Carlos Almaraz at LACMA

Artist: Carlos Almaraz

Exhibition title: Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz

Venue: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, US

Date: August 6 – December 3, 2017

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), © The Carlos Almaraz Estate, ©Museum Associates/ LACMA

Note: Complete press release can be found here

(Los Angeles, CA, July 5, 2017)—The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents the first major survey of paintings by Carlos Almaraz (1941–1989). Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz features 65 works, including mostly paintings and several drawings from the artist’s studio practice. Almaraz was legendary during his lifetime, initially as a political activist and a cofounder of Los Four—among the first Chicano artist collectives to emerge in Southern California in the 1970s—and ultimately as a visionary studio artist whose compelling images convey a deep psychological impact. Almaraz first became an activist through his work with the United Farm Workers, painting banners for union rallies. Among his most visible works from this period were a number of public murals in East Los Angeles that depicted the Chicano civil rights struggle. By the end of the decade, however, Almaraz felt constrained by his role as a cultural worker within the movement and turned his creative aspirations to asserting a far more personal form of expression. Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz explores this personal and artistic transformation.

A highlight of the exhibition is the 24-foot-wide Echo Park Lake nos. 1–4 (1982), a fourpaneled painting reminiscent of Claude Monet’s Impressionistic renderings of lily ponds and Parisian parks. This exhibition marks the first time that the four panels have been reunited since 1987. Other highlights include: Almaraz’s studio-based art featuring idyllic scenes of Hawaii (where Almaraz and his family maintained a second home); fiery freeway car crashes richly embued with saturated colors; self-portraits; contemplative scenes of domestic life; and surreal dreamscapes.

Playing with Fire is presented as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative and is curated by Howard N. Fox, LACMA emeritus curator of contemporary art. The exhibition is accompanied by the first full-length monograph of Carlos Almaraz, copublished with DelMonico Books • Prestel.

“Carlos Almaraz is a key figure in Los Angeles’s cultural history,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “Almaraz‘s first show at LACMA was the 1974 exhibition Los Four: Almaraz/de la Rocha/Luján/Romero, which presented the work of this important Chicano artist collective co-founded by Almaraz. Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz is an opportunity to acknowledge Almaraz as a solo artist. We are excited to reconsider the artist’s accomplishments in a broader context and offer a new and comprehensive appreciation of the artist’s engagement with complex issues.”

Howard N. Fox commented, “While there were small surveys of his art during and soon after his lifetime, and accompanying exhibition catalogues with brief but thoughtful essays, there has been no sustained exploration of his oeuvre.“Nearly three decades following Carlos Almaraz’s untimely death at age 48, now is a propitious time to reexamine his too-brief but always compelling artistic achievements. His life was contradictory and often conflicted, and he reveled in and avidly celebrated the complexities and contradictions of his identity and experiences. Fox added, These connections and slippages, these crossovers and disconnects, these harmonies and dissonances constitute the enduring essence of Almaraz’s art.”

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, 2017, exhibition view at LACMA, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Carlos Almaraz, Crash in Phthalo Green, 1984, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of the 1992 Collectors Committee, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Carlos Almaraz, Two of a Kind, 1986, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Anthony Seiniger, © The Carlos Almaraz Estate

Carlos Almaraz, Sunset Crash, 1982, Cheech Marin, Courtesy of the Cheech Marin Collection, ©The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Carlos Almaraz, Longo Crash, 1982, Michael Gold, Collection of Patty and Michael Gold

Carlos Almaraz, Mr. and Mrs. Rabbit Go to Town, 1982, Robert M. DeLapp, Collection of Robert M. DeLapp

Carlos Almaraz, The Gods Who Found Water (Los Dioses que encontraran agua), 1984, Bank of America Corporation, The Bank of America Collection

Carlos Almaraz, Yellow Morning, 1986, The AltaMed Art Collection, courtesy of Cástulo de la Rocha and Zoila D. Escobar

Carlos Almaraz, City Jaguar, 1988, Edward R. and Sandy Martin, Ed and Sandy Martin

Carlos Almaraz, Magic Green Stage, 1982, The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine, The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine

Carlos Almaraz, Suburban Nightmare, 1983, The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine, The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine

Carlos Almaraz, Tree of Life, 1987, The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine, The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine

Carlos Almaraz, Echo Park Bridge at Night, 1989, The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine, The Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine

Caption Carlos Almaraz, Growing City, 1988, Elsa Flores Almaraz, Elsa and Maya Almaraz

Caption Carlos Almaraz, Deer Dancer, 1989, Elsa Flores Almaraz, Elsa and Maya Almaraz

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