Latinx Art Rising in KC: ‘La Onda’ Exhibition Series Showcases Emerging Artists

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, “Si las Flores Pudieran Hablar” (2021), acrylic, graphite, vellum, ink, engrudo, wall piece: 34 x 45”; floor display: 40 x 50 x 22”
My work starts from a very personal and intimate space, where I find myself reflecting on my past and my own Latinx narrative.

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.

Valentina Trindade Soria, “Estoy en America” (2021), ceramics, glaze, gilt and wire, 10 1/2 x 9 1/4 x 3 1/4”
My artwork is my satirical observation of the photogenic “American Dream” that was marketed to me as an immigrant child, growing up in the U.S. and Uruguay.

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

Faviola Calymayor, “Somos Flores” (2022), sculpey, beads, 9 x 5”
I am inspired by crazy quilts, patterns and fungal growth. My intention is to be thoughtful of the materials I use and make an audience smile.  
Melissa Guadalupe Wolf, “It’s lonely out there in space” (2021), concrete, 3 x 2 x 4” 
Forcing soft tones and harsh materials to connect with each other, I try to send the message of desired perfection in not only my work but everyday existence.
Rebeka Pech Moguel, “Hogar / Lugar” (2018), watercolor and mixed media, grid dimensions: 34 x 34”
I use different mediums to create a multi-faceted experience that delves into themes surrounding cultural history and identity, ritualistic acts, and symbolic motifs.
Ricardo Rosales “aver,” photograph, 24 x 36”
Photography allows me to be spontaneous and intuitive with my thoughts and visions and to trust myself when I see something that makes me look twice.
Chico Sierra, “Caoseria” (2021), acrylic on canvas, 5 x 10’
I find inspiration in the vastness of the natural world . . . and in that vastness are metaphors for tangible matters such as societal repair.
Cesar Lopez, “BBB Portrait” (2021), digital rendering, 4 x 3”
My work explores the third space through showcasing fictitious flags and manipulating them into personal interpretations.
Silvia Abisaab, “Yellow Dress” (2020), digital image, 11 x 14”
Documenting space, time and memory has been a thoughtful process in capturing what brings solitude, perspective and meaning.
Christopher Gonzalez (clockwise from top left) “chimp&Z,” dj.wiBoy,” “qua.STAR” and “furr-meow” from the “roboto” series (2020-ongoing), vector graphics, dimensions variable
These characters are a starting point in the hopes to one day produce hand-painted action figures.
Brian Hearn

Brian Hearn is an art advisor, appraiser, curator and writer interested in all things art, cave painting to contemporary.

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