• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

I haven’t said much about Valadez as an identity-politics artist. He does use incendiary La Raza imagery but doesn’t bloat or shellac it with issues. We’re aware of his Latino sources and models, but there’s no tendentiousness. He’s mostly obsessed with how the present is saturated with individual and racial memory. The bold, flat, confrontational spread of his pictures owes something to the New York artist Leon Golub, who died in 2004 and was best known for raw, agonized paintings of mercenaries, interrogators, and torturers. But Valadez’s imagery possesses more moral curiosity than moral rage, and his style has a visceral, romantic, pumped, and flung energy. His art essays extreme conditions, sexual and emotional inundation, the helpless self overcome by greater, unspeakable powers. ■

Santa Ana Condition: John Valadez is on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego until September 2. 700 Prospect Street, La Jolla. 858-454-3541; mcasd.org.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


Twister Aug. 17, 2012 @ 9:18 a.m.

"Racial" memory? Isn't it high-time we all debunked the whole phony concept of "race." It is a bogus concept dreamed up by one "white" guy of the "German" culture, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, in the 18th century. He was so in love with a single skull from the Caucasus Mountains, that he called it "Caucasian." He went on to popularize other arbitrary definitions of other "races." Arbitrary is bad "science;" in fact it isn't science at all.

There are, of course, VARIATIONS within any species, or "phenotypes." But even this still widely popular "science" is questionable. Honest scholars continue to argue about what defines a "species." Good. I (take full responsibility for) assert that there is a continuum of variation amongst all sexual organisms, and "science" hasn't looked sufficiently into clones to explain asexual "reproduction." (Was there death as we "know" it before sex?)

I have wandered off the theme of the article, but let me end with a point for discussion:

It is far, far more likely that humans were black in the beginning. Lighter skin was probably an adaptation to lower levels of sunlight, the need for vitamin D, rickets, and death in childbirth due to that deficiency disease. All organisms must adapt to their environment or die. Genetic variation makes organisms resilient rather than brittle, and the resilient ones survive at a higher frequency. That shifts the predominant genetic combinations according to environment.

Culture is another thing. Culture divides. Social interaction dissolves divides. Borders, like "race" are zones of friction, entirely artificial, man-made devices born out of a "race" for resources. Cultures form (sometimes called sub-cultures) because of exclusionary forces. That may not be all bad, but that wanders even farther from the origin of this attempt to put out the pseudo-intellectual concept of race.

This comment has been posted on my blog, "Earth, Fire, and Water." http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...


Javajoe25 Aug. 18, 2012 @ 10:55 a.m.

Twister, I wouldn't take it so literally and I wouldn't get into it so deep. The critic is just saying that this artist, John Valdez, draws on the "Zoot Suit" scene that existed back when in LA. The term "racial memory" probably could have been "cultural memory," but you know how it is with artists and art critics: you never know for sure wtf they are talking about. Plus, it's "art," so whose to say what is right or wrong?


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!