Art as Resistance Lights Up Los Angeles


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By Melina Paris, Contributing Writer

Protest takes on many forms. One of the most prominent forms is the protest march. In 2017 we have witnessed a flurry of marches all with one thing in common, resistance to Donald Trump’s policies.

We saw The Women’s March in January, not only in this country but around the world. April has seen at least three protest marches, Tax Day March, The March for Science and The Peoples Climate March. There were marches at airports throughout the nation and thousands more globally after Trump’s executive order banning people entering the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries. And most recently, May Day protest marches.

But another form of protest has been brewing and producing impactful art works. It is Art as Resistance, Paintings in Protest to a Trump Presidency. The exhibition is curated by Long Beach artist, Eric Almanza in response to the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency.

The showing opened May 12, at Avenue 50 Studio in Los Angeles. The gallery exhibits artists of color who display high quality work, and who haven’t been represented in mainstream galleries. Opening night drew a large crowd that steadily multiplied to a full house as the night continued.

Almanza said that curating for this show was different than most because all of the artists created new works. Usually artists choose from what they have, looking for pieces that go along with the theme of a show. So in essence Almanza trusted the artists to produce great work. As a curator this required much risk. It wasn’t until a week before the opening that he saw the works. Some artists even dropped out or their work was not produced.

As for Almanza’s contribution, With This Fire a Rebellion Will Rise, his piece pictures a section of the border wall. It is set on fire. On the wall is Almanza’s logo of resistance. A dream catcher with two triangles in the center.

Almanza has said it’s for the resistance, “because every great resistance needs some kind of logo.”

When he created it he thought of it as a piece of apocalyptic science fiction. He always imagined an apocalypse would take place in the not too distant future but it seems like time has fast-forwarded and we are at a threshold, about to enter a post-apocalyptic society.

Almanza called Alex Schaefer’s piece, A Banquet Without Consequences, a “tour de force.” It includes Trump and various bankers. Almanza said Schaefer has been very upset by the government bailouts of the banks. So much so that as a form of protest in 2011, Schaefer rendered a painting while on the street in front of a Chase Bank on Van Nuys Boulevard. In the painting the bank roof was ablaze. Police arrived and questioned him, asking if he was planning to follow through on the scenes he had painted on canvas. A year later he was arrested for a chalk drawing of the word “Crime” with a Chase logo in front of a downtown Los Angeles Chase bank. He spent 12 hours in jail for vandalism.

There is much going on in Timothy Robert Smith’s piece, Untitled. It makes a compelling statement about the president. Untitled depicts a swirl of hair appearing as a tornado around a black hole. War planes come from behind the chief executive. He holds what appears to be a cellphone with his Twitter thumb positioned dangerously close to pressing the nuclear button – earth with a red circle around it.

Below is a portion of the curator’s statement on the group exhibition and some of the visceral paintings comprising the show.

“Art as Resistance brings to focus the artistic reactions of 17 artists living and working in the era of Trump. Rich with voices from the oppressed, these paintings serve as a visual protest to Trump and everything his administration stands for.”

Go see this invigorating show while it’s in Los Angeles, until June 3.