Santa Ana Condition: John Valadez

Sunday, Jun 10, 2012-Sunday, Sep 02, 2012
Car Show
John Valadez
Car Show
2001, oil on canvas, 76 x 96 1/4 in. Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Museum Purchase with funds provided by an Anonymous Donor. © John Valadez.

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The Artist’s Sketchbook: Book of the Year c. 1971-1980


The Book of the Year is John Valadez’s personal journal used as a sketchbook to document the perspective of a self proclaimed anxious Chicano young militant. 


“Mhondoro,” Thomas Mapfumo


Early Street Photography (Black and White), c. 1970-75

John Valadez found inspiration from people he encountered on the streets of East Lost Angeles during the beginnings of his photography career.

Including Abierto, Mariachi y Orquesta, andOctavio L


“Mhondoro,” Thomas Mapfumo

Street Photography (Color), c. 1978

Valadez’s photography matured as he continued to find beauty within the people on the streets and as he transitioned from black and white to color.

Including Two Guys, Casper, andBus Stop


“Mhondoro,” Thomas Mapfumo

Early Newsprints Drawings, c. 1974-79

Inspired by the visual design and context of Mexican tabloids and newspapers, Valadez recreated layouts with stories he witnessed in his community.

Including Loans, Seeing is a Blessing andBeatificado


“The Beat Generation,” Jack Kerouac over music

Large Pastel Portraits, c. 1983-85

Using characters from his early photograph, Valadez created pastel portraits featuring the ignored beauty found in urban life.

Including Fatima, Preacher, and Getting Them Out of the Car


“Annah,” Papa Wemba



Allegorical Pastel Compositions. c. 1985-87

In these large pastel compositions, Valadez introduces allegory and irony into his narratives.

Including Beto’s Vacation, Savages and Glitter, and Gaviota


“Nalingaka Yo Yo Te,” Franco


European Influences, c. 1987-89

During a European residency spent in France, Valadez sought inspiration from the masters of the Renaissance.

Including Battle of Cultures and Fall of Babel


“God’s Lonely Man,” Bernard Herrmann


Story Telling Through Urban Scenes, c. 1989-1998

Valadez returns to the allegory of his earlier narratives, but continues to show influence from European works.

Including Picnic, Pelota, and Pocho Crudo


“This Population,” Burning Spear 

Los Angeles Car Show Scenes, c.1999-2006

In order to break from time spent in studios, Valadez attended Los Angeles Car Shows and was immediately inspired by the dynamics and culture of the shows.

Including Dulces, Gingerbread and Chevy Twins


“Orange Skies,” Love

Downtown Panoramas, c.2004

Valadez, also a renowned muralist, demonstrates his talent for panoramic views of urban settings.

Including Holidays and Leed's Shoes


“Thembi,” Pharoah Sanders

Seascapes and Beaches, c.2004-08

The ocean serves as a constant source of inspiration for Valadez as he finds the waters both cleansing and terrifying.

Including Low Tide, Bait, and Sea Monsters and Freight


"Cigany Himnusz", Rostas Szabina

Past Events

Introductions: John Valadez

Monday, Jun 11, 2012 - 2:00 PM-Tuesday, Jun 12, 2012 - 1:45 PM

Perspectives: Mexican-American Art Today

Thursday, Jun 21, 2012 - 7:00 PM-8:30 PM

Xcerpts: Art After the Chicano Movement

Thursday, Jun 28, 2012 - 4:00 PM-Friday, Jun 29, 2012 - 4:45 PM

Family ArtLAB: On the Wall

Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 - 2:00 PM-Monday, Jul 16, 2012 - 3:45 PM

On Topic: A Conversation with John Valadez

Thursday, Jul 19, 2012 - 7:00 PM-8:30 PM

Summer Workshop: Oil Pastel á la John Valadez

Monday, Jul 23, 2012 - 12:00 AM-Thursday, Jul 26, 2012 - 11:45 PM

Xcerpts: Exploring Recent Interviews with John Valadez

Thursday, Jul 26, 2012 - 4:00 PM-Friday, Jul 27, 2012 - 4:45 PM

John Valadez is widely considered the most significant artist to have developed a realist pictorial language recording the Chicano experience in Los Angeles during the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. His work has come to define the iconography of Chicano identity of the period, situating it within the changing dynamics of the city rather than nostalgically attempting to reconstruct a mythical and distant past. His style is derived from street photography as he records the life of his community and of other inhabitants of downtown Los Angeles. Yet, his interest in the documentary photographic tradition is also closely related to the use of this genre by experimental L.A. artists who, since the 1960s when portable cameras became ubiquitous, have directed their lenses toward artistic ends. Valadez turned the ordinary snapshot into a source for his portrayal of a large, diverse cast of urban inhabitants drawn from his everyday life. Born in Los Angeles in 1951, Valadez began as a muralist, in which he presented themes of invisible borders and histories binding together Spanish, Mexican, and American culture. Valadez’s intense and colorful artworks express the Chicano experience in a contemporary representational style infused with elements of magical realism. His virtuoso pastel drawings present intense contrasts: the formal and narrative interpretations resemble unlikely photographs that offer social commentary on everyday urban life.

Santa Ana Condition: John Valadez is the first survey exhibition of this important Mexican-American artist and muralist, who has had profound influence on the Chicano art movement in the United States. This exhibition spans 35 years of Valadez’s photographs, paintings, pastels, and other works on paper. Santa Ana Condition: John Valadez presents, for the first time, the development of Valadez’s studio works: from his early use of documentary and street photography to the influence of European baroque and rococo painting and sculpture, and finally, to his more recent amalgamation of photography-based imagery with a spatial and temporal structure pointing towards Surrealism. The exhibition explores the specific documentary implications of Valadez’s paintings, pastels, and drawings of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and their later evolution into cityscapes imbued with his desire to depict the nitty-gritty of urban life in L.A. and its ethnic underclass.

Pastels and paintings from the 1990s and 2000s will also be included in the exhibition. These works, which depart from his earlier strict adherence to deadpan representation towards a more baroque compositional structure, are marked by a need to push the boundaries of structure and style. Memory, desire, intuition, and humor blend in these masterfully accomplished works on canvas and paper, which are thrust by their very excess into a territory that materializes a personal iconography beyond the limits of cultural identity. In his later works, Valadez aims to make familiar the unfamiliar—whether dreams and fantasies, or the cultural identity of others.

Santa Ana Condition: John Valadez is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Support for the exhibition is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, the LLWW Foundationand the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund. Additional funding is provided by the Cochrane Exhibition Fund. Related programs are supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation Arts Innovation Fund. Institutional support for MCASD is provided, in part, by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.