By Andrea Serna, Contributing Writer
Starting July 22, lecturer Gregorio Luke will present Mariachi Music at the Museum of Latin American Art. On this evening, Luke, with the help of a live mariachi band, will demonstrate the distinct role each instrument plays in the mariachi ensemble, as well as the varying traditional rhythms like son, canción ranchera, polka and bolero. In 2011, UNESCO named the mariachi a “Cultural Patrimony of Humanity” recognizing its intangible cultural significance. The same year “Fado,” the urban popular song of Portugal was also honored.
The lecture will be illustrated with projections of art inspired by the Mexican music, such as the murals in the ruins in Bonampak, Chiapas. This ancient monumental temple hints at the haunting sounds of pre-Colombian instrumentation. More recently, mariachi music is portrayed in Rufino Tamayo’s murals, which are housed in Mexico’s national Conservatory, or Diego Rivera’s Teatro de los Insurgentes (Theater of the Insurgents), among others.
Luke’s outdoor presentations mixes summer breezes and neighborhood sounds while projecting images onto a 100-foot wall, blending powerful visuals and narratives into seamless, intriguing, productions.
After 13 years, Luke’s a pro at this. When preparing for lectures he completely immerses himself in the subject matter, much as an actor for a role.
“I was scared about being an artist,” Luke says. “I avoided it for a long time, but then I started doing these lectures when I was a diplomat. Eventually, it became an all consuming passion. It became like a jealous lover. I had to tell the story right and make it a fantastic lecture.”
Luke has served as consul of Cultural Affairs of Mexico in Los Angeles, he has served a term as first secretary of the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, D.C. and as director of MOLAA before becoming an international guest lecturer. But his muse, his love art, led him back again to MOLAA as lecturer in residence.
Luke began this series with a vision of bringing the great muralists of Mexico to the streets of America. Over the years, the subject has broadened beyond “Los Tres Grandes,” muralists Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and Dávid Alfaro Siqueros. This year the subjects include Mexican mariachi music, the iconic artist Frida Kahlo, and the multi-talented but obscure intellectual, Miguel Covarrubias.
On July 29, Frida Kahlo will be the focus. Luke will share recently discovered photos and film clips of the legendary artist. Kahlo, famously married to Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, was able to create some of the most original and powerful surrealistic paintings of the 20th century. This lecture presents a kaleidoscopic portrait of Kahlo. Using more than 300 slides of her paintings. Of special interest to those afflicted with “Fridamania,” will be a short film by Manuel Alvarez Bravo that is the only known color film of Frida and her husband.
The lecture series ends on Aug. 5 with Miguel Covarrubias. He was one of Mexico’s most versatile artists: a painter, a cartoonist, a filmmaker, an anthropologist, an author and a dance promoter. Covarrubias, who traveled and lived outside of Mexico, depicted many different cultures and united many worlds. He was among the first to paint the world of jazz and blues during the Harlem Renaissance in New York City.
Later, while living in Bali, he would create beautiful images of that culture and continue to similarly document cultures in China, Latin America and most spectacularly, Oaxaca and Southern Mexico. His pioneering spirit led him to venture not only into archaeology and anthropology but into dance as well. He had a critical hand in initiating the Golden Age of Mexican dance, becoming its most ardent promoter. In addition to projecting Covarrubias’ murals paintings and cartoons, the presentation will include live performances evoking the many cultures that impacted Covarrubias’ work.
Murals Under the Stars has been presented to thousands across the United States and Mexico. If you are attending for the first time, buy tickets ahead and arrive early. The lectures frequently sell out. The museum will host a mercado (market), with a variety of food and product vendors, before each lecture. Bring a sweater or even a cushion for your chair (think outdoor movies) and plan for an memorable evening.
Tickets range from $10 for students to $30 for preferred seating. For complete ticket info call (562) 437-1689 or go to www.molaa.org.
Murals Under the Stars
6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
July 22, 29, and Aug. 5
Venue: Museum of Latin American Art
Location: 628 Alamitos Ave, Long Beach