Carlos Almaraz: Other Voices

Other Voices: Reflections on Almaraz's Legacy


“At some point in our lives, each of us realizes how really finite we are. For me this realization has been a driving force in my creativity and in my life in general. I paint with a new abandonment almost trying to deny the fact that I too will someday pass on and the only thing remaining will be the images that I leave behind.”   —Carlos Almaraz

When Carlos Almaraz made this observation in 1983, it was without the knowledge of the illness that would tragically cut his life short some six years later. While he was correct to believe that his legacy would endure in the artworks he left behind, his legacy also persists in the countless friendships he left behind as well.

In assembling this chorus of voices for the exhibition catalogue for Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz, we received an extraordinary abundance of tributes to Almaraz. This outpouring of affection and esteem from more than thirty contributors far outran the space constraints of a printed publication, for which we were only able to present a selection of remembrances. We are honored to present here the complete collection of these testimonials, revealing Almaraz’s profound effect on those around him not only as an artist, but also as an activist, mentor, advisor, and inspiration. They remind us that behind the mythical art that Almaraz left behind, lived a man—a man, questioning his very nature, as many of us often do.

This selection was compiled and edited by Marielos Kluck. Marielos Kluck is an independent arts curator, educator and project manager. Currently she is the director of CornerProjects, Chicago. 

 

Contributors

 

Elsa Flores Almaraz

Elsa Flores Almaraz is a painter, photographer, musician, and muralist, and is currently producing a documentary film about her late husband. Almaraz and Flores first met in 1974. They married in 1981 and had a daughter, Maya Almaraz, in 1983. These recollections are excerpted from an interview with Marielos Kluck, and have been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Maya Almaraz 

Almaraz is an environmental biologist who received her PhD from Brown University in 2016. She reflects on her relationship with her father before and after his death.

 

Guillermo Bejarano

Guillermo Bejarano met Carlos Almaraz in 1971 at Mechicano Art Center. He also participated in the Concilio de Arte Popular, Chismearte, and Centro de Arte Público. This recollection is excerpted from an interview with Marielos Kluck, and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Daniel Brice

Daniel Brice is a Los Angeles-based painter and printmaker. Almaraz was a close friend and mentor to Brice in the 1980s. 

 

Barbara Carrasco

Carrasco is an artist and muralist who has created numerous works that have been exhibited throughout the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. She recollects her first experience with Carlos and his lasting effect on her career.

 

Peter Clothier

Peter Clothier has written about art and artists in Los Angeles for national magazines for the past four decades. The following excerpt is adapted from his essay, “Carlos Almaraz: A Lyrical Madness,” from the exhibition catalogue Carlos Almaraz: Selected Works, 1970–1984.

 

Richard Duardo

Richard Duardo (1952–2014) was a master art printer and a co-founder of Centro de Arte Público, along with Guillermo Bejarano and Carlos Almaraz. He first met Almaraz at Self Help Graphics in Boyle Heights. This account is excerpted from a 2007 interview with Karen Mary Davalos (CSRC Oral Histories Series, no. 9. Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2013). 

 

Patrick Ela

Ela is a former museum director, public art consultant, and appraiser of fine art accredited by the American Society of Appraisers. He discusses the 1981 Murals of Aztlán exhibition.

 

Fritz A. Frauchiger

Frauchiger is an art historian who has worked for more than thirty-five years in California and Hawaii. Seeing Almaraz on television led Frauchiger to meet the artist and, eventually, to curate two exhibitions of his work.

 

Harry Gamboa, Jr.

Harry Gamboa, Jr. is an artist, writer, performer, and photographer. He was a founding member of ASCO, the Chicano artists collective that was active from 1972 to 1987. This anecdote is excerpted from an interview with Marielos Kluck, and had been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Dan Guerrero

Dan Guerrero is an award-winning television producer who first met Carlos Almaraz when they were in grade school. His autobiographical solo performance show, Gaytino! (excerpted here), explores Chicano history and his own life as a gay man, as well as his lifelong friendship with Almaraz.

 

Mark Guerrero

Guerrero is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and Chicano music historian who, like his brother Dan Guerrero, knew Almaraz since childhood. He recollects his motivation to write “The Ballad of Carlos Almaraz.”

 

Wayne Alaniz Healy

Healy is a visual artist and cofounder of the muralist art collective East Los Streetscapers. He reflects on his neighborhood connections to Almaraz as a youth in East L.A., and the way their paths eventually crossed as adults.

 

Judithe Hernández

Hernández first met Almaraz in 1972, two years before she joined Los Four as its only female member. In 1977, she and Almaraz collaborated on the mural La Mujer in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. This story is excerpted from an interview with Marielos Kluck, and had been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Craig Krull

Krull worked with Almaraz as the director of Jan Turner Gallery and Turner/Krull Gallery from 1988 to 1993. Since 1994 he has represented the estate of Carlos Almaraz at Craig Krull Gallery.

 

Leo Limón

Leo Limón is a visual artist and community activist, and was involved with Mechicano Art Center, Plaza de la Raza, Centro de Arte Público, and Self Help Graphics. This account of Almaraz’s influence on his artistic practice is excerpted from an interview with Marielos Kluck, and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Gina Lobaco

Lobaco lives in Kauai, Hawaii, and was a friend to Carlos Almaraz and his wife, Elsa Flores Almaraz. She discusses her defense of Almaraz against allegations later in his career that he was a sell-out.

 

Gilbert Luján

Gilbert Luján (1940-2011) was a sculptor, painter and muralist. Luján. Luján, who also known as "Magu", met Almaraz in 1971 when he was the director of Con Safos, an East LA art journal. In 1973, Luján, Carlos Almaraz, Beto de la Rocha and Frank Romero formed Los Four. 

 

Cheech Marin

Marin is an actor, director, writer, comedian, author, musician, and avid Chicano art collector. His collection includes more than twenty works by Carlos Almaraz.

 

Suzanne Muchnic

Muchnic is a former art critic for the Los Angeles Times. In 1986 she wrote, “If Carlos Almaraz ever moves away, we will have lost a Los Angeles treasure. I say that because he’s one of the few artists here who knows how to paint passion.”

 

Louie F. Pérez

Pérez is a musician and principal songwriter for the Grammy–award winning rock group Los Lobos. Pérez reminisces on his first chance meeting with Almaraz.

 

Aimée Brown Price

Price, an art historian, has lectured and taught in museums, universities, and art schools and curated exhibitions internationally. She met Almaraz when she was a new instructor and he was a graduate student at Otis Art Institute.

 

Monroe Price

Price was a professor at the UCLA School of Law and the founder of Los Angeles Lawyers for the Arts. He was involved in the negotiations between Los Four and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art during the mounting of the group’s exhibition in 1974.

 

Joan Agajanian Quinn

Quinn, a journalist and arts advocate, was the longest sitting member appointed to the California Arts Council (1981–97). Quinn recounts her role in the CAC’s commis­sion of Carlos Almaraz and Elsa Flores Almaraz’s mural, California Dreamscape.

 

Richard Read

Richard Read was Almaraz’s studio assistant from the early 1980s through Almaraz’s death in 1989.

 

Frank Romero

Frank Romero is an artist and muralist. He cofounded the Chicano artists collective Los Four, along with Almaraz, Gilbert Luján, and Roberto de la Rocha, in 1973. Romero and Almaraz first met in 1959, sparking a thirty-year friendship.  This recollection is excerpted from an interview with Marielos Kluck, and had been edited and condensed for clarity.

 

Daniel Saxon

Daniel Saxon is a gallerist who represented Almaraz in the 1980s at Jan Turner Gallery, Los Angeles. He later opened Saxon-Lee Gallery, Los Angeles, where Almaraz periodically exhibited works.

 

John Valadez

Valadez, a realist painter and muralist, met the members of Los Four through Gilbert Luján. He later cofounded Centro de Arte Público. The following is an excerpt taken from a written remembrance of Almaraz.

 

Jeffrey Vallance

Vallance is an artist and writer who met Almaraz in the early 1980s; the two discovered that they shared an interest in Polynesian art, among other topics. This is excerpted from an interview with Marielos Kluck.

  

 Return to Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz