What’s the career pathway to becoming a graphic designer? Or an interior designer? Or a furniture designer? On Thursday, March 9, twelve Art Division students and staff members learned some answers to these questions and more when we walked three blocks down to visit Commune Design, a Los Angeles-based design studio with a reputation for holistic work across the fields of architecture, interior, graphic and product design.
Our group gathered in Commune’s conference room where, surrounded by images from one of the company’s current projects, we snacked on an exquisite chocolate-nut mixture designed just for Commune. There, the company’s founders, Roman Alonso and Steven Johanknecht, talked about their career pathways, both of which were surprisingly circuitous. Afterwards, several other Commune staff members talked about their career paths and answered student questions.
Students in the Art Division group were encouraged to learn that careers in design are often open to people with diverse professional backgrounds, and not exclusively those with degrees in design. “It was great to hear that real-world experience is really important on a career path,” Art Division student Leslie Martinez said. Art Division student Kristian Guerra, currently completing a degree in Graphic Design at Cal State Los Angeles, agreed. “It was really inspiring and nice to hear from designers and how they ended up where they are, as well as relieving and motivating to see them seek out local creatives from organizations and communities such as Art Division,” he said.
For Preston Alba, the staff member at Commune who coordinated our visit, that community outreach was important to their team. “We thoroughly enjoyed having Art Division visit our studio,” Preston said. “The students are curious and engaged and they have such an incredibly supportive faculty and alumni.”
After the meeting in the conference room, we took a guided tour of Commune’s studio, learning more about their unique, artisanal approach to design, which involves not only planning but actually creating and building furniture, fabric, door handles, dishware and more. Every aspect of a project is made with care, Roman Alonso told us, showing our group a set of plates whose color had been chosen after seven years of deliberation.
Our group was so delighted by the visit that nobody wanted to leave. Even after the tour, we stood outside on the doorstep, chatting excitedly about all that we’d learned. “Seeing their works, meeting their team, and seeing their office was really cool,” Kristian said. “Beyond professionally being interested in their internship opportunity for career development, I also felt welcomed. I would love to see and participate in other trips just like Commune.”
Preston Alba agreed. “Art Division has welcomed us into their community, and we can’t wait to find ways to work together,“ he said.
We are currently in conversation with Commune about creating a paid internship for an Art Division student at their studio.
When Art Division student Leslie Martinez spent the summer of 2022 as a Getty Marrow Intern, she didn’t imagine that she would be able to bring what she learned back to Art Division’s gallery space. But after eight weeks of working with the Getty Center’s staff on their publications, when she returned to Art Division and learned about the winter “Animá Animal” student show, she was inspired to suggest that the gallery create an exhibition catalog. “I was always into wanting to preserve the artworks that we did here,” Leslie said. Her experience gave her the confidence and the experience to make her dream a reality.
She brought her idea to Art Division’s Graphic Designer Guillermo Perez, who was immediately enthusiastic about the idea. “We’ve wanted to make the exhibitions more complete for a long time, so designing a catalog or zine to accompany them was one way to do that,” Guillermo said.
After much discussion, Guillermo and Leslie decided that a zine format would be the best way to showcase the exhibition’s work. “We thought a zine instead of a proper museum catalog would be more accessible to the students and more fun,” Guillermo said Leslie was enthusiastic about the idea of a zine. “I did a digital zine on my own about my grandma’s kitchen - I really enjoyed the process of writing and designing how to put it on the pages,” Leslie said. The opportunity to work with Guillermo gave her the chance to take her work to the next level. “I thought, let me see the process Guillermo goes through - that’s something I want to explore in my art career,” Leslie said.
The two spent countless hours designing the zine’s layout. “The most challenging thing was getting all the pieces, all the artwork and all the artwork descriptions, all before the deadline,” Guillermo said. But despite the time pressure, Guillermo was impressed by Leslie’s professionalism. “Leslie was eager to learn about graphic design in general and about how do you make a zine, how do you make a book,” Guillermo said. Both found the process rewarding. “The most rewarding part was when I got to design my part of the zine and Guillermo liked it. I was so glad he was proud of it,” Leslie said. For Guillermo, the finished product made all the work worthwhile. “The fact that it actually got finished was really rewarding, it’s been really well-received by everyone who’s seen it,” Guillermo said.
VIctor Reyes, Art Division printmaking instructor, was impressed with the zine. “They did a good job figuring out the layout and colors. And it’s good to have a zine to go along with the show. That way the viewers have a better understanding of what the show was about and what the artists were thinking about in the process of creating the work,” Victor said.
Because of the zine’s success, Art Division now plans to print a zine or catalog for all future shows by students.
The “Ánima/Animal” show, along with the zine, can be viewed until May 6, 2023 in the Art Division gallery.
The LA Times article literally said “Oh, God, run, don’t walk to Regen Projects in Hollywood for Elliot Hundley’s latest exhibition,” and who were we to disagree? On Thursday, February 9, a group of Art Division students and staff members, led by Elsa Longbourne, carpooled to Regen Projects to take in Echo, a retrospective of the last 20 years of Hundley’s work. The show combines various media and materials in a group of large-scale collages, freestanding and hanging sculptures, assemblages, paintings, photographs, ceramics, and works on paper. Many of the pieces incorporate tiny photos of friends of family re-enacting classical works of literature as well as artifacts from Hundley’s own life
Students wandered through the rooms of the gallery, spending time with each piece. Art Division student Jenny Payan, who had been Hundley’s assistant in the past, had helped archive and cut out some of the photos for the enormous, wall-sized piece Balcony. “I was impressed by the way the paintings and the painted wall blended together–it was like a masterpiece,” Art Division student Eulogia Astrolunx Real-Luxe said of the piece. “I loved the color and expression and the way you could see the touch of the brush.”
Art Division Special Projects Coordinator Luis Motta was fascinated by Hundley’s use of materials. “I was really interested in his organic way of building structures from anything he connects with,” Luis said. “It’s inspiring to see that someone can make work of any kind of material and make it personal.”
Elsa Longhauser, who had known Hundley since he was a student in the UCLA MFA program, introduced the Art Division group to Regen Projects President Shaun Caley Regen, who spoke to us about Hundley’s process as we gathered around a piece co-created by Hundley and his parrot, Echo. She explained that the parrot had started pecking at materials while Hundley was sculpting, so Hundley decided that the bird should be encouraged to arrange the pieces as he pleased, with the artist shaping the final piece.
Afterwards, the group of students and staff, along with Elsa, enjoyed a delicious lunch at Tartine to discuss the show’s highlights.
The following week, on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the same group, joined by several others, had the privilege of meeting Hundley and getting a personal tour of his Chinatown warehouse studio. Once inside the cavernous space, we were greeted by Hundley, along with his two dogs, his cat and his parrot, who hooted periodically throughout the tour. Hundley graciously showed the group through his floor-to-ceiling storeroom of archived material, which includes photos, fabric, old furniture, and pretty much anything he finds interesting, which appears to be everything. Art Division Project Coordinator Nicole Berlanga was amazed by the space. “I knew I was gonna be blown away, but I didn’t know it was gonna be that massive,” Nicole said. “It was so interesting to see the way this artist coexists with his art.”
After showing the group around the first floor studios, Hundley brought the group to the second floor, which is his living space as well as a gallery where he showcases work by emerging artists. “I was inspired by the way he lives with his art, the way he archives his life and also lives in the moment,” Art Division student Blaine Wells-West said. “I loved how he lived with his pets and how open the space was.”
Luis agreed. “I loved seeing the way Elliot works with his studio, loved ones and family,” he said. “It’s not just a space for him but a place to offer opportunities for others in the community.”
At the end of the tour, the group gathered around Hundley’s kitchen table while he chatted with Elsa. The parrot attempted to balance himself on a lotion bottle while Hundley talked about his process. He prefers to set aside a little time each morning for thinking, makes some notes of ideas, then works all day. He carves out a little time at the end of each day for another round of thinking. In this way, he can devote the majority of his time to moving forward on his work without getting bogged down in overthinking. The group left with a warm goodbye and the hopes to see him again soon.”I’m so thankful for Elsa for having built a relationship like that where he trusted us to come into his workplace and his home,” Nicole said.
Art Division’s Community Printmaking Event was filled with students, children and other people from the neighborhood on Saturday afternoon, January 14. In spite of the pouring rain, a large group gathered to participate in the event. Each attendee was able to make their own Demián Flores print, guided by Art Division Printmaking Instructors Javier Carrillo and Victor Reyes. The event was the brainchild of Maria Galicia, a former Program Coordinator at Art Division, currently working at the USC Fisher Museum of Art.
Javier explained that Demián Flores, whose work was on view at the Art Division Gallery until January 14, frequently hosts similar events at his studio in Oaxaca. Maria was inspired by Flores’ work to create a similar event here at Art Division. “Demián’s such a great guy,” Javier said. “He loves to give back, and we wanted to do the same.” Javier was surprised by the large turnout because he’d been expecting that people might stay home because of the rain. He thinks that community members, many of whom are originally from central Mexico, may have been intrigued by the subject matter. “People really responded to the prints because they could relate culturally. One girl recognized an image from Oaxacan mythology,” Javier said.
Alexander Ramirez, age 9, came with his mother and her partner. “I’ve never made a print,” he said, as Victor guided him through the printmaking process. “I’m pretty excited.” He left that day with a print of his own to take home.
Dmitrius Anton, who lives near Art Division, found out about the event when Victor handed him a flyer on the street earlier that week. “It was divine orchestration,” Anton said. “I usually do guerrilla printmaking myself and I see an overlap with my own work.” After making a print, he pulled from his pocket a small notebook of his sketches, pointing out a drawing of an unhoused man going through a garbage dumpster. “I’ve been unhoused myself, so I have empathy,” Anton said. He, too, went home with a print of his own.
Another community member, Lisa Izumi, had heard about the event through an artist field. In addition to the opportunity to make a print, she appreciated the friendliness of the event, with people mingling over snacks and music. “I’m so impressed by the colors here, and I love the vibe,” she said.
Because the event was so successful, the Art Division staff has decided to host more community printmaking events in the future. The upcoming Anima/Animal show, which runs from mid-February through May, will also end with a community printmaking event, this time with prints by Victor Reyes.
Art Division students braved the cold and rain on Sunday, Jan. 8 on a field trip to the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach to view the exhibit “Rethinking Essential” and meet the artist, Narciso Martinez. The exhibit, which opened in August 2022, will be on display until it moves later this year to the Institute of Contemporary Art in San Diego. The students carpooled down to the museum where, to their surprise, they were greeted by Art Division student Alexander Vega, who coincidentally works at the information desk at MOLAA.The unexpected meeting set a warm and welcoming mood that lasted for the entire afternoon.
Martinez met the students and Art Division staffers at the entry to his exhibit. He instantly set everyone at ease with his friendliness, telling the students the story of his personal journey. Born in Oaxaca, Martinez emigrated to the United States at the age of 20. Because he had had to work from the time he was very young, he had never received his education. In Washington State, he worked in apple orchards for nine years while he completed high school. He received an AA from LA City College in 2009, then transferred to Cal State Long Beach, graduating in 2012, then completing his MFA at Long Beach in 2018.
Throughout his educational journey, he worked in orchards, on farms or in restaurants so that he could support himself. He told the students that though doing such labor while taking classes was exhausting, he believes passionately in the power of education. “It’s important to have the knowledge and build the skills,” Martinez said. “And a degree can get you a better job. But even if you stay at a farm labor job, your education gives you the confidence you need to demand the pay and conditions you deserve.”
While Martinez spoke, a crowd of museum visitors gathered around the Art Division group, excited to see that the artist was present. Martinez spoke to the entire group about his vision for his work, which focuses on farm laborers and their working conditions. The work is executed on discarded cardboard produce boxes and uses collage, charcoal drawing and sometimes gold leaf to highlight the significance of the people he portrays. His work reflects his own experience as well as that of the workers he portrays and interviews.
For Art Division student Shanine Jaimes-Morelos, the opportunity to talk personally with Martinez was exciting. “I loved interacting with him,” she said. “And to hear his perspective really added richness to the experience of viewing his art.
Art Division student Eli Alejo agreed. “It’s really impactful to have an experience where brown artists are centered. I feel like I almost never see that,” they said.
After talking with the students, Martinez joined the Art Division group for an early dinner at Lola’s, a nearby restaurant. Over chips, horchata and heaping platters of Mexican food, the group shared stories about art, work and learning. For Art Division student CJ Calica, the chance to talk and laugh over the meal was a highlight. “I love this community,” she said after the group sang “Happy Birthday” to student Scarlett Maradiga. “It’s so great to meet like-minded people.”
On Sunday, Nov. 27, while other Angelenos were still in a post-Thanksgiving stupor, ten Art Division students and three staff members headed to Riverside to visit the Cheech Marin Museum of Chicano Art. The museum, a collaboration between the Riverside Art Museum, the City of Riverside, and comedian Cheech Marin. Is known as “The Cheech,” and opened to the public in June 2022. It is the largest and most wide-ranging display of Chicano art in the world, and is intended to stake out a place in art history for the work of Latinx artists and activists from the 1960’s on.
“When I heard about the trip, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see art with our community, to get to talk about it and hang out,” Special Projects Director Luis Motta said. He was familiar already with some of the artists in the collection, but looked forward to learning more and experiencing the work with the students.
The current exhibition features work from Marin’s personal collection, including works by Patssi Valdez, Sandy Rodriguez, Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, Judithe Hernández, and Gilbert “Magú” Luján. The museum itself has a large atrium and is meant to have the feel of a zocolo, creating the feeling of a community space.
Art Division students were struck by the immediacy of the work. Each student found themself drawn to different individual pieces. For Scar Maradiaga, currently studying Photography at Art Division, the standout piece was Vincent Valdez’s “Kill the Pachuco Bastard,” a giant cinematic painting that imagines a bloody barroom brawl during the Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots. “I liked the story in there, I liked how clear it was,” Scar said. “I liked the vibrancy.”
In addition to works from Cheech Marin’s collection, the museum is currently showing “Collidoscope,” an exhibit of sculpture and other large installations by Einar and Jamex de la Torre, two brothers from Guadalajara who have spent their lives navigating the U.S./Mexico border. Working in blown glass and other materials, the de la Torres brothers incorporate traditional crafts and high-tech media for an exhibit whose imagery spans from pre-Columbian times to the future. “I was blown away by the Torres brothers,” Motta said.
Afterwards, the Art Division group walked to the legendary Tio’s Tacos, where they enjoyed food and aguas frescas in its famous garden of found art objects and murals. There, students discussed their favorite pieces from the museum as well as ideas about tradition, time and frame of reference in Chicano art. “I loved the museum, but hanging out afterwards was my favorite part,” Art Division Program Coordinator Nicole Berlanga said. “Beyond getting to know the students, I got to know what they like about art. I love that we were able to enjoy the work at our own pace and then come together to debrief.”
Scar agreed that the best part of the trip was the chance to talk with other students about the art. “I really liked that we got to compare our ideas about the art, really break it down together,” Scar said. “I’d talk to another student and realize they saw something I hadn’t even noticed.” Like Nicole, she appreciated getting a chance to get to know more Art Division students. “It was really nice to meet new people,” Scar said.
A huge vulture, wings outstretched. Corpses laid out like mummies. Flames erupting from a human torso. A giant airplane, aloft, nose tilted downward. Amidst these unsettling images, cartoon figures peer in the background. These vibrant images and many more seem to explode from their canvases in Demián Flores exhibit “Pinturas Plegables,” (Foldable Paintings), now showing in the Art Division gallery.
According to Flores’ statement, the five paintings in the exhibit are his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which “forced humanity to reinvent the ways of life in society and the relationship between individuals,” causing us to have found “new forms of socialization and dialogue with the viewer through the screen of the computer or cell phone.” The works, which mingle images from history, politics, pop culture and fine art, are unframed on canvas that resembles a dropcloth, giving them a feeling of having been improvised and then carried away quickly.
Flores, one of Mexico’s most important artists, has long experimented with mixing formal and informal elements. When Art Division Artistic Director Dan McCleary first encountered Flores’ work in 2006 at the USC Fisher Museum of Art, he was startled to see a row of baseball bats carved into elaborate, enigmatic shapes. “I knocked on the museum director’s door and said ‘who is this guy?’” Dan said. The director, Selma Holo, soon introduced Dan and Flores. A meeting at the museum turned into dinner, which turned into an invitation for Dan to visit Flores in Oaxaca. The friendship has continued to this day.
Flores’ work has been an ongoing source of inspiration to Dan, spanning many disciplines including painting, graphic arts, drawing, video and sculpture. The Curtiduría, a cultural and community space Flores established in Oaxaca, was one of Dan’s inspirations when he founded Art Division. “I believe he’s one of the most important artists in Mexico,” Dan said. “He’s got such a touch.”
Victor Reyes, the gallery’s Assistant Manager, finds the paintings create an emotional connection. He appreciates the way the work speaks to everyday life in Mexico. “You see violence but in the background there’s something positive and childlike,” Reyes said. “The strokes are violent, the colors are violent, but at the same time it’s really vibrant.”
“Pinturas Plegables” will be on display in the Art Division gallery from November 12, 2022 to January 7, 2023. To visit the gallery, please contact Dan (email@example.com).