TASTEMAKERS AND EARTHSHAKERS
By: Cecilia Lopez
Cecilia Lopez is a sophomore high school student from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, who enjoys reading, photography and journalism. She began writing for her school newspaper this year and ever since has greatly enjoyed crafting articles to share with her community and peers. She visited the exhibition Tastemakers & Earthshakers: Notes From Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943-2016 at VPAM in February and wrote this response.
The Vincent Art Price Museum featured “Tastemakers and Earthshakers: Notes from Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943-2016,” an exhibition that traversed eight decades, including millennials’ forms of expression through style, music and art.
The museum exhibition ran from Oct. 15, 2016 until Feb. 25, 2017, and was free to the public. The Vincent Art Price Museum, located in Monterey Park on the campus of East Los Angeles College, offers a variety of types of art to admire and experience, and this exhibition included paintings, documentary photography, music video installations and historical documents.
Gusmano Cesarretti, “Mosca 1975 East L.A.”
1975, archival print. Courtesy of the artist.
At the entrance of the recent “Tastemakers and Earthshakers” exhibition was an installation of pachuco and pachuca streetwear. Pachucos and pachucas were a subculture of young Chicanos and Mexican Americans that were associated with the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles. The wardrobe serves as an embodiment of thisyouth group and their form of expression through these outfits. The paintings and photographs of pachuco style illustrated how this fashion was an essential part of the subculture’s identity.
Another feature of the exhibition was a variety of different historical documents including newspapers, photographs, notebooks and flyers detailing the fashion trends and culture of Los Angeles through the decades.
“Many of the artworks included in the exhibition reference specific historical events… so including diverse media allows us to flesh out that narrative within the exhibition,” said Pilar Tompkins Rivas, the museum director and curator of the show. “All of these sources in the exhibition give the viewer a new perspective to experience these narratives.”
Another room of the exhibition featured photographs and paintings of youth resistance groups from Los Angeles through the years. Many of the photos were of Chicano youth protesting. In one image, a group of young Chicanos carry a poster stating “Chicano Power” to express the impact of their voice. On another wall painted in large blue letters topped with ice imagery was the message, “Cause I’m brown, I’m not the other color, so police think, they have the authority, to kill a minority.” These words serve as a reflection of how the young people have felt about the police. What’s expressed in this art piece is something relevant in our society regarding the ongoing issue of police brutality and their abuse of authority over minority groups.
“Not one More (Girl with Beret)” 2016. Photograph taken by: Rafael Cardenas.
The goal of these art pieces was to vividly illustrate how one’s form of expression can contribute to their social identity. According to Tompkins Rivas, the exhibition served as a way to empower youth through acknowledging that their voice is important and can have a huge impact in the world.
“We hope that the exhibition [provided] an opportunity for young people to see themselves reflected within the museum context, to know that their experiences are valid, and to feel that their forms of personal expression are artistically and culturally relevant,” Tompkins Rivas said.