mother taught me the man's way to face the music." In an abstract sense, it is a manifestation of gratitude to my mother and the spirit that guides me through the creative process. It is a feminine energy. I feel that it was a powerful creative force that drove her to raise my brothers and I in a generous and empowered fashion, though with limited means. It is this same spirit that drives my creative process. Many people feel that art-making is a male force, an aggressive stance. Visiting Artist to BU Oprhah Shemesh shared with me in a conversation that in her view, the creative spirit lies in our feminine energies. I would agree with this. Mothers, our mothers, my mother embody this generosity. This piece celebrates that generosity.
Anthony's poem ties the entire thing together in such an appropriate way, I couldn't be happier with the way that came out. It was the Mexican artist Diego Rivera who wrote, "an artist must be the conscience of his age." I share this view and would add that the artist can spur the inception of a critical conscience into the public imagination. If there was ever an epoch urgently in of need the rousing effect of conscience, and of a positive imagination for the future, it is this, our age of globalization.
I would like for people to now that the world is vastly bigger than what we think it is and that it’s generous enough to provide for all of us. I want people to know migration, human mobility is a beautiful thing. Everyone likes to travel. Sometimes it's a vacation, sometimes it's something hat life's circumstances force you to do. I'd love to expand this understanding, push for a greater empathy. My art is a celebration of all of the above. I'd like for people to laugh too.
"Enrique's Journey Mural" (Balmy Alley SF)
MURAL: "Enrique's Journey" (Balmy Alley, SF)
52 inches x 120 inches
Acrylic, Watercolor, ink on paper
7up Joy in the fight
Emerson College: Mural
The mural at Emerson college is on the 10th floor of the Walker Building in the International Center which also houses it's Diversity Center. The mural was designed by artist and muralist Josué Rojas and brought to life by 30 Emerson staff, faculty, students, and community members in June 2014. The mural was created as a way to promote community-building and collaboration.
The name of the mural, Carnival of Life, or Carnaval de la Vida, was revealed at the reception. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion ran a contest to name the mural over the summer. The winning name, which was chosen from 35 submissions, was submitted by Angelika Romero ’15. She describes the mural in this way: “The colors remind me of the happiness that comes along with life. Much like a party or carnival, the journey of life is filled with joy and turns.”
When asked about the abstract, colorful mural, Robert Amelio (Diversity and Inclusion), said that the following words came to mind: “flowing, energy, waves, excitement, fun.”
Amelio explained the process of the mural's creation. He said that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion wanted the 10th floor of the Walker Building to be inviting. “It seemed like the perfect thing to do was to greet people immediately with a beautiful painted wall,” he said. Amelio contacted Joe Ketner, the Henry and Lois Foster Chair in Contemporary Art Theory and Practice and distinguished curator-in- residence, who suggested muralist Josué Rojas, a graduate student in painting at Boston University.
Amelio feels that the mural provides a sense of community for those on the floor, and spoke of the collaborative nature of the project, in which Emerson and Boston community members contributed to the mural that Rojas designed and oversaw. At the October reception, Rojas said, “We are all artists. We can celebrate ourselves as creators.”
He added, “In this very communal process—one which was both improvised and highly designed—I wonder which is the greater gift: the mural itself or its effect on people. Luckily we don’t have to choose.”
Oil on canvas
30" x 30"
Joy of Exile: Unfolded
36" x 120"
Multimedia on Paper
Joy of Exile: Mara Kid
60" x 48"
Oil on Canvas
100" x 40"
Acrylic, Ink and Watercolor on Canvas
Anthony Cody, a prominent Poet, and friend of mine wrote a poem inspired by this piece. I have included it here.
Nobody told the morning to arrive
or the vans
or the tractor’s ripper
the earth & everything else.
to bury: bulbs: sack: to hand:to below.
How we protectthe eyes
during horror movies.
Car after car after car after semi pass
the widening root
of masked labor,
a radio report of patchy fog
just a peacock who roosts
the spine of an orchard,
a manic witness
to illuminate a migrating cosmos.
36" x 60"
Acrylic, ink, collage on canvas
36" x 60"
Acrylic, Ink, Collage on Canvas
See the entire "Los Disappeared" video series here
See the entire "Los Disappeared" video series here
Mourning & Scars
How I got overis the title of my installation at the SOMArts Cultural Center. The Group show entitled Mourning and Scars: 20 Years After the War, a group exhibition
The exhibition featured 12 artists and works of art in a variety of media, including paintings, video, textile sculpture and large-scale multimedia installations, explore the individual experiences of reconstruction and healing in the context of El Salvador’s postwar period.
Twelve Salvadoran artists artists now living in California and New York draw upon their various experiences and family histories to create poignant works that grapple with the trauma of persecution and exile, and reveal complex personal and bi-national identities.
Raised in San Francisco's Mission District, my Salvadoran-ness was something to be proud of. The large number of other recently arrived Salvadorans in San Francisco gave me a community to identify with.
The necessary migration my three older brothers, my mother may and I made to San Francisco may have saved our lives. Be that as it may, it divided our family. My brothers would never see my father again. My mother never saw my grandmother again. For twenty two years I lived not knowing why we migrated or why we were in this country. A fortunate turn of events lead me to CCAC, where I met professor and artist Claudia Bernardi–– who inspired my creative plunge into El Salvador.
In the collection of recent work “How I got over/ Como Sali adelante” I am utilizing Painting, Mural-art, video to portray a lyrical, often humorous, sometimes tragic rendition of my Salvadoran-American experience. The title “How I got over” is taken from the popular African American hymn made popular by Mahalia Jackson. The African- American tradition of song as a response to great difficulty inspires me . As a spiritual person, raised in a household of faith, I identify with this.
It is in his spirit that I created this body of work. Longing, music, exile, aesthetics, graffiti, the SF 49ers, abstraction, humor, faith hope, love and prose are the fabric of my experience as a bicultural “Salvy” ––these are also the stepping stones that paved the path through which I got over. It's about gratitude. By “got over” I am not referring to physical migration. By “got over” I am referring to an inner citizenship–– a knowledge of my spiritual standing–– and understanding what it means to be comfortable in my skin.
That skin happens to be Salvadoran American, and I love it.
“I'm gonna walk the streets of gold In that homeland of the soul...”