Thursday, October 13, 2016

Just a quick test reposting of half of my posts for the great folks at Arrob@, the must-read blog for Latino/a Studies in the Global South @ Duke!

9.30.16

    • Nericcio Title 9/30/16
Just a quick thank you to Claudia Milian and Dell Williams for all their help and generosity in bringing these 10 dispatches to your eyes. Thanks as well to the Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South at Duke for being the utterly rad institution that it is! Here, as a parting shot, a beautiful black and white print of Margarita Carmen Cansino, also known as the one and only Rita Hayworth—her life story was the inspiration for two decades worth of work in Tex[t]-Mex and Mextasy and it is only fitting that we end with her poignant visage.
    • Nericcio | Rita Hayworth


9.29.16

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Gus Arriola’s effort here is the stuff of history—breaking the fourth wall he reveals himself as a Mid-Century devotee of the postmodern: a contemporary/compatriot with the likes of Thomas Pynchon, Joanna Russ, and Umberto Eco.
Long toward the end of a long timeline that begins with the Lascaux cave paintings, there, just after the turn of the last century between Winsor McCay and genius-of-the-present-moment Chris Ware, rests the redoubtable master of sequential art, Gus Arriola. A Mexican-American artist from Arizona who ended up spending the rest of his life in California, Arriola’s comic strip Gordo delighted bemused and confused readers from November 24, 1941 to March 2, 1985. “Confused” because Arriola’s ambition, particularly in his Sunday splash-page cartoons, were the stuff of comic book legend, marrying the semiotic ambition and range of McCay’s earlier work, with a baroque, jazzy color palette (and a sublime disregard for the precision of the square panel—a precision, I might add, that has led to the banal cacophony of boring, shrunk, stiff compositions that fill the daily fishwrap today: yes, Mary Worth and Beetle Bailey, I am talking about you).
Of course, this is the Sunday funnies/fonnies, so the gag is still there. But there, too, is a cunning collaboration pairing jazz improvisation with semiotic artistry.
Gordo is best remembered for being one of the few daily, mainstream, narrative artifacts that was focused on Mexico, Mexicans, and Mexican culture—also one of the few that was positive and evocative (though, irony of ironies, Gordo begins as a strip focused on a fat, lazy, “Mexican”--scare-quotes necessary, por favor). In an American popular culture sea of stereotypes featuring raping bandit Mexicans (in case you’re wondering where idiot Donald Trump gets his ideas), dirty, pre-civilization Latinas/os, and the rest, Gordo evolves as a brimming visual cauldron of subterranean semiotic insurrection, surreptitiously introducing readers to Mexicans and Spanish-language culture with a light touch, and a rigorous and disruptive compositional eye.  Old school hands in the comics trade like Mort Walker and Charles Schulz envied Arriola’s eye and pen, with Charlie Brown’s father touting Arriola’s strip as the “the most beautifully drawn strip in the history of the business.” Like the aforementioned Chris Ware, Arriola’s genius rested with what used to be called postmodern aesthetics—as much as Arriola loved to tell a story he also (and simultaneously) told a story about stories (meta-narrative from a Chicano meta-mensch)
Yet another Sunday effort focused on making music, this time classical pieces, visual.
All the sister arts made cameos in Arriola’s canvases, not just music. Here the ridiculous outrages of Abstract Expressionism falls across Gus’s panels (Kurt Vonnegut’s Rabo Karabekian artist character follows a similar vein).
For me, a little Mexican-American kid growing up in the 60s, Arriola’s warped and warping lines did a number on my imagination—though I was born on and in the U.S./Mexico border in Laredo, Texas, and was, as a result, submerged in Tex-Mex/Mexicano cultura, the English-language/ ‘Merican side of my psyche was utterly bereft of Mexican influences—in this regard both Speedy Gonzales and Gordo are like bizarre twin angel and devil perched upon my shoulder, speaking in English (but with a decidedly “Mexican” accent) and seducing my psyche with parsed and unparsable utterances that moved and delighted me on the surface and had deeper, unknowable impacts elsewhere, marking my career in cultural studies.
The Director’s Cut: Dear Arrob@ reader, do note that this piece of writing has had a long sordid history: a somewhat truncated version of this piece first appeared in Joshua Glenn’s cool online magazine Hi-Lobrow.com. Next, it appeared in The Routledge Companion to Latina/o Popular Culture edited by my good friend and collaborator Frederick Luis Aldama.
In its first incarnation, Josh Glenn put his able editorial pruning shears to work and edited it down to a squib (I still love you, Josh!); next, the production team at Palgrave/Routledge got the bright idea to cut out ALL of the images—writing about Gus Arriola without sharing his vivid, artful comic provocations is madness. So here, on Arrob@, you get the director’s cut. I pray the shade of Gus Arriola visits me in the night and gifts me with a shred of his lucid, evocative imagination!


9.26.16

    • Bill Nericcio 9/25 Post
    • Bill Nericcio 9/25 Post
Every now and then a piece of primary textual archeology falls into my lap and I never know what to do with it. This past weekend, a good friend, Teresa White, of San Diego, whilst prowling her late father's library, came upon this bibliography of Chicanodom, circa 1970; it features a striking cover design by Marcos Gomez (high-res jpg above) and the work of then librarians Betty Blackman and Charles J. Boorkman. With the assault on Chicano/a Studies now firmly part of our 21st century reality, it is bracing to see our field(s) when they were still nascent/incipient. Even 42 years ago, serious librarians were active, chronicling research materials for a discipline that would change the face of American intellectual culture. Share with any other bibliophiles/librarians you think might enjoy this trip down memory lane. The backstory on the California State University Long Beach (CSULB) Library can be found here. Click the image below to receive the pdf-file of the bibliography--do note it is a 15.4 mb file.
This post originally appeared online at the Tex[t]-Mex Galleryblog.


9.21.16

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The internet is so much about what to look at.
For me, that’s weird. You see the bulk of the first part of my life was bound up with reading—which is all about looking at things, reading words, but has little to do with seeing, with reading pictures.
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It is true that as a kid, I was all about reading while seeing, with Richie Rich, Mad Magazine, Vampirella, Batman, Eerie, and Plop! infecting the technicolor corridors of my imagination.
But after that came college and graduate school with a major in literature—so novels took over (that and critical theory), so words came to dominate the scene of my life.
And so, now, I return to pictures. “The Medium is the Message,” Marshall McLuhan told us, and he was right especially when you think about old pictures and Polaroids from the 60s onward. Now decaying and disappearing, Polaroids are so much an image of yesterday for my generation (I was born in 1961), that we find ourselves magically drawn to the form today (even if it is just in the form of Instagram filters, digital magic that transforms a picture from 2016 into the semiotic twin of a picture taken in 1966).
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Which brings me to the current rage for Guadalupe Rosales’s collective curating project on Instagram called Veteranas y Rucas: SoCal Youth Foto Archive, recently profiled in L.A. Weekly, Remezcla, and Mitu.
I keep going back time and again to see a past that mirrors much of mine—though tons of the pictures capture life in Southern California before 1990, they evoke an aesthetic, a feel, a groove, a rhythm, and an eros, more on that below in the last picture, that I can’t get enough of. Some folks get addicted to opioids, I am done in by a lowrider car from 1973. Some like the sweet euphorics of Mollies (Ecstasy), I get sidetracked by the raging hair on some random “ruca” or “veterana” that takes me back to Laredo, Texas, circa 1977.
Here are some recent snapshots from the site that I bookmarked that are talking back to me…
Nina Vera sits atop the cool old car, hand to hair, addressing the camera with the knowing look of someone going somewhere. Many of the pictures on this site give voice to strong women, rucas and veteranas of substance, whose beauty is a function of their strength, their strength somehow locked dialectically with their beauty. Are we speaking of an aesthetics of power or the power of aesthetics? It does not matter. All that echoes back to me is the pathos of the photograph, a relic of a woman and a moment fading past memory.
As moving as the photographs are the commentaries of those who remember, those who reach out, sharp arch missives from friends from the past immortalized (or, as immortalized as you can get on the internet) by the archiving power of a hashtag, of a website. Instagrams, like the Western Union Telegrams from the past that inspired their name, hit with the power of life and death, a snapshot from yesterday that reaches out from the past to the future with the power to compel you to return, to memory, to pieces of yourself you left behind, hid, or forgot.
I am the youngest of three children born and raised in Laredo, Texas, with two older sisters, so perhaps I am drawn more to the photos of women—my memory of being a young man in Laredo is always bound up with my outsider status, too gringo-affiliated (Gilligan’s Island more my cup of tea than Siempre en Domingo) and too pocho to be truly Laredense, I was never just one of the vatos. Similar complications and my own teenage awkwardness led to a similar status with the ladies, but still, old habits die hard. So I find myself witnessing the images of these rucas, watchful of the evolving styles of hair and dress of the veteranas, time and again. Do you look at pictures as I do? I look into the faces and wonder about the secret yearnings of their hearts—their frustrations, their ciphered dreams and desires. Looking closely, I try to piece together answers to the mysteries of strangers with whom I have no history, no knowledge, looking for some kind of magic Rosetta stone that will translate their muted testimony into something I can understand.
In my art, I try to give honor to women of these lost generations—to evoke the mextasy of a yesterday that should be part of today.  Here are a couple:

I will end here with a picture of some vatos, rucas, veteranas, and more from my own past—it is 1981 and a group of old friends from Laredo, Texas, are drinking it up at a friend’s apartment in Austin, Texas.  See if you can pick me and my girlfriend Rosalinda Flores out, we are the ones smiling back at you on the right.
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9.16.16

    • Nericcio Title | Cholo Goth Culture
Just a quick posting this fine Friday morning for my new friends and readers here at Arrob@! If you are not already following Remezcla online, you are missing out on a treasure trove of Latinx pop culture deliciousness and amazingness. Just this morning into my in-box comes a hot, breaking story on Cholo Goth—
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Cholo goth is powerful because of its presumed contradictions — the violent machismo of Chicano gang culture and the sensitive self-expression of goth music. To be goth is to be outcast, but to be cholo goth is to be an outcast amongst outcasts. 'I had to fight to dress this way, man,' Reyes tells us, his rings clicking on the conference room table we’re seated around. On the day Prayers visits the Remezcla office in Brooklyn, it’s 95 degrees and humid outside, but both Reyes and Parley are dressed completely in black, from boot to fingertip. Parley is wearing his signature beanie; Reyes’ shaved head is covered in tattoos.
Read Remezcla's music feature here.

Have a great weekend Arrob@heads! If you want to check out more of my various projects go to my online barriohive here.


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