New Exhibit Captures Latinos’ Timeless Spirit

September 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles City Hall plays a supportive role in a exhibit of Rick Ortega’s art opening this weekend at the ChimMaya Gallery in East Los Angeles.

It’s a fitting inclusion given that L.A. City Hall on Friday will play host as it has for decades to “El Grito,” a festive commemoration on the eve of Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16. It should be noted, that “El Grito” has been expanded over the years to include the independence days of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador & Chile, and the month long observance of Latino Heritage Month.

With Latino Heritage month set to start on Sept. 15, the opening of two new exhibitions marking the 12th anniversary of ChimMaya – a gallery its owner says was established to support and highlight emerging Latino artists – is a visual reminder of Los Angeles’ deep Latino roots and culture.

Artist Rick Ortega says his art (pictured) is a reflection of modern day Latinos that still carry “the spirit” of past generations. His new exhibition, “Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless,” opens Sunday in East Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy ChimMaya Gallery)

Artist Rick Ortega says his art (pictured) is a reflection of modern day Latinos that still carry “the spirit” of past generations. His new exhibition, “Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless,” opens Sunday in East Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy ChimMaya Gallery)

Located on Beverly Boulevard near the border of East L.A. and Montebello, ChimMaya’s unpretentious exterior belies the Latino cultural beauty found in its four separate gallery spaces, showcasing Latino art, jewelry and classic furniture.

ChimMaya owner Steve Acevedo told EGP that he never intended to own an art gallery, but after opening his handbag and jewelry store, his customers started telling him about friends and relatives who were great artists, encouraging him to bring their works into his store.

“Once I decided to showcase artists work it became about connecting with the community and showcasing predominantly Latino art,” Acevedo said.

On Sunday, ChimMaya will hold an opening reception for two new shows at the gallery, one is a group show, the other highlights artist Rick Ortega who is returning to the gallery after a 7-year absence.

In an interview with EGP, Ortega recalled being a young artist in search of a place to show his work and ChimMaya opening its doors to him.

Rick (Ortega) was rejected by a number of galleries on the Westside, recalled Acevedo, telling EGP that those galleries wanted Ortega to change the subjects in his work.

“It’s crazy,” Acevedo said. “How do you tell someone to change what they see?” he said incredulous. Rick, he pointed out,  “doesn’t put anything in his work that doesn’t have significance.”

Ortega’s new exhibit is titled “Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless.” The artist said the exhibit has special meaning to him, capturing “a time in his life when he stepped away from his art while searching for inner peace.”

“Life takes you through some rough patches,” Ortega said. “When you come out of this darkness, this depression, you realize that life is good.”

According to Ortega, he had to transform his negative energy into something positive in order to be able to once again create art.

His work is a reflection of modern day Latinos that still carry “the spirit” of past generations, explains Ortega about the pieces included in the exhibition.

“Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless” opens Sunday at ChimMaya Gallery in East Los Angeles

“Nuestro Espiritu/Our Spirit is Timeless” opens Sunday at ChimMaya Gallery in East Los Angeles

The artist describes his latest exhibit as a weapon against the Trump administration, and at the same time “a weapon of hope” that puts to rest misconceptions spoken by President Trump.

“No matter what politicians” say, one always has a voice and “mine is art,” Ortega said, adding that art has the ability to lift one’s spirit.

With this exhibit, “I’m showing the world who Latinos and Chicanos really are and what they stand for,” he told EGP, calling it an honor to be showcased at ChimMaya.

While the month-long celebration of Latino history is important, Ortega points out that Latinos celebrate all the time.

“We are always celebrating, through art, music and poetry,” he observed. “I’m just glad to be part of the movement of artists that continue to keep Latino history alive.”

Echoing Ortega, Acevedo said his gallery is a place where you can celebrate Latino heritage every day.

“It’s nice that Latino history is being recognized, but a month is just that, a month,” Acevedo said.

Quoting a famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams,” “If you build it, they will come,” Acevedo told EGP that ChimMaya has become a safe haven for artists and the surrounding community.

“We have artists that capture the beauty of our community,” he said. “And ChimMaya is that place close to home to come and view that beauty.”

The opening reception for ChimMaya’s new exhibitions will take place on Sunday, Sept.17 from 4-7p.m. The gallery is located at 5282 E. Beverly Blvd., L.A. 90022.

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