Howard Swerdloff of Howeeduzzit Gallery and Vanessa Acosta of the Peace, Culture and Education Center/Foundation with the art of Gilbert "Magu" Lujan, one of the original and most noted figures in Chicano Art and dean of Eastside car culture
Howeeduzzit Gallery may be located in an industrial park in Alhambra, but the May 16 opening for its current show featured Highland Park artists and Eagle Rock classic cars—for the benefit of a new Northeast L.A. service organization.
“The Car Club Show” is a celebration of the automobile as art.
“I love the romantic side of L.A. with cars,” says participating artist Richard Valdes.
Inside the gallery, 15 Los Angeles area artists use a variety of media to depict urban car culture. Among them are photographer Kevin Hass and painter Pola Lopez, both of Highland Park. Also represented are several artists whose work is familiar to regulars at Northeast L.A. galleries, including Patricia Lee, Richard Valdes and Frank Gutierrez, as well as Gilbert “Magu” Lujan, one of the original definers of Chicano Art and member of “Los Four,” who had the first Chicano art exhibition in the city of Los Angeles at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1974.
Collectively, the works in the show depict car as canvass, headlight or steering wheel as art object, cruising as ritual and driving as lifestyle. They demonstrate a sensibility that everything in sight is deserving of decoration.
For the opening only, the Howeeduzzit event extended outside the gallery and into the parking lot with a gathering of real cars and their owners, sponsored by Marcos’ Garage of Alhambra and featuring the car clubs Trompers of Eagle Rock, Undertakers and Bang Time.
The opening served as a kick-off benefit for the Peace, Culture and Education Center/Foundation. The Center, which will be mobile, at least at first, will bring meditation and centering skills and martial arts programming, along with art, dance, music therapy and yoga to Northeast area youth. It will also provide programming for parents.
The new program is the creation of Highland Park resident Vanessa Acosta. Acosta is well-known in the Northeast arts world. She has fostered the ethnobotanical garden at the Southwest Museum for 18 years, has facilitated cultural tours and workshops, has served as a board member at Avenue 50 Studio and has been highly supportive of other local galleries and arts spaces. The center is an outgrowth of that work and furthers interaction among the local arts community and local youth and parents.
According to Acosta, the goal of the Center is "to foster a culture that rejects violence and encourages the active use of dialogue to address the root causes of conflict."
Acosta is especially interested in providing programming for boys from immigrant families and support for their mothers in what can be a stressful and confusing environment. She envisions the programming as addressing gender role issues, the sense of entitlement that boys can develop and the bewilderment that mothers often feel, which all too commonly lead to domestic violence. She would like to facilitate centering and a sense of self in youth and to provide parenting and violence-calming skills for their mothers.
The programming will reflect Acosta’s belief that young people have to experience peace within themselves before there can be peace within the home. She also looks at the fact that there is now a whole generation of kids born since the United States went to war with Iraq, with that being the only broader political reality they have known, and sees the need for youth to experience what a sense of peace is at home as a vital component of their growing up.
The program will serve youth ages 5-12. The hope is to have it running by January of next year.
A “Car Club Show” may have been an appropriate venue for the launch of the Center due to more than its ability to attract an appreciative crowd for wine and cheese.
The show depicts a world readily recognizable to the youth who will participate in Acosta’s program. Gutierrez says that the car show concept evokes the omnipresence of automobile culture he knew as a young boy. Some of the images feature a desire to see and be seen, such as Lopez’ Zoot Suit-attired image of “Mi Padre” or Magu’s “Ford Enchilada Being Followed by a Pan Chicano.” Some allude to a more covert side of life, such as Valdes’ images of life and romance under the freeway (“A lot goes on under the freeway,” the artist points out.) or the bullet hole in the window of Hass’ “Hathaway Truck.”
Howeeduzzit Gallery is the realized vision of sculptor, wood worker, gourd artist and musician Howard Swerdloff. Swerdloff is a resident of the San Gabriel Valley, but his work has been featured at Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park and on the Arroyo Arts Collective Discovery Tour. Howeeduzzit shows feature perhaps the most diverse gatherings of any gallery in the area. The diversity includes the selection of artists from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. But it also extends to media. Shows in the gallery’s three years of existence have featured dolls, cars, gourds, ceramics, chairs, paintings, drawings and photography.
“Everything has its creativity,” Swerdloff says of “Car Club Show.” “Custom cars start as vision. Then you implement it. Anybody able to transform anything is an artist. It’s the way you do the thing you do.”
Further, Swerdloff has made a point of always including some of the most established L.A. artists side-by-side with up and comers. Swerdloff sees the gallery not only as a space for exhibition of art, but also as a place where artists meet and converse with other artists.
The opening of “The Car Club Show” was day one for the Peace, Culture and Education Center/Foundation. Meanwhile, the art show continues through June 5 by appointment. Upcoming exhibits include an all-men show in August and an all-women show in October. Visit www.howeeduzzitgallery.com.
Closing reception for “Car Club Show,” Saturday, June 5, 2-5 p.m. Howeeduzzit Gallery, 821 S. Raymond, #27, Alhambra. “Photography Show, Captured Images Caught in Time” opens Sunday, June 13, 2-6 p.m.
The art of Highland Park artist Pola Lopez
Highland Park photographer Kevin Hass at the car club gathering outside Howeeduzzit Gallery
"Hathaway Truck" by Highland Park artist Kevin Hass, from Car Show @ Howeeduzzit Gallery