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Published on August 12th, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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Beyond James Dean

By Andrea Serna, Arts Columnist

Gallery Azul duo, Ray and Cora Ramirez-Vasquez, just love to push the envelope and poke convention in the eye with their themed shows.

Known for putting on exhibitions that explore issues of identity and resistance against dominant regimes in various contexts, the husband and wife team are doing it again with their group show, 1950’s and 1960’s Icons, which scrutinize the objectification of women’s roles and identity, the influence of Madison Avenue and the explosion of color as evidenced in the Technicolor films produced by Hollywood during that period.

“We were invited to have a show in this space and the show was really inspired by the space,” Cora said. “We decided to work with the iconic imagery from the 50s and 60s.”

Cora believes the decades represented much more than the iconic images of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and wants to educate this generation of the larger pop cultural history of that time.

To explore these themes, the Ray and Cora assembled  22 artists, exhibiting 44 works, in a juried art show that examines the sensibilities and values of the two revolutionary decades that shaped much of the American culture we know in the 21st century. Included in the show are representations of the 10 most sexist ads of the 1950s, most likely never considered sexist during the decade, but somewhat alarming by today’s standards.

The advertising arm of major 1950s and 60s network television, such as Chesterfield Cigarettes exemplified this period’s enthusiastic acceptance of Hollywood’s influence. Lucille “Lucy” Ball, one of TV’s first mega stars was a frequent model in their ads. In this show two iconic images of Lucy emerge. The first, by Hector Silva, has Lucy as a temptress, posing in an elegant black floor length gown for Macy’s Department Stores. The cigarette held chicly between her fingers. The second image, by Eric Guaderanna, gives us the safer icon, the familiar clown, homemaker Lucy with the blazing red hair and lips, sans cigarette.

The Vasquez’s have drawn art submissions from throughout Southern California, to as far south as Ensenada, Mexico. As a result, exhibit includes a number of iconic pop culture figures from Mexico. Frida Kahlo and actors María Félix and Tin-Tan both figure prominently.

Among the work that is on display is, “My Way,” a striking computer-generated piece by Wilmington artist and poet Gabe Razo. Gabe is a quadriplegic working on his iPad using only two fingers to create an image of Frank Sinatra gazing on a brilliant Manhattan sunset, seeming to realize he is the master of all he surveys. Sinatra as the icon of show business power and style displays the somewhat misguided fascination with what we now refer to as the “Mad Men” decade, which was about to be blown wide open with the coming of the anti-war movement, civil rights, the women’s movement and the summer of love.

The exhibition space, Warehouse 1333 in Long Beach, is a sprawling mid-century vintage antique mall, where vendors sell highly collectible retro items. Most of the art exhibition is housed in the second story gallery space, but several pieces are displayed in Mary Ramirez’s space #121 in the warehouse. The furnishings and the art join together to create the feeling of a movie set or perhaps a living room which could have been in your family home.

Since closing their own brick and mortar gallery a couple of years ago, Cora and Ray have been running Gallery Azul as a “mobile gypsy” gallery, exhibiting in alternative spaces like Warehouse 1333. But the husband and wife team are in the process of moving back to a home gallery in San Pedro.

They have secured a new location at 520 8th St. in San Pedro and have a full schedule of intriguing shows scheduled, beginning in September. Shows scheduled include Brandon Harrison, who had a previous show “Civil Disobedience” at Gallery Azul.

In November, they will host their annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibition in the new space.

1950’s and 1960’s ICONS runs through show Sept. 7. A closing reception will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Sept.  7.  The Warehouse is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Venue: Warehouse 1333,
Location: 1347 Redondo Ave., Long Beach

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