Erratic Offerings In Hispanic Exhibits

Kenneth Baker
San Francisco Chronicle

A rash of recent exhibitions has brought to light the work of “Hispanic” American artists. (More later about the problems with this term.)
A major touring survey titled “Hispanic Art in the United States: 30 Contemporary Painters and Sculpture” is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through April 16 (after which it travels to the Brooklyn Museum).
A show of “Caribbean Festival Arts” was organized recently by the St. Louis Art Museum. The catalog, co-published with the University of Washington Press, is a useful publications on the subjects.
In the Bay Area there are two shows of work by artists of Latin American and Mexican-American descent.
At the Oakland Museum, “Mano a Mano,”organized by the Art Museum of Santa Cruz County and curator Rolando Castellon of the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery at the University of California at Santa Cruz, surveys the art of 16 people working in the Bay Area.

The Triton Museum’s “Expressiones Hispanas 88/89,” which has already been to Texas, Colorado and Los Angeles, collects single works by each of 50 artists from all over the United States. It will go on to Taos, N.M., and Miami.

It is all to good that these shows have been discriminated against by art world institutions, inclusion in shows like this has got to be a boost.

But we ought to be wary of believing that justice has been done, except by chance. When a trend develops- even if it’s a trend we’re glad to see- the reasons for it are more likely to lie in the nature of
the institutions involved than in their public declarations of purpose.

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment and outline a cynical view of the situation.

Art world professionals who specialize in contemporary art are under constant pressure to keep the right tempo of novelty going in exhibition programs. Meanwhile, as museums lose their independence from the
vested interest of corporate sponsors and government funding bureaucracies, they are under pressure to respect the business values of art at the expense of its aesthetic and intellectual significance.

The effect of all this promotional smog in which things stand out as meaningful only as long as they are in the limelight, and it falls to publicists (and critics willing to behave like publicists) to forge connections
between art and the lives of those who see it. Needless to say, those connections grow ever more arbitrary in consequence.

As critic Roger Fry caricatures the state of affairs: “Not since the mannerists late-16th century, and
certainly not since the decadence of fin-de-siecle aestheticism, have art and life been so perfectly independent of each other.”

Let’s suppose Fry is right and museum professionals know it and have no choice but to work within the circumstances. Where might they turn to find art that looks and feels as if its connection is genuine?
To outsiders, minority artists, who have not “suffered” -or benefitted by- the artistically deadening effects of professionalism.

Small wonder, if this is how things work, that exhibitions of minority art work, always seem to be on (or over) the verge of fleshing out some stereotype. The stereotypical view of “Hispanic” art associates it with jazzy color, folk-art directness, fantasy and possibly violence.

“Mano a Mano” helps to break down this stereotype (even though it includes works that appear to conform to it). “Expresiones Hispanicas” does not.

“Expresiones Hispanicas” is a of largely undistinguished work in which your eye is constantly snagged by the logos of the show’s corporate sponsors, a brewer of dishwater beer and a respected South Bay
There are few bright spots here- the works by Louis LeRoy, Elena Presser and Daniel Lechon, for instance-
but the show’s cumulative effect is dispiriting.

Terminology reflects the curatorial issues at another level. “Hispanic” is not a good term for linking the
heritage of people from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. It echoes little more than
the history of European colonialism. Even the term “minority” is rapidly losing the statistical meaning it once had. The only answer to these terminological quandaries may be not to get fixated on catch words but to let them be loose and use loosely.

Whatever, their agendas, exhibitions of so-called minority art do serve to refresh basic questions of criticism. They make us ask on what basis we judge works of art, and whether the criteria we contrive are tinged with unexamined prejudices.

“Mano a Mano” is one of the most successful exhibitions of its kind that I’ve seen, though the caliber of the work is very erratic. Its merit lies simply in showing that art by people of Latin American and
Mexican-American background cab be as good, bad and mediocre, as self-involved and open-hearted, as art by anybody else.

Part of what makes the good art good (here as elsewhere) is that it sets and clarifies terms in which it can be evaluated. The weak work just won’t hold you.

For example, there is no standard I know by which to show that Eduardo Carrillo’s “Las Tropicanos” (1975) is a knockout painting.

You have to enter into, to let your attention drift into its nightmare space, past the towering nudes, the giant iguana and the skeleton acrobatics who’ve stacked themselves into a pyramid, and up into the night
sky where a spiky UFO floats like a hanging lamp.

When you regain your composure, you know you’ve seen a great illusionist at work. You can check the details and see that Carrillo has his skills completely under control. (And you don’t need an expert to tell
you what a sad falling off is Carrillo’s most recent picture.)

The range of styles in “Mano a Mano” is exhilarating. There is everything from color field abstraction by Robert Gonzales to the anti-imperialist mural by Daniel Galvez, from Carmen Lomas Garza’s memories of
Texas childhood to Rupert Garcia’s nightmares of combat.

Some of the most convincing pieces are amongst the quietest. I’m thinking of the poetic abstractions of Mayan motifs by Manuel Villamor and several “Scenes from Father’s Bone Scan” by Ann Garcia


Man of Many Moods, Modes

Victoria Dalkey
Sacramento Bee Art Correspondent

Eduardo Carrillo’s retrospective exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum’s Tempo Gallery had the same effect on me as an all you can eat smorgasbord has on a shaky member of Weigh Watchers. I’ve been back three times since it opened and I’m hungry for more. It isn’t that the works aren’t satisfying and nutritious. It’s just that they’re so rich, and varied, and tempting.
No one could ever accuse Carrillo of falling prey to the hobgoblin of consistency. Each of the 18 oils on view, done between 1970-1986, stakes out fresh territory. He brings his considerable skill, complex intellect and spiritual searching to each work, moving from small and intimate, realistic still lifes and landscapes to monumental mythic figurative paintings that draw inspiration from the simplified forms and heroic proportions of Mexican murals.
Above all, Carrillo is a painter of light and its transforming effect on the world of appearances. Yet this work is nothing like that of the Impressionists who strove to render an optical reality by recording the way light strikes the surfaces of things– the skin of the world as it were. With Carrillo, you get the whole body– deep, solid, and resonant. And within that body, always, is a spiritual presence– a sense of the invisible that dwells in the visible. The exhibit opens with seven works done between 1970 and 1972 when Carrillo was teaching at California State University, Sacramento. It’s interesting to see how they move back and forth between straight realism and a more symbolic approach. “Interior” records the dusky, cool light falling through slated blinds on a room furnished with remnants from thrift stores and restaurants– a Naugahyde corner booth, a wicker rocker, a sad flowered carpet brought to life by intense bands of light. It’s a small painting, but so convincing you enter it and walk around in the dim light. In “Testament of the Holy Spirit”, Carrillo translates that veracity to a larger scale ellectual, and social critic–rises in ecstasy, her body a series of arcs lifted in praise, is simply magnificent. As intensely religious and erotic as Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa,” it’s a radical, new work that connects strongly with the Spanish tradition of religious mysticism. For me it’s the most important painting in the show. It offers hope that contemporary art can connect with the past without mocking it, that a grand vision is still possible and that our humanity can be restored to us through art. Don’t miss it. “Sor Juana” and the rest of Carrillo’s works are a remarkable culmination for the Tempo Gallery, which will be discontinued as a space for showing the works of contemporary regional artists after this show.

Spiritual Narratives

by Philip Brookman
Artweek September 24, 1982

The Aztec concept of the fifth sun represents a philosophy of time in which history is described in cycles, with their world as under four suns and the present era as under the fifth. This symbolism is embodied in much of Carrillo’s work. His paintings seem to hinge on the synthesis of spiritual thought and the soul in transition. Here, in the tradition of Flemish and Spanish art, as well as that of surrealism, the painter’s role is one of both interpretation and manifestation. In several paintings exhibited, including Arrival at Puerto Balandra(1975), La Luz y la Musica(1975), and Woman Holding a Serpent(1977), mystical arrangements of history and myth are woven together in a flattened, tapestry-like space where modeling, color and light are key elements in a precarious balance between the physicality of paint and the intangibility of spiritual concepts.

Carrillo is basically an intuitive painter, having studied with Stanton Macdonald-Wright and William Brice at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the early 1960’s. His work became politicized as he began to paint murals with Roberto Chavez, Louis Lunetta, Charles Garabedian, Ramses Noriega. Since then, Carrillo has been instrumental in organizing Chicano artists in California and in developing projects for the study and documentation of Chicano art and culture through the University of California. His most recent work in the present exhibition reveals that interest and the determination to continue the development of imagery rooted in the history and art of Chicano culture. Two large paintings- one on canvas and the other on ceramic tile- depict a horseman, the chinaco, in the Mexican desert, surrounded by an endless, dry landscape which seems to inspire Carrillo.

The exhibition culminates in a large new painting. The Flight of Sor Juana(1982) which depicts the ecstasy of the seventeenth century Mexican nun and poetess, Sister Juana Inez de la Cruz. This work shows Sister Juana elevated from her seat as the image of St. Thomas manifests itself from a scroll adjacent to the crucifix hung above her table. Sister Juana, who wrote of the conflict between the visible or material and the spiritual worlds, is shown in ecstasy. Carrillo has aligned the figure of the crucified Christ, the spectral Image and Sister Juana’s upturned face to balance the arc her body makes as it rises from her chair. The diagonal cross implied in this composition is carefully echoed by the angle of the tiny cross on her habit and the tilt of the cross on the wall above her. This combination of a symbolic subject and painted vision, which sets the mind in circuitous motion, is an inherent quality of Carrillo’s work; it warrants a long, careful look for those who prefer art with a narrative base.

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Ed Carrillo-Ceeje Alumnus

Aron Goldberg
from Artweek  Volume 6, #15
April 12, 1975

Ten or twelve years ago, in the first excitement of the L.A. art boom, the Ceeje Gallery flourished as equals among equals, and Ed Carrillo was one of the best artists. The Ceeje mainly showed people who were UCLA graduate students and faculty. The art was romantic and visionary- with a vengeance. It was probably the only local gallery where narration became a consistent artistic principle like push-pull, the hard edge, and the big empty space.

Ceeje art was youthful, maybe too learned, and it didn’t have the strength to survive the hardening of the local art scene when the moneymaking patterns became set. The gallery closed, soon dropped from public attention altogether and its artists became historical non-persons.

Despite this, the artists continued to live and work, developing according to their natures. Roberto Chavez became the spiritual father of the Chicano art movement in L.A. Charles Garabedian eventually found his way into the Whitney Annual and Max Hendler into the Metropolitan. Ed Carrillo has wandered the length of California, teaching where he could to support his family, and painting all the while.

Carrillo’s wanderings may have made him less familiar to younger readers than Garabedian, Chavez and Hendler. Thus his show at Cal State L.A. art gallery representing fifteen years, will be a surprise gift to those who long to see work that is both exultant and ecstatic. In this Carrillo represents what was best and most hopeful in the Ceeje Gallery’s art. Immensely gifted, his command of color, tone, composition and drawing suggests some fabled old master. More importantly, Carrillo is a pure spirit, uncorrupted by that ultimate refusal to take himself seriously that can ruin the most talented. His commitment to his search was, and still is, absolute. Therefore, he has claimed the right to seek out ecstasy and reconstruct the world in that light. This is no small thing. Its basis is the sense that beneath the categories and limitations of what we accept as life is another unbounded, exquisite reality, arrogantly called the fantastic or visionary.
When the clever art student was looking at the first Pop and Op art, Carrillo was drawn to di Chirico and his infusion into dead objects the emotional responses of pain and dread. Carrillo’s personal adaptation was to bring an exquisite, colored atmosphere into the painted space. Going to Spain shortly after, he saw Bosch and the other masters of the fantastic in the Prado. He must have recognized his soul-brothers in these essentially medieval artists. When he returned to L.A., he brought back the imagery of Bosch and Patenier and a great desire to work in the materials of late-gothic art. Again, his feeling for color and light made real the symbols that are still academic mysteries to scholars. The psychedelic exploiters of the 1960’s reached back to the same sources for their images, but Carrillo found a personal, austere vision where others could only see a topical rip-off. Yet a curious exchange exists between Carrillo and the generation of the 1960’s. Popular exposure to the concept that mind-expansion is a proper end in itself has prepared a wider acceptance for work like Carrillo’s, and Carrillo himself seems to have found a kind of permission to push his psychic explorations to whatever ends they may lead.

Carrillo’s religious background and his involvement with his Raza have sent him into Mexico time after time.
For several years, he was the head of a “school of regional art” in La Paz, Baja Calif., the town of his parents. While he was there, he began to lose faith in the ready-made visions of medieval mysticism. He began to paint, in a humble and studious way, the things around him, submitting to the majesty and complexity of the “objective world.” This discipline finally evolved into a vision of the ecstatic potential vibrating in the most prosaic phenomena. His means of extracting this was again light and color. As a result his kitchen or back yard, for example, became struck with the light of revelation – the same in which artists of the past would have painted a Transfiguration. Working this way he began to strike a balance between an intense inner journey towards mystical truth and the necessity of living in the world as a husband, father and teacher.

In the last few years, since he has been teaching at Santa Cruz, Carrillo has more and more followed the racial search of the Mexican Indian for his guiding Vision. This is not the place to discuss the function of visionary experience as a seemingly absolute, truthful reference point against which daily living can be judged.
It is enough to say that, for those who are not frivolous experimenters, these Visions can serve essentially the same purpose as Socrates’ demon or the angelic beings of Buddhism and the Western religions; their continuing presense in a person’s life guarantees that the sense of one’s divine origins and connections will never be lost. The pursuit of this Vision has drawn Carrillo again and again into the wilds of Mexico and established deepening contacts with their Indian peoples. It has also returned him to the painting of fantastic images.

Perhaps because of his work in the unfolding of Chicano consciousness, with the artist precedent of the Mexican muralists, he began to paint large-scale works, both on walls and free standing. Catholic and Indian folklore can both be seen in this newest work in which he has attempted to show certain mysteries directly rather than by implication. Carrillo’s style has become broader and riskier. The magnitude of his task makes his customary precise control do battle with experiment. Since the form-struggle is continuous, the only correct way of seeing his work is as a document of the spiritual search and evolvement of an individual rather than as a series of trophies or failures.

Our usual comparisons of the merits ot demerits of a given work done by an artist seem irrelevant and pernicious at this place in history. Perhaps in the past, when there was a stable world-view shared by society, which implied some objective parameters of artist subject and technique, there might have been some point to this game. Nowadays, when every artist must become like a speculative philosopher, each alone developing some system for understanding experience, such time-bound criteria have to give way to a double question: is the person faithful to the laws of his own growth, and can we accept the objectives of his search? In Carrillo’s case, the integrity of his work is beyond dispute and he has made himself a true brother to everyone who seeks spiritual unfoldment.

—Aron Goldberg, himself a Ceeje alumnus and friend of Ed Carrillo, is the author of the catalog essay for Carrillo’s exhibit.

Eduardo Carrillo – Dentro Del Contexto Cultural

Declaración Del Curado

by Deborah Kirklin
Santa Rosa Junior College
September 9 – October 23, 2010

Eduardo Carrillo es, ante todo, un narrador de historias. Sus pinturas nos hablan de la tierra de su abuela, en Baja California, una parte de la herencia mexicana de Carrillo. Su obra nos habla de historia, mitología y espiritualidad, y de su profunda relación que siente por la historia de la pintura europea y mexicana. Las pinturas de Carrillo son narraciones de la cooperación y resistencia humana, de trabajadores y amantes, de familia y amigos. Un artista chicano, Eduardo Carrillo, que tenía una perspectiva bicultural. Amaba la pintura europea, sin embargo, creó un mural de cerámica de cuarenta y cuatro pies de largo en Los Ángeles llamado “El Grito”, que conmemora la revuelta de México contra España en 1810.

Eduardo Carrillo nació en 1937 en Santa Mónica, California, y murió en 1997 en San Ignacio, Baja California. Creció en Los Ángeles y asistió a la universidad de la comunidad (Los Angeles City College) antes de asistir a la Universidad de California en Los Ángeles. Allí estudió arte con William Brice y obtuvo la licenciatura en Artes y la maestría en Artes en 1962 y 1964, respectivamente. Después de estudiar en la UCLA, Eduardo viajó a España para estudiar y pintar de los maestros en el Museo del Prado. Carrillo hizo una copia de la pintura de Hieronymus Bosch, utilizando la técnica tradicional de esmaltes óleo sobre tabla de madera. El excéntrico pintor renacentista del Norte tuvo una influencia en la elección de Carrillo de materiales y en su imaginación. Poco después, las pinturas de Carrillo se exhibían “Ceeje Gallery” en Los Ángeles. A través de la galería, Eduardo se encontró con otros artistas que se convertirían en algunos de los artistas más conocidos en Los Ángeles, así como amigos de toda la vida. Sus pinturas de la década de 1960 muestran la influencia de los maestros españoles: Velázquez, Sánchez Cotán y Zurbarán. Perfeccionó una especie de realismo mágico en estas pinturas de naturalezas muertas, paisajes y cuartos vacíos.

En 1966, Carrillo fundó El Centro de Arte Regional en La Paz, Baja California. Se mudó con su familia a vivir a Baja California, y comenzó una escuela para enseñar pintura, tejidos y cerámica, para el restablecimiento de la artesanía tradicional de la zona. Profundizó sus vínculos con la tierra donde nació su abuela, e hizo amistad con las personas que fueron a servir como modelos para sus cuadros durante décadas. El estilo de Carrillo evolucionó y empezó a pintar la figura humana más y más. En 1972, se unió a la facultad de arte de la Universidad de California en Santa Cruz, donde fue profesor hasta su muerte en 1997.

Self PortraitLeer las historias en las pinturas de Carrillo requiere del espectador a ir y venir entre los símbolos de la cultura indígena mexicana, las referencias de la cultura europea, y la historia personal de Carrillo. Por ejemplo, “Reaching for Coatlique” representa a un hombre contemporáneo alcanzado por una mujer con una falda de serpientes retorciéndose, con los hombros cubiertos por una serpiente. En la mitología azteca, Coatlicue, cuyo nombre significa “falda de serpientes”, fue la madre del sol, la luna y las estrellas, la madre tierra, la que fue la fuente de toda vida en la tierra, y el que lleva a los muertos en su cuerpo. Otra obra importante, “Cabin In The Sky”, hace una fuerte declaración política sobre la historia del pueblo mexicano. Representa un paisaje maravillosamente imaginario rendido, y “la cabina en el cielo” es un templo griego que flota sobre una plataforma de tierra arrasada en un desierto. El primer plano de la pintura parece ser un espacio ceremonial, semejante a un altar. El historiador de arte Sybil Venegas, profesor de historia del arte en el “East Los Angeles College”, comenta […] “la teoría del arte chicano se ha basado en el discurso de la memoria cultural, la resurrección de la historia, la identidad y la lucha. Las afirmaciones de un pasado cultural se presentan a menudo en las formas de arte sacra de los altares, milagros, nichos, cajas, iconos antiguos de Mesoamérica, las instalaciones de la narrativa y lo que realmente implica la visualización de una búsqueda espiritual de la identidad de una población colonizada”.1 Uno se pregunta si “Cabin In The Sky” es una imagen de Aztlán destruida por los conquistadores.

El Movimiento de Arte Chicano tenía sus raíces en el activismo social de la década de 1960. El movimiento de derechos civiles, así como el movimiento de las mujeres retó a la sociedad estadounidense a reconocer la legitimidad de la gente que había vivido normalmente en los márgenes políticos y económicos de la sociedad. Fue un movimiento literario, teatral, artístico y político dedicado a explorar temas culturales indígenas y protesta política. La actividad de Eduardo Carrillo en La Paz, y su mural denominado El Grito, terminado en 1979 para la ciudad de Los Ángeles, es un mural de baldosas de cerámica de 44 pies, en la Placita Dolores en Los Ángeles, que representa al Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, sacerdote mexicano, comandando un ejército en la lucha por la independencia contra España en 1810. El grito de Hidalgo, fue un llamado para la abolición de la esclavitud del pueblo mexicano.2

Lo que hace que el punto de vista de Carrillo sea diferente de la postura de muchos otros pintores chicanos, artistas que aparecen en ” “Chicano Visions: American Painters On The Verge”,3 es que las pinturas de Carrillo tienden a referirse a la historia, la religión y la mitología en lugar de la vida de la calle. La cultura popular no hizo una aparición importante en su arte. No pintó las imágenes del barrio, de los hombres con trajes estilo “Zoot”, las redadas de la policía o cultura del automóvil. Sus pinturas tampoco contienen referencias explícitas a los líderes políticos como Dolores Huerta o César Chávez. Las pinturas de Eduardo son también sobre la historia de la pintura. Tomó los temas universales: religión, muerte, amor e identidad y los hizo personales.

Sacred TwinsMientras que Carrillo continuaba estudiando la materia chicana en su obra, también hizo pinturas de paisajes íntimos y personales, naturaleza muerta y retratos. Sus acuarelas, pintadas constantemente y la observación directa de la vida cotidiana, representan una visión diaria de la luz, la vida y los tiempos de Eduardo. Ellos existen por sí mismos y nos dan una idea de cómo se conduce el artista para conectarse a la poesía de lo cotidiano. Algunos de los retratos más conmovedores figuran en este grupo de pinturas de acuarela. Las acuarelas de Carrillo y sus pinturas de paisajes muestran la influencia de Bonnard y Vuillard. Los azules y los rojos saturados en los paisajes marinos son reminiscencias de los “fauves” franceses.

La segunda esposa de Carrillo, Alison, le proporciona a Eduardo el amor y el apoyo que hizo que su trabajo, durante finales de los 80´s y 90´s, fuera tan vibrante. Ella describe su vida en común y la rutina de pintura de Carrillo en la entrevista de una exposición de catálogo. Aunque Eduardo murió demasiado pronto, a los sesenta años de edad, su tiempo era rico. Sus pinturas y murales perduran, y su influencia se sigue sintiendo en su familia, amigos, estudiantes, colegas, y la comunidad en general. Este octubre, el recientemente ampliado Museo de Arte Crocker en Sacramento está dedicando una galería a la obra de Eduardo Carrillo.

Me gustaría dar las gracias a Alison Carrillo por su generosidad en prestar el arte que hizo posible esta exposición; Juliette Carrillo por el préstamo de “Reaching For Coatlicue”; Helaine Glick del Museo de Arte de Monterrey por el préstamo de “La pareja en el jardín”; José Chowning por el préstamo de “Jacobo y tío Beto”. A Betsy Andersen, del Museo Eduardo Carrillo, cuya ayuda fue fundamental para la exposición. Por las horas incansables de instalación y la iluminación de la exposición, muchas gracias a Michael McGinnis, especialistas en exhibiciones. Gracias a Stephanie Sánchez, amiga y colega de Eduardo y director de la Galería de Arte, que contactó a Alison Carrillo con nuestra idea de exhibición y ayudó en todas las fases de la exposición. Nuestro agradecimiento a la Fundación de Enriquecimiento Cultural Randolph Newman de SRJC, por la ayuda que hizo posible la impresión de materiales para la exhibición. A nuestro Decano, Tyra Benoit, un gran agradecimiento por el aliento y el apoyo que dio a esta empresa.

Notas Finales

1. Los Cielos 2000: The Work of Linda Vallejo, critical essay by Sybil Venegas, Sept. 2000 ↑
2. Peter Selz, Art of Engagement – Visual Politics in California and Beyond, University of California Press, San Jose Museum of Art, 2006 ↑
3. Cheech Marin, Chicano Visions American Painters On the Verge, Bullfinch Press, 2002 ↑

Eduardo Carrillo—Within A Cultural Context

Curator’s Statement

by Deborah Kirklin

Santa Rosa Junior College
September 9 – October 23, 2010

Eduardo Carrillo is first and foremost a storyteller. His paintings tell us about the land of his grandmother, in Baja California, a piece of Carrillo’s Mexican American heritage. They tell us of history, mythology and spirituality, and of his keenly felt relationship to the history of European and Mexican painting. Carrillo’s paintings are narratives of human cooperation and resistance, of workers and lovers, of family and friends. A Chicano artist, Eduardo Carrillo had a bicultural perspective. He loved European painting, yet he created a forty-four foot long ceramic mural in Los Angeles called “El Grito” that commemorated the Mexican revolt against Spain in 1810.

Eduardo Carrillo was born in 1937 in Santa Monica, California, and he died in 1997 in San Ignacio, Baja, California. He grew up in Los Angeles and attended community college (Los Angeles City College) before attending the University of California at Los Angeles. There he studied art with William Brice and earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in 1962 and 1964 respectively. Following his years at U.C.L.A., Eduardo traveled to Spain to study and paint from the masters in the Prado Museum. Carrillo copied a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, using the traditional technique of oil glazes on wood panel. The eccentric Northern Renaissance painter had an influence on Carrillo’s choice of materials and on his imagination. Soon afterward, Carrillo’s paintings were being shown Ceeje Gallery in Los Angeles. Through the gallery, Eduardo encountered other artists who would become some of the most well known artists in L.A as well as life-long friends. His paintings from the early 1960s show the influence of the Spanish masters: Velazquez, Sanchez de Cotan, and Zurburan. He honed a kind of magic realism in these paintings of still lives, landscapes and empty rooms.

In 1966, Carrillo founded El Centro de Arte Regional in La Paz, Baja California. He moved his family to Baja to live, and started a school to teach painting, weaving, and ceramics, thus restoring the traditional crafts of the area. He deepened his ties to the land where his grandmother was born, and made friends with the people who were to serve as models for his paintings for decades. Carrillo’s style evolved and he began to paint the human figure more and more. In 1972, he joined the art faculty at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he was a professor until he died in 1997.

Self PortraitReading the stories in Carrillo’s paintings requires the viewer to move back and forth between symbols of Mexican indigenous culture, references to European culture, and Carrillo’s personal history. For example, “Reaching for Coatlique” represents a contemporary man reaching for a woman laying across a skirt of writhing snakes, her shoulders covered by a serpent. In Aztec mythology, Coatlicue, whose name means “Serpent Skirt”, was the mother of the sun, moon and stars, the earth mother, the one who was the source of all life on earth, and the one who took back the dead into her body. Another important work,” Cabin In The Sky”, makes a strong political statement about the history of the Mexican people. It depicts a beautifully rendered imaginary landscape, and the “cabin in the sky” is a Greek temple floating over a razed platform of earth in a desert. The foreground of the painting appears to be a ceremonial space, similar to an altar. Art historian Sybil Venegas, professor of art history at East Los Angeles College states, […]“Chicano art theory has been grounded in the discourse of cultural memory, the resurrection of history, identity and struggle. Affirmations of a cultural past are often presented in the sacred art forms of altars, milagros, nichos, cajas, ancient Mesoamerican icons, narrative installations and what really amounts to the visualization of a spiritual quest for identity from a colonized population.”1 One wonders whether “Cabin In The Sky” is an image of Aztlan destroyed by the conquistators.

The Chicano Art Movement had its roots in the social activism of the 1960s. The civil rights movement as well as the women’s movement challenged American society to recognize the legitimacy of people who had typically lived at the political and economic margins of society. It was a literary, theatrical, artistic, and political movement dedicated to exploring indigenous cultural themes and political protest. Eduardo Carrillo’s activities in La Paz, and his mural commission El Grito, completed in 1979 for the city of Los Angeles, is a 44’ long ceramic tile mural at the Placita de Dolores depicting Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo, a Mexican Priest, leading an army in the fight for independence against Spain in 1810. Hidalgo’s cry, or grito, was a call for the end of slavery of the Mexican People.2

What makes Carrillo’s point of view different from the stance of many other Chicano painters, artists featured in “Chicano Visions: American Painters On The Verge”,3 was that Carrillo’s paintings tend to refer to history, religion and mythology rather than the life of the street. Popular culture did not make a major appearance in his art. He did not paint images of the barrio, of men in zoot suits, police raids or car culture. Nor did the paintings contain explicit references to political leaders such as Dolores Huerta or Cesar Chavez. Eduardo’s paintings were also about the history of painting. He took up the universal themes: religion, death, love, and identity, and he made them personal.

Sacred TwinsWhile Carrillo continued to explore Chicano subject matter in his work, he also made intimate, personal paintings of landscape, still life and portraiture. His watercolors, painted constantly and from direct observation of daily life, represent a visual diary of the light, life and times of Eduardo. They exist for themselves and give us an insight into the artist’s drive to connect to the poetry of the everyday. Some of his most moving portraits are contained in this group of watercolor paintings. Carrillo’s watercolors and landscape paintings show the influence of Bonnard and Vuillard. The saturated blues and reds in the seascapes are reminiscent of the French fauves.

Carrillo’s second wife, Alison, provided Eduardo with the love and support that made his work during the late 1980s and 1990s so vibrant. She describes their life together and Carrillo’s painting routine in an interview in the exhibit catalogue. Although Eduardo died too soon, at age sixty, his time was rich. His paintings and murals endure, and his influence on his family, friends, students, and colleagues, and the wider community is still felt. This October the newly expanded Crocker Museum of Art in Sacramento is dedicating a gallery to the paintings of Eduardo Carrillo.

I would like to thank Alison Carrillo for her generosity in lending the art that made this exhibition possible, Juliette Carrillo for her loan of “Reaching For Coatlicue”, Helaine Glick at the Monterey Museum of Art for the loan of “Couple In The Garden”, and Joseph Chowning for the loan of “Jacopo and Tio Beto”. To Betsy Andersen of the Museo Eduardo Carrillo, whose assistance was crucial to the exhibition. For tireless hours installing and lighting the exhibition, many thanks go to Michael McGinnis, Exhibit Specialist. Thank you to Stephanie Sanchez, Eduardo’s friend and colleague and Art Gallery Director, who contacted Alison Carrillo with our idea for the exhibition and assisted in all phases of the exhibition. Our thanks go to the SRJC Foundation for the Randolph Newman Cultural Enrichment Fund for the grant that made possible the printing of materials for the exhibit. To our Dean, Tyra Benoit, a huge thank you for the encouragement and support you gave to this endeavor.


1. Los Cielos 2000: The Work of Linda Vallejo, critical essay by Sybil Venegas, Sept. 2000 ↑
2. Peter Selz, Art of Engagement – Visual Politics in California and Beyond, University of California Press, San Jose Museum of Art, 2006 ↑
3. Cheech Marin, Chicano Visions American Painters On the Verge, Bullfinch Press, 2002 ↑

X is for MaX Hendler

John FitzGibbon
from California A-Z and Return
The Butler Institute of American Art
Youngstown, Ohio. 1990

For my money, no make that half my money, this is an especially fine painting in the exhibition. Reproduction doesn’t do much for it. Hendler has painted this one the way he did the whole show of these legends which I saw in Los Angeles the other year. That is. he painted it right down to the weave. You should stick your nose into this painting and into all paintings by Hendler. The nose has no olfactory function here. Reason you put your nose in the paintings is to see them. Infallible detector of quality, the nose.

When Hendler works on a rough grade canvas you can actually see the paint climb up the nubs and slide down the other side. Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain, hill made low. The possession of them! You start to feel wild. Your nose twitches, you’re in this guy’s grip. He’s crazy! and he’s taking you with him.

There is an old Testamentary zeal to Hendler’s work of whatever sort. Here he’s lavished what must have been the ultimate pains on a completely absurdity, achieving ultimately, absolute quality. For a painting like this will melt down anything else in its neighborhood. It’s mad.

The obsession here ties Hendler to artists in the exhibition like Richard Jackson and Phil Makenna who deliberately place themselves outside the conventions of the art world. They have all in their own ways understood that being an artist requires an almost insane commitment to staying completely yourself. This involves them with obsessive behavior but it’s the only way, not so much to establish
their identity (which they are firm about already) as to protect it. So they do this by going to great lengths, by going where no one can follow, or at least where no one in his or her right mind will bother to follow. Now they are free. Let the sheep huddle in art world safety.

Our painting is not a completely free object: it must be hung on the horizontal, and not upside down, either. It has a shape that can’t be ignored. It has a couple of colors. The 3 parts, Word, Sign and Number, are in regular face. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They mean something, in fact a number of things. When I broached the matter of the show to Max he wanted to be (X) the known quantity. The fundamental problems and ambiguities that enter whenever naming begins and prediction is implied are, well, ambiguities and fundamental problems. Max wants in on this. The painting as question.

50% OFF begins to look intricate and rich. Mainly, though it is an asseveration of freedom- the artist’s. We are permitted (but not encouraged) to go and do likewise.

The legend of Max Hendler was known to me long before I eventually met him. That’s the nature of legend. It walks before. Max was said to have worked 7 years on a single small still-life before his wife finally came in and kicked over the setup. Probably 7 here is a biblical number, as in, 7 years of plenty. He is in any case a great eye-ball realist. I remember his little watercolor still-lifes of beach detritus. Perfect. Built up additively, with an infinite care. Perfect.

People were always telling me, Max Hendler is crazy. This was interesting. One year, when I visited a painter in
los Angeles without a name. He lived in an apartment building near an elevated freeway. “Max Hendler, he’s crazy, you know.” Rock and roll was coming in loud, through a wall in the next cubicle, drowning out the freeway.

Yes? I didn’t realize! Where is he, Napa? I will visit him.
“No,no he lives in a tipi on the beach.” Dead cigarettes were overflowing the ashtrays, there was a beer smell. Here in L.A.? Whereabouts? I should meet him. “No, no. Up along the Mendocino coast, someplace up there. But you don’t want to see him, he’s totally crazy.” I stared out the window. It was 11 in the morning. I couldn’t see the freeway.

Even Max Hendler’s friend say he’s crazy. I talked about Max with Ed Carrillo down at Santa Cruz where he is Chairman of the University’s art dept. We were in his studio there. “Max?” Ed was painting the beautiful Denise, longtime companion of some lucky man. “Uhhh M-a-x,” Ed was away on on the area of the knees. “Max, he’s ..uhh…crazy!”

I knew that Carrillo meant this as the highest compliment he could give. As I’ve said before, it takes one to know one.

Lance Richbourg told me the same. That’s Ed’s once upon a time brother-in-law. They married sisters long ago, who gave them children. ”Ah knaw y’all lak Max, Lance said. ”Max’s ral crazy.”

Here again, though, you have to figure in that Richbourg was wild from his salad days and kinda crazy too, now I think of it.

I talked to Lance just the other day and he told me he’d shared time with Max Hendler the past weekend, in Massachusetts and N.Y. Lance has two sons in college and so he drove over from Vermont (where he teaches) to Dartmouth to visit the one and was headed to New Haven to visit the other and look in on his niece, Juliet Carrillo, who’s at the Yale Drama School. On the way he stopped at Amherst to see Hendler, who was attending his daughter’s graduation. Then they all headed down to N.Y. for Tony Berlant’s show. Another crazy guy. They stick together.

Is Max Hendler crazy or not? Well, he plays poker every Friday night with Garabedian. That’s not really insane, but it’s unwise and can prove costly. I wouldn’t do it. Be crazy to the max, we say here.

So exactly how crazy is this Hendler? You want to know. OK. He’s crazy as a Max.

That’s an evasion? Alright, since you press me, I called him Wednesday morning early and took a reading over the phone. Max is 50%Off. Exactly.

— John FitzGibbon

? is for Lance Richbourg

by John FitzGibbon
from California A-Z and Return
The Butler Institute of American Art
Youngstown, Ohio. 1990

There is no question about Lance. He’s unquestionably Lance. The question was how to get your attention on the question, and the question is: How come no one seems to know about the other Los Angeles?

How come people seem to know about Bob Irwin?
And not Chas Garabedian?
How come people seem to know about Ed Moses?
And not Ed Carrillo?
Craig Kauffman?
And not Lance Richbourg?
How come people seem to know about Ed Ruscha?
And not Max Hendler?
How come people seem to know about Billy Al Bengston?
And not Anthony Berlant?

Over the past 30 years I’ve gotten around the country just enough to be pretty sure that nothing’s changed. Everyone still looks to New York. The average sharp docent in Des Moines or Atlanta has very little awareness of California art or Texas Art or Chicago. A friend of ours, wife of a classmate, long time docent at the Carnegie gave me an informed disquisition on how she contrasted Anselm Kiefer with Robert Ryman for visitors to the Museum. She had never heard of Ruscha, or in fact any of the LOS ANGELES and it was pointless even to mention Garabedian or Richbourg or Berlant members of the OTHER LOS ANGELES even though these artists have galleries in New York that can barely keep their paintings in stock. I’m not talking about a popularity contest. It’s a question of awareness. At home, in Northern California, the “How Come” painters are known almost to the exclusion of the “And Nots”. In Los Angeles itself, among the art crowd, it’s practically the same-though Chas and Tony do have big followings, finally. In 1988 at the trendy cafe across from the L.A. Louver gallery the first 1,000 diners to order the swordfish meuniere as their entree were carefully polled. The results: 873.36 of them had heard of Billy Al Bengston. And 2.0 had heard of Ed Carrillo, even though Ed had been showing steadily across the street. One point five of the 2.0 people was me, by the way, the other .5 was some art trader that Eduardo had turned in for cutting cutting petroglyphs off rock faces down in Baja California in the desert behind San Ignacio where Carrillo has a place.

Of course one reason more attention has come to the LOS ANGELES artists other than the OTHER LOS ANGELES is that much of their art has simply taken whatever New York was serving up and returned serve with a little glamour on the ball. This especially applies to the sculpture contingent, artists like Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, John McCracken and Dewain Valentine who polished up the dull inert platonic solids of the minimalists and gave them back all gleaming bright and sometimes transparent. Their activity became identified with LOS ANGELES at a time when Lance Richbourg’s paintings were still working their way through the cowboy and pyerate movies which had dominated his imaginative growing up. Your typical Richbourg cowboy travesty proved a little harder to subsume under the notion of modernist progression. You could have read a Richbourg Mad Dog Pye-rate painting as a sure sign that Modernism was on the other slide. Thousands didn’t bother to. Richbourg didn’t suffer from over exposure.

The OTHER LOS ANGELES people, university educated, mostly at UCLA, had a lot of art history to work through. Whereas the LOS ANGELES contingent were many of them trained as commercial artists and went mostly to art school. Having less than zero art history to encumber them, they just sliced it thin from the top. Meanwhile Carrillo and Garabedian grappled with the Quattrocento, which interested them, and Lance Richbourg landed, eventually, on Eakin’s square. Richbourg adapts Eakins’ numinous chiaroscuro to his own less crepuscular ends. Eakins’ means to suggest by it the moral dereliction of the Brown Decades, the oppressive climate of ignorance and censorship in which he struggled to breathe. Richbourg uses a warmer, brighter, rather more “upbeat” surround: our example is more chiaro than oscuro. Richbourg’s surround is at the service of his nostalgia: it’s content is memory. Rumination. Part of the nostalgia is for Eakins’ and his art-which in turn is grounded in Rembrandt, an artist undeservedly obscured in the latter part of his career. So lance throws a grappling hook back to Eakins’ who looks back to the Dutch painter. It’s a gestalt.

Thomas Eakins’ athletic pictures were produced in a context of Darwinian “survival of the fittest.” Competition would reveal the best; and he was entered in the field. The trope goes to art, not to sports. In Salutat the dignity and fitness of the young boxer are contrasted
to the dark mass of spectators; his social betters, they are vulgar and ugly, come to have a good time watching two young men take punishment they themselves couldn’t stand up to for 30 seconds. Eakins’ was declared the winner in his heat but not his lifetime.

Lance Richbourg’s sport paintings are produced in a time of depleted heroism and devalued loyalty. Today’s thousand dollar an hour athletes are not his subjects. He works from old news photos of champions of an earlier age. The low resolution of these wire service photos invited Lance to indulge his natural painterliness. His approach to watercolor is forthright in its additive buildup in successive slathering washes of color over color.
A quasi-opacity, a filmy opacity, if there is such a thing, is the result: he looks to find an equivalent for the granulated light impasto of his paintings in oil. He’s cropped the Dizzy Dean composition both to monumentalize the figure and to uncover the perfect interplay of horizontal and vertical balances which are going to result in the strikeout pitch. It takes a minute to realize that the painting is as exquisite as a Degas.

Lance Richbourg Sr. was a major league baseball player. Lance has a box of clippings, and frequently the father, sliding into a base or tagging an opponent out, has been the subject of the son’s art. Richbourg’s paintings not only deal, like Eakins’, with having a skill, an art, which you perform for the entertainment of others; they have the further function of honoring the father.

Lance and I have always been drawn together as a matter of that ole personal chemistry; we got along great from the beginning, which was down in Mexico, hace muchos anos. An extra factor, though, is my Dad was also an athlete. He put himself through Med School (it took him 5 years) by playing football. My father was quarterback on the Packers during their N.F.L. ascendancy at the end of the 20’s under Curley Lambeau’s regime. He was a fine player. From my box of clippings I chose not an action photo, but a publicity shot which appeared in the Des Moines Register in the mid 20’s during my Dad’s college days. It seems the Follies were in town so the feature editor sent a cameraman and the gorgeous Follies star out to the stadium for what wasn’t yet called a photo opportunity. The handsome backfield star was called over and after it came out that my Dad also did punting it was decided to let the Follies beauty do her over the head 1-2-3 kick. In the clipping, brown with age, my father is still standing there at ease arm akimbo on his jersey taking in the great legs of this great looking girl. They are two beautiful young people, with not a care in the world.

Lance has been working on this painting for a little while now but hasn’t brought it around yet. It should be a good one!

G is for Charles Garabedian

John FitzGibbon
from California A-Z and Return
The Butler Institute of American Art
Youngstown, Ohio. 1990

Western art is one of the crimes against the Indians. It continues to be committed with impunity. Lots and lots of people like Western art despite- or rather because of- the fact that it depends on cliched illustrator techniques, often tricked out with expressionistic paint handling or other “modern” devices. There is a good market in it.

In this large work on paper, Garabedian reaches for the archetype that’s been worthily expressed (though somewhat dilute) by John G. Neihardt in his Black Elk Speaks. Garabedian tries to see what was seen by a shaman as he “advanced upon the south,” as he “approached the East.” How do you advance upon the south anyway? What spiritual forces converged on you as you dashed to count coup? Garabedian has a pretty avenue to the transcendental illumination granted the Plains Indians- and quite alien to us who are alienated.
He is toward the top of American painters.

One spring after a trade, Garabedian owed me a small painting. I visited him in October and there were a lot of little ones lying against the baseboard of two walls of his studio. “Pick one of these,” Chas said. I looked for awhile and chose a painting I didn’t like. “Sorry, that belongs to my dealer.” After a while I found another one I didn’t much care for. “No, I can’t. That one belongs to Gwennie.” I delayed but as I was leaving I said, I think that it is between these three, Charles, and then I pointed at the painting I liked: This is the one. “Sorry, no, its not finished.”

Early in the next year I was back in Los Angeles. One morning I went over to Garabedian’s. The little paintings were still propped along the wall. I examined the work I wanted, which has an O’Keeffe like cross in the center and at one corner some manuscript leaves, a sort of archive. He hadn’t touched it. Chas and I gossiped for awhile; we watched an athletic contest of some sort broadcast from the East Coast. Around 11:30 we drank a beer and at 12:15 Garabedian stood up. “C’mon, I’ll take you to lunch. Oh, you can bring that painting with you. It’s finished.”

He locked up and we went to the car. ” You should thank me Chas,” I said. ” I finished it for you.”

— John FitzGibbon

E is for Eduardo Carrillo

by John FitzGibbon

from California A-Z and Return
The Butler Institute of American Art
Youngstown, Ohio. 1990

Because I wanted to hire the best Hispanic painter I could I was down in La Paz, close to the tip of Baja California. This was more than 20 years ago. I had looked around the Southwest and Colorado for a couple of months before Tony Berlant(who else) touted me where to find the painter who would end my search. Either that, or Tony wasn’t in the know.

Ed Carrillo and his young family were living cheaply down in Mexico, with Lance Richbourg in attendance. Lance claimed he was down there on a grant from the Mexican government to provide love-interest on the playa for all the American senoras and senoritas whose menfolk were doing their deep-sea fishing on 3-day manhood tests and tequila competitions way out in the ocean past Cabo San Lucas or up in the Gulf of California. Strictly wishful thinking of course because that role was being supplied by the short dark and handsome men who all along the Pacific littoral dive from tall cliffs and air-ski behind power boats with the aid of a parachute.
Carrillo on the other hand actually got grants from both stateside and from the Mexican government, journeying several times to the capital to plead his case in the labyrinthine bureaucracy. One thing he accomplished, with the aid of an older cousin who was police chief in Las Paz was to rid the area of a self-contained compound established on the Pacific shore, eighty miles north, by retired FBI and their like. This fortified enclave was a last refuge and an arsenal (including not just automatic rifles and small arms but bazookas, grenade- launchers, and various anti-tank weapons, not to mention mines, generator-powered surveillance systems, small airstrip, oodles of barbed- wire and camouflage.) Paranoia can often be touching. With the pathetic logic of super patriotism, these dry-as dust human beings had abandoned their country to play cards and swap tales in a foreign desert, while awaiting the take-over of America from within by co-religionist senators and congressmen of the pope in Moscow (abetted for certain by commie Berkeleyans like myself, the notorious James “Pink Djinn” Melchert and Carlos “Carlos” Villa,) Carrillo used the small starter grants plus whatever he could borrow and barter to set up an Arts and Crafts Workshop on an acre of vacant lot on the dirt- streets outskirts of town. La Paz, before the road went through, was a somnolent city of about 30,000 with a bank, jail, a supermercado, a drugstore, movie theatre, couple of cantinas, and three musical-tappeted taxis whose drivers automatically got lionized by the local ladies. Unemployment ran right around a third, the perennially impotent federal and state governments could offer little help; the only money coming in arrived by airplane in the pockets of the tourists and sportsfishermen; and if you weren’t a guide or a bartender you tethered yourself on the drugstore corner all day, like a mule chomping tomatoes.

In this situation Carrillo made a real difference. The Center for Regional Arts that emerged from his efforts was an all too isolated instance of the triumph of a 60’s spirit of communal activity. Value began to flourish in a dirt barren a chicken wouldn’t bother to scrabble in. They fenced the perimeter, they put up adobe workshops and made benches and worktables. They built kilns and constructed looms, using manuals and learning as they went. A lot of the techniques they needed lay outside Eduardo’s competence. Where he was lacking he brought in teachers from the mainland. The emphasis was on taking a craft item from the very beginning, from the fleece on the sheep’s back, to the shearing, to the carding, spinning, weaving dyeing and finally the marketing at a store the Carrillo’s set up on the airport road, a shop where visitors could bargain in English for goods with Sheila Carrillo.
The simple integrity of the humblest Mexican craft item has always been a wonder to me. The cheapest bar coaster, fired a hundred at a time, has something winning, a touch of honesty and even holiness, weird as that is to say. Ed’s Centro turned out serapes, embroidered blouses, striped cotton rugs, mugs, copas, and plates, patchwork and handpainted ties, leather goods of all sorts, straw hats and baskets, cut-paper decorations, pipes and flutes, everything under the bright blue sky. These things had formerly been brought in by train and ferry from the great Guadalajara market. Carrillo managed to give people basic skills that are atavistic throughout Mexico but in La Paz, as in many locales, had withered. He took dozens of people off the street and gave them an income and a sense of worth. He himself received a nominal salary and the grace of God that descends on every unselfish act.
I omitted to say that had stored his painting at a friend’s house against my visit. I never saw them until the day before my departure, and the manner in which he finally showed me them was so memorable and so influential on my subsequent efforts to do some “Event” art myself, that I will leave it for telling elsewhere.
Naturally I’d decided right off to offer Carrillo the job he wanted it. All the best Hispanic painter business just evaporated in the late night talks with Ed and Lance (who would come in from the cantinas cussing his latest strikeout with the fish widows.) It would have been the greatest surprise in the world to me if Ed’s painting had turned out to be feeble. Indeed they were nothing like I’d seen. To my mind, the consistent originality, presence, and degree of intuition in Carrillo’s work put him very near the top of American painters, and that assessment falls considerably short of his own ambitions which are not focused on American art nor on Mexican but on the Old Masters. Now and again I’ve made my preference for his art quite clear:
Literally unnoticed at this point on the national scene Carrillo is to my eye, the best Chicano painter. He is the best realist painter to come out of the city of Los Angeles, in a field which includes his friends Mx Hendler and Lance Richbourg, and when the history of 20th century art is written, he could be any kind of painter. For Ed, matters are seldom capable of simplification. The conquistadors disembarking from their galleon in a recent Carrillo painting struggling ashore carrying not only arms, cannonballs and the like but also tv sets, a torah, and other anachronisms! In Ed’s travesty the Conquest is revealed to have been more insidious and pervasive than ordinary political accounts have made it out, and conquerors and conquered, in Ed’s world, turn out to be deeply and convincingly compromised.

Yet because I could hardly admire Hendler’s work more than I do, and because at his best Richbourg, currently hotter than ever, is the equal of any painter, I don’t really want to make any invidious comparison. Unless it’s to note, as I shall below, that I prefer all of what I call the OTHER LOS ANGELES artists( they include Garabedian and Berlant) to the figures one normally thinks of as LOS ANGELES-meaning Irwin, Bell Ruscha, Moses, and so on,artists who have received the major attention over the years and who are by and large quite fine performers in their own line. It should be noted further that there are crossovers between the two groups, just as you’d expect. Garabedian always shared a box at Hollywood Park with Irwin and the latter is bound to prefer, say Hendler’s work greatly to, say, Bengston’s. Moreover, in the early days, Ed Carrillo lived in the same quarters as Larry Bell and the two Los Angeles artists shared kitchen privileges. That Los Angeles refrigerator had the hamburger on one shelf and the chimichangas on the other.
The Coatlique of our painting is the Mother of all the Aztec gods, the god of Deception being the pertinent one here. Eduardo had been thinking of his son Ruben, fresh from high-school and in the throes of his first serious love. A nice young lady had been giving Ruben the short introductory course in grief, and let’s not doubt, the nice young man would soon enough be returning the favor. The hammock here, in which they grope for each other is of course a net, in this case identified with the woman. Since the painting can (and is meant to) be read vertically just as well as horizontally, we learn that turnabout is fair play. Ruben, by the way, was the cameraman for the recent video production Ed did on the shark fishermen at San Francisquito on the Sea of Cortez- El Mar Bermejo, as it is called: the vermillion sea. Thew film records visits that Ed, in company with Garabedian and others, made to the area. It deals with vitality, fearlessness, endurance, and unlimited appetite which sharks have and many men have, and it deals with honor which some men have and which is irrelevant to sharks.
Carrillo has been through a number of considered, purposive changes in his (always) representational manner. He was milking de Chirico, early and late, at the nadir of that artist’s reputation and at a time when the Italian postmodernists were milking their mothers.¬†He can do eyes-on realism with the best of them, meaning Hendler and theibaud. In another vein his many stylizations of the world “out there” have added an honorable dimension to the history of shape- invention in our era. Ed has always been a deliberately wooden figurepainter- his people have a ligneous life, like trees. This is no harm, unless you are no respecter of painters like Georges de La Tour.
When Carrillo was painting California scenes in the early to mid 70’s he pressured oil paint to take on a wet juicy shiny salivating appearance. In the last dozen years his vision has turned more and more to Mexico. In keeping with an experience in Baja when he almost died of thirst and dehydration, the surfaces of his canvases now enjoyed a dried out, absorbed quality- as dry and gritty as a Twachtman, as dry (to change metaphors) as abobe. Surfaces are matte now, as in our example: colors are light, there is an emphasis on the objectness of the canvas, on the rough fabric showing through. Instead of seeing into, through, films of paint the eyes must now stop at a surface that is as dessiccated as the desert itself.¬†The washed-out, over exposed quality of light in our canvas literally reflects the noon day brilliance of the Baja sun which can throw off your perception of dark and light. The drier, the hungrier for moisture these canvases become, the more spirituality they take on. Of all the painters who can hear the grace notes from the noumenal world, none betters Carrillo at making them available to us. Everyone knows the old saw: Poor Mexico, so far from God, and so close to the United States. Carrillo’s paintings make it clear that this stands the truth on its head: Fortunate Mexico! So very, very far from the United States.

Feliz Mexico — Where the gods are everywhere.

— John FitzGibbon