Carlos Ortiz-Gallo, “The Dinner Scene” (2020), mixed media (collage, lithography, drawing and watercolor on Rives BFK paper), 35 x 50”
Through collage, mixed media and sculptural objects, I create printstallations of liminal spaces linked to my own migratory journey and socioeconomic experience.
Over the past year, an exciting series of exhibits featuring works by young artists who identify as Latinx have been appearing in venues around Kansas City. Under the heading, “La Onda,” or The Wave, the exhibits, according to a recent press release, showcase “the rich and varied contributions of Latinx artists in Kansas City,” who draw “on a wide variety of experiences to shape the current collective identity.”
Led by artists Cesar Lopez and Kiki Serna, the “La Onda” exhibits assemble the highly diverse practices of roughly a dozen artists to create a self-supporting platform for exhibition, curation and exposure.
In the past year, the “La Onda” exhibitions have presented works by members of the group at Curiouser KC (a gallery project located in a shipping container in Strawberry Hill), Beco Gallery, Garcia Squared, Metropolitan Community College’s Carter Art Center, InterUrban ArtHouse and Kiosk Gallery.
While the name “La Onda” emerged in Mexico in the 1960s as a multidisciplinary countercultural movement, this group confidently carries the banner for the Latinx Generation into 21st-century Midwestern America.
According to Lopez, a native of Guatemala, some of the artists were born in the U.S., while others are immigrants and children of immigrants. The “La Onda” shows reflect deeply on the shared challenges of migration, and inextinguishable cultural links to their vast places of origin from Texas to South America.
In the following pages, printmaking, sculpture, collage, painting, installation, ceramics, photography and graphic design all serve powerful narratives of family relationships, place/home, identity and contemporary responses to otherness.
Kiki Serna and Carlos Ortiz-Gallo poignantly develop their imagery from family photographs. Serna’s elegiac installations and multimedia drawings capture the color of her native Mexico while visually enshrining family stories. Alternatively, Ortiz-Gallo casually injects elements of family trauma alongside found pop-culture texts and images suggesting that fragmented memories of migration are unavoidably painful as well. Rebeka Pech Moguel’s intimate drawings of dwellings remind us that places linger in our hearts and minds as much or more than faces do.
Photographic works by Silvia Abisaab and Ricardo Rosales speak to divergent Latinx experiences. We can’t tell from the odd angle of Rosales’ splashy image if the female figure is going down or coming up, but her head is barely above water. It is a sink-or-swim moment familiar to anyone who has taken the plunge into an uncertain future. In Abisaab’s rather formal “self-phone portrait,” her yellow dress pops in a layered architectural space that is partially under construction, as yet unfinished. We can imagine this as the artist’s work of arranging, combining and building a sense of self.
Inspired, she says, by crazy quilts, patterns and fungal growth, and intended to “make an audience smile,” Faviola Calymayor’s sculptural panels are chock full of botanical busyness and look good enough to eat. Melissa Guadalupe Wolf’s colorful cast sculptures of livestock transport semi-trailers look like toys but point to darker realities: human victims of cross-border trafficking. In Valentina Trinidade Soria’s work, a gaudy Chanel handbag complete with barbed wire handle satirizes the inherent contradictions of the “American Dream.”
Cesar Lopez, working in a geometric visual language based on maps, globes and flags, reveals how we form identities around colors associated with ideologies, nation states and sports teams.
Chico Sierra reinvents densely illustrated Mesoamerican iconography to create figures and forces of cosmic dimensions. Christopher Gonzalez gives a futuristic glimpse of his graphic/digital design skills with his robotic “Boy” character.
We can detect in the varied iterations of “La Onda” the coherent power and endurance of the wave. Whether moving up and down or back and forth, the wave gathers strength as it moves through multinational, multicultural and multidisciplinary territories.
Watch for upcoming “La Onda” exhibits at Curiouser KC (August 2022) and the Mattie Rhodes Art Center’s new building (September 2022), in conjunction with their Day of the Dead event.
Images courtesy of the artists