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Text to mixed media: A visual interpretation of the Upright Revolution

Text to mixed media: A visual interpretation of the Upright Revolution

Jean Deleage Art Gallery, Los Angeles
May 2019
The Upright Revolution: A Visual Exhibition
Curated by Jimmy Centenno

Enlightened or Awakening or Rise up 20” x 20”
Acrylic on canvas
Painting by Laura Vazquez Rodriguez

This painting illustrates my interpretation of the short story; Upright Revolution or Why Humans Walk Upright By Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. It is a story about conflict and the human struggle for power. It is about harmony and chaos, life and death, unity and division. This is the story of man’s endurance, his perseverance and his awakening to his life song, as the story goes, we are one body, “us for us” “unity is our power.” Like the story, my painting is a celebration of man’s life song. Fashioned uniquely but united in purpose we must rise up and stand together to protect and serve one another in love. At the bottom of my painting is a lion, strong and beautiful but untamed and dangerous. It is aggressive and competitive. The lion stares across at humanities brokenness, its parts divided and weak. It is prepared to fight but unable to move. Disconnected and crumbling the body is powerless. Above the mound is a man who rises up clothed with the armor of love, unity and strength. He is blanketed in peace. He moves forward on his journey of reconciliation and hope. With a staff in hand he walks across the ruins. Butterflies rise up symbolizing transformation into love, faithfulness and harmony. Just ahead of him are two hearts united flying freely in the sky.

All Body Anthem, mixed media by Damola Adepoju 2019

The manner of expression by the writer of “The Upright Revolution” or “Why Humans Walk Upright” attributes human organs and passions to foster unity and equality. This has inspired this mixed media with the use of old newspapers processed into soft tissues to define the form of the stylized figure ( mandate). Layered unto tonal surface subdued hue of black acrylic and connecting lines, having the dramatic animal spectators and the legs and arms in contest. Luminous white hue harmonized the effect of bold and the short texts with application of a touch of gold depicting “All Body Anthem”.

The Colourful Spectators and Contestants. Acrylic on canvas by Damola Adepoju 2019

A perch at the top gives you below- eye level that captures the sea of heads of the beauty of the colourful spectators that come in peace, with vibrant yellow hue romance with the luxuriant forests rendered in impasto. The juxtaposition of the circle of challenge in the fore ground for the arms and legs to display their possessed skills as they agreed later to Walk Upright. The gloomy earthen browns capture the contest. No venture, no gain, makes animals to stick to their conservative party. This painting is inspired by the short story of The Upright Revolution: or Why Humans Walk Upright.

Upright Revolution 2019 36×48 by Yolanda Gonzalez

In the contest to control the body between the legs and arms an innocence is lost. The Mayan deity becomes the safekeeper of that innocence to be restored upon the restoration of unity.


Identidad y Reconciliacion- Identity and Reconcilation by Mario Avila


Si Seguimos Flotando Pereceremos-If We Continue to Float We Will Persish 29.5×23.5 by Mario Avila by Mario Avila


Mario Avila’s Letter to Ngugi

Querido hermano Ngugi,

Te saludo fraternalmente, y te envió un pequeño relato de mi trabajo sobre el
mi trabajo de arte sobre este hecho.

Guatemala somos un país de 108 mil kilómetros cuadrados, pero con una riqueza enorme culturalmente hablando. Además, contamos con riquezas naturales como petróleo, níquel, cobalto, plata, cobre y además grandes cantidades de oro. Por lo tanto, las grandes trasnacionales, como las oligarquías del país, masacraron a grandes cantidades de la población Maya y mestizos que se oponían a este despojo de nuestra madre tierra.

Para ser un poco exacto, fueron masacrado las poblaciones de más 640 aldeas y los mejores líderes, mujeres y hombres, y dentro de ellos, pintores, poetas y gente de teatro. Más de medio millón de personas fueron asesinadas entre muertos, detenidos y desaparecidos. Por lo mismo, este trabajo representa el genocidio, y es hasta ahora que estamos tratando de articular ese cuerpo que quedó separado y hoy tratamos de juntarlos con manos, brazos, pies y memoria. Cada una de las piezas tienen relación con ese cuento tan bello y profundo que escribiste.
Y es que así África se parece tanto a nuestra historia.

Mario Ávila
Exprisionero político, tres hermanos asesinados, un tío y dos de mis hijos secuestrados y torturados.
¡Que tu ponencia en Chile sea de mucho éxito!


Dialogo- Dialogue 11×14 by Mario Avila


Genocidio-Genocide 16×60 by Mario Avila


Dear brother Ngugi,

I greet you fraternally, and I sent you a brief account of my artwork.

In Guatemala we are a country of 108 thousand square kilometers, but with a huge wealth culturally speaking. In addition, we have natural riches such as oil, nickel, cobalt, silver, copper and large amounts of gold. Therefore, the big transnationals, like the oligarchies of the country have massacred large numbers of the Maya population and mestizos who oppose this plundering of our mother earth.

To be exact, over 640 villages and the best leaders, women and men, were massacred. Within them were painters, poets and people of theater. More than half a million people were assassinated, killed, arrested and missing. For this same reason, this work represents genocide. Now, that we are trying to articulate a body that was separated, today, we try to put it together with hands, arms, feet and memory. Each of the art pieces relates to that beautiful, deep story you wrote. And that’s how Africa looks so much like our history.

Mario Avila
Political ex-prisoner, with three brothers murdered, one uncle and two of my children kidnapped and tortured.


Upright Revolution by Yaneli Delgado

Yaneli Delgado is an artist from South Central Los Angeles. Her work is often inspired by written works, storytelling, history, culture, and artists of color. In this work of art, Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s short story, “The Upright Revolution” allowed her to reflect on how mother earth and the human beings need one another to live and cultivate. A quote that stood out to her was “Even in the water, [the body] worked well together to help the body float, swim or dive.” Water in many cultures represents fertility. Although the story examines the internal conflicts of the body, she wanted to depict how everything around us works well when they help one another just like the end of the story when the organs and limbs all worked together.

The process of this print began by learning about the author’s background and storytelling. Yaneli was intrigued by how he uses writing in his indigenous language to share with the world the significance of how colonial history plays an important role in today’s culture. She was also intrigued by wa Thiong’o’s belief of translation which allows people to interact with one another. Yaneli wanted to focus on water, fertility, and nature. As she also uses culture in her artwork, she wanted to share her knowledge in the Mexica (Aztec) culture with others. In this artwork she wanted to experiment a little outside of her conceptual artwork and work with both abstract and conceptual themes. Yaneli hopes viewers can give their own interpretation of her artwork because at the end of the day, by conversing and translating thoughts from this visual, this allows for one another to learn from other cultures, which is an important concept in this Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s story.


Mesoamerican Totempole Ceramics, 12” x 12” x 24” by Mario A. Hernández

Mesoamerican Totempole covers the symbols and iconography from some of the most predominant civilizations during Mesoamerican times; the sculpture has a representation of one of the earliest groups during the formative period like the Olmecs, the Mayans, and the Aztecs cover the Classic and Post Classic periods. Together the composition pays tribute to the many glorious time periods, in form of a tower of power, it shares the evolution and revolution these cultures endured.


Ica Yollotl (from the heart) Acrylic on Vinyl 31” x 81” by Mario A. Hernández

Ica yollotl (from the heart) was created as a reflection based on The Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright, By Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. Every part of the human body has a crucial function that overall allows it to perform and thrive for many years, the flexible capabilities and its elegant crafted figure is a testimony of its incredible potential. Ica Yollotl depicts a freefalling body into the deep blue sea, its irresponsive yet relaxed posture gives you a sense of carelessness. It is a reminder that sometimes you just have to let go and allowing the forces of nature to guide you to your destiny. The heart radiating from the center of the body projects the heartfelt feeling of human kindness and how the heart is also a guide dance to your life path. This composition pays tribute to the human body, from the history of its evolution to its resilience and perseverance.

“The Fall of Man” 2019
Linoleum cut block print on 100% hand made paper from Oaxaca, Mexico.
Image Size: Approx 5”x8”, Paper Size: Approx 9”x13”

The Fall of Man takes place in the story during the contest when the Legs and Arms are issuing challenges to each other. At that time the Body is in a state of disorientation and it becomes uncoordinated and cannot function like it should. The Arms aren’t as strong to do what the Legs can do and the Legs aren’t as nimble to do what the Arms can do. Although the contest was brief the lesson was timeless. Eventually they realized that the best resolution was to unite. Not one limb was better than the other and each set of limbs was good at what it did to help support the rest of the Body. And through this, the “All Body Anthem” was born and the body learned to work together in order to form the revolution, the Upright Revolution!

○ Green Paper 1/1
○ White Paper 4/4
○ Tan Paper 2/3
○ Grey Paper 2/2


Topography by Sandra Vista


The Court Jester by Sandra Vista


You Are Me
48″ X 24″ Oil + Oil-stick on Canvas
By Ramon Ramirez

The painting You Are Me is directly inspired by the story The Upright Revolution, specifically from the song All Body Anthem which is mentioned at the end of the story. In these times, we need to work together and realize that we are one. As the song goes “Beauty is unity…together we work…for a healthy body.” The painting depicts two sets of palm trees, one set is ‘normal’ and the other is ‘inverted’. The lower set of palm tress represent this world and the upper set represents our ancestors or a cosmic connection. I believe that we need to call upon our ancestors to help give us strength to aid us in navigating the tumultuous waters of today’s political climate. I do not exist alone. “Beauty is unity”.

Upright Revolution 2019 by Pedro Rios Martinez

The short Story by Ngugi wa Thiong O’s said so much as humans that we are and how we evolved. The fable of the story ‘Upright Revolution: Or Why Humans Walk Upright, introduces us to how important the body parts function as one and the weight it carries in making decisions about social justice for us all today. My interpretation of the story gave me the opportunity to express my style of painting with small brush strokes adding an African influence of color. This has allowed me to transmit a visual journey to bring attention in uniting fragments of ourselves together.

Beauty is unity by Nolan Fansler

“When the whole body sang “Beauty is unity” I realized that this is exactly what I strive for in my own art. I want every moment and detail to be just as essential as every other part of a painting. Through contrast and harmony most art in general I believe seeks to show the viewer the most essential parts that make a whole, none of which more essential than the other. This breaks down hierarchies or un-limbmanship tendencies encouraging the greater body of society to function with more equality.”

New Direction by Nolan Fansler

Jimmy Centeno [Curator] holds an A.A. in Liberal Arts from East L.A. Community College, a B.A. in Latin American Studies from Cal State L.A., and is concluding a second Master’s in Art History. He was raised in South Central Los Angeles and is the son of immigrant parents born In Mexico and El Salvador. He is a welder by trade with 20 years of welding experience. His experience as a welder has brought him close day in and day out to many realities across different communities throughout the city of Los Angeles. He has organized art lectures at the Vincent Price Art Museum. He has also participated in international conferences on philosophy and aesthetics. He is currently working with renowned Mexican philosopher Enrique Dussel on de-colonial thought. As an artist he seeks to express himself by using all form of mediums which includes photography, welding, found objects, and painting. His art attempts to narrow the distance between borders, color/race and class. His goal is to bridge and stitch our differences by reducing the distance between us.

C. Nolan Fansler was born in 1990 and grew up in the Bay Area. He is a self-taught painter who with the help of his grandmother learned to explore ideas and emotions with paint. His work primarily plays with the boundary between figuration and abstraction where interpretation is most open. Nolan currently works out of his studio in North East Los Angeles and is an artist assistant to Knowledge Bennett, Margaret Garcia and Frank Romero.

Pedro Rio Martinez: I started my career in 1967 after attending a Mexican Art Appreciation class at the El Paso, Texas Community College. At the college’s Mckellilgon Canyon Amphitheater I had the opportunity to construct the first set for the “El Paso del Norte” play also known as “Viva! El Paso”.

While studying art the University of Texas in El Paso, I was the scenic artist for the “Ballet and Opera Guild.” I worked on created props, backdrops with paintings, and built sets. At the Continental Museum I assisted in the restoring one of mural inside the museum. I reproduced forty (40) logos for sponsors’ advertisements for the first “Civic Center Annual Festival”, in El Paso, Texas.

After working for several motion picture productions in the El Paso in 1984 I was offered to relocate to California and continue working in the motion picture production.
I studied at Otis Parsons art Institute in Los Angeles, East Los Angeles College and attended workshops at Self-Help Graphics.

My exhibitions have included a mural in Jackson Hole, WY commissioned by the National Endowment of the Arts, a bronze sculpture of the late “Congressman Ed Roybal” of Los Angeles. I have participated in various group shows, solo exhibitions, commissioned projects and numerous restoration projects. I have exhibited in El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and California.
My work has been displayed at Los Paisanos Gallery, Chamizal in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and a “Retrospective” was exhibit at the International Museum of Art in El Paso, Texas.

I am a “self taught” artist, painter, and sculpture, and I value the knowledge I’ve attained at various Art schools. I consider my work to be a form of communication in color, of what I see and have experience. I continue to work and share my art as a means of communicating social and environmental concerns.

Ramon Ramirez is a Los Angeles-based artist with a background in architecture. He received his B.A., M.A. + M.Arch. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, the city has served as his muse from the onset. He is one of the featured artists in the book Contemporary Chicana/Chicano Artists.

Along with galleries throughout the country, institutions that have exhibited his works include Boise State University, the Carnegie Art Museum, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Fullerton College, the Mesa Southwest Museum in Arizona, the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, Ohio State University, Queens University at Charlotte, the Snite Museum at the University of Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Woodbury University in Burbank, CA.

The Bilingual Press at Arizona State University, the Business Journal of Hispanic Research, New York University Press and recently UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center have published his paintings and drawings in books, journals and magazines. His work has also been featured on ABC7’s VISTA LA tv news program.

Laura Vazquez Rodriguez was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in the small community of Pico Rivera. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, specializing in Illustration, from California State University, Long Beach.
Laura’s love for her culture and deep faith are reflected in each of her compositions.

Laura is a skilled, visual storyteller and her paintings abound with symbolism. Laura’s art focuses on spirituality, life and death, love and healing. Laura is best known for her vibrant paintings of mother and child. Strong, symmetrical compositions and continuous lines are all important elements within her complex designs.

Laura’s commercial art has been showcased on book covers, educational posters, documentaries and periodicals. She has created art for CABE (California Association of Bilingual Educators) and AMAE (The Association of Mexican American Educators). Her personal paintings can be found in many private and public art collections.

Laura has exhibited artwork at Self Help Graphics, UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona, The University of Arizona, Whittier College, Santa Paula’s California Oil Museum, Santa Fe Springs, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Gallery ChimMaya, and Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles. Laura is a resident artist at Casita del Pueblo in Whittier, California. Her most recent works include a logo for the city of Los Angeles and the cover art for Roberto Rodriguez’s book Our Sacred Maiz is Our Mother: Indigeneity and Belonging in the Americas.

Yolanda González was born into a family whose artistic heritage dates back to 1877. Her world is one of curiosity, demonstrating her love of people and their surroundings. González’s travels in different countries, the bonds forged with individuals in those places, and the resulting transformative experiences are reflected in her art and her life. She is known for her strong, bold brush strokes of color and texture, intent on evoking imagination and emotion.

González studied at the Pasadena Art Center College of Design after winning a painting competition that awarded her a scholarship to the prestigious school. This led her to Self-Help Graphics, an involvement that lasted for years and resulted in her being sent to Spain and Scotland as a representative for exhibitions in those countries. Over the years, she has exhibited her works in solo and group exhibitions across the United States, throughout Europe, and in South Africa.

In 1998, she was an artist in residence in Ginza, Japan followed by a similar stint in Assisi, Italy during 1999. Among the many museums that have shown her work are the Armand Hammer Museum, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the Japanese American National Museum and the Diego Rivera Museum in México City.

You can also see Yolanda’s works of art on the Gold line trains as well as Buses throughout LA in a collaboration with AARP.

Exhibitions:Russia, Japan, Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, Africa, Alaska and the U.S.
Museum Exhibitions: Musee d’Aquitaine | San Diego Contemporary Museum / Armand HammerMuseum | Temporary Contemporary Museum /
Japanese American National Museum | Chicago Museum | Santa Monica Museum Laguna Museum | Diego Rivera Museum | Latino Museum | Corpus Christi Museum Museum of Monterey | Snite Museum of Art/ Museo Carillo Gil / 2019 VPAM

Mario A. Hernandez: With colorful interpretations galvanized by Mesoamericans eccentric artistry, Mario A. Hernández examines over three millenniums of ancient American art and iconography, he visually translates them into modern compositions and embeds them with contemporary events. Hernández’s most recent work is comprised of themes related to culture syncretism, social justice, native mythology, immigration, and current struggles.

Mario A. Hernández was born in Hidalgo State, Mexico, and since the age of two has resided in the East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights area. He has received a trio of Associate of Arts degrees from East Los Angeles City College in Art History, Studio Art and Arts Graphic Communication.

He is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in Studio Art at California State University, Los Angeles. Hernandez currently resides in City Terrace, East Los Angeles where he continues to create multi mix-media art using various methods.

Sandra Vista was born in 1952 in Nogales, Arizona.

For over thirty-five years, Vista has been a Los Angeles based artist focusing on pattern and decoration painting and mixed-media works. In 1976 after 2 years at the University of Arizona, Vista completed her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University with a BA Art/California Single Subject Teaching Credential (Art) (1978 and 1979 respectively) and an MFA (Painting) from California State Long Beach (1982)

As an art educator and practicing artist, teachers have been her major influence and inspiration. Vista was an art instructor primarily for at-risk-kids for Los Angeles Unified School District (1983-2015) and East Los Angeles College (adjunct 2000-03).

Currently working on various art series from painting to mixed-media projects, Vista is experiencing the “fruits of her labor”, by having several up-coming art exhibitions in Los Angeles. She has had solo exhibitions at Ave 50 Studios (Viente- 20 years of work from DTLA 2019), Vincent Price Museum-East Los Angeles Campus (2013) and Coagula Curatorial-Brewery Art Complex (2001 and 2002) Additionally, Vista has exhibited nationally and internationally in New York (Organization of Independent Artists 1998, 2002, 2003) and Chicago (National Museum of Mexican Art-The Women of Juarez 2009) as well as an artist-in-residency in Baltonfured and Budapest, Hungary (1997 and 1998).

Vista writes reviews and interviews for her personal blog “One Hundred Percent Rag” and previous reviews for “White Hot Magazine”. Also, her art practice has extended to curating exhibitions for I-5 Gallery, Los Angeles and Arena I in Santa Monica, California.

Mario Avila

Los Ojos De La Montaña

En sus dibujos, carentes de una narrativa explícita, y sin la rigurosidad del dibujo maya, son los seres que se muestran a través de los ojos de rostros claramente indígenas, quienes comunican y llaman a dialogar con el espectador. Son sus imágenes un enjambre de líneas abstractas de ritmos discontinuos de las que emergen múltiples figuras en lo que guarda una semejanza a los maestros guatemaltecos Guillermo Grajeda Mena y Víctor Vásquez Kestler.

Contrario a los rostros del artista italiano Amadeo Modigliani en los que la ausencia de ojos da la sensación de vacío, los rostros de Mario Ávila están habitados por seres que temerosos se esconden, vigilan y se asoman para reclamar justicia. A pesar de haber sido testigo ocular y víctima del odio más aberrante, sus dibujos están llenos de limpieza y paz.

También trabaja la escultura en hierro y la trata con desenfado con trazos extraídos del gesto motor, con la libertad que le ofrece la materia, sin ceñirse a esquemas escolásticos.

De manera intuitiva, en sus esculturas mezcla el constructivismo sin abandonar la figura humana. Sus esculturas guardan elementos del arte MADI (Movimiento estético surgido en el Cono Sur a principio del Siglo XX), especialmente por que combina la invención con la creación, dos características de tal movimiento y porque el objeto de arte trasciende su propio espacio y se mezcla con la realidad circundante a través de la luz. No obstante, tales características, su obra escultórica también incluye imágenes representacionales que le dan unidad con el resto de su obra plástica volviéndola muy suya, muy maya, y por los tanto, indiscutiblemente guatemalteca.

Mario es autodidacta aunque tomó talleres que le han ayudado en direccionar sus pasos. El artista nos dice que, “Cada pincelada, cada línea de la pluma es como una poesía que logra transmitir su profundo amor por la vida, por los otros seres humanos, y en especial, un profundo aprecio y respeto por la mujer. El arte es para mi un compromiso social el cual podemos dar a conocer como si escribiéramos un libro lleno de colores mágicos y a veces hasta con dolor.” Continúa diciendo que recuerda con admiración el trabajo artístico de Felipe García Rac, joven maya, quien muriera entre los calcinados de la embajada de España en 1980.

Tenemos interés por crear una cultura de solidaridad y memoria de nuestro tejido inmigrante en Los Ángeles, California, y estas obras representan ese proceso de dolor, lágrimas, cicatrización, recuperación de la memoria y esperanza.

Ernesto Vazquez: “I am an artist born and raised in the projects of Boyle Heights. I found my love for art through my love for comics and cartoons. As a six year old, I would often re-create my favorite characters and everything that caught my eye. My teachers recognized my talent and encouraged me to participate in contests. I won several scholarships to art schools throughout my childhood. As an adolescent, I continued to explore art in its different expressions. I was captivated by graffiti art and the underground street art scene. I spent many hours studying the style but after spending even more hours in community service, I decided to enroll in a school for graphic arts. After two years, I redirected my focus toward giving life to my ideas rather than someone else’s.

“My first exhibition was in 2001 at Casa De Sousa in Placita Olvera. Through this event I was invited to meet with Chicano artists in a group called “Mental Menudo” facilitated by the great Gilbert “Magu” Lujan. Mental Menudo awoke in me an appetite for cultural art. I started to appreciate the connection between art and my identity. In 2005, I began to learn the art of printmaking at La Mano Press. I learned linoleum and wood block printing from Artemio Rodriguez and screen printing from John E. Miner.

“In 2007 I became more involved with community organizing which influenced me to create socially conscious artwork. In 2009 I joined a group of five community members in establishing Solidarity Ink, a politically driven screen-printing cooperative. Being a part of this cooperative allowed me to gain experience in managing a print shop and curating cultural and socio-political art shows. Solidarity Ink closed its doors in 2012, giving me the opportunity to re-evaluate my path as an artist. Around this time I was introduced to, and immediately captivated by, the art of Jiu Jitsu. Learning this art has taken my creative energy in a new direction as well as given me a passion for teaching and sharing knowledge. As a continual student of art in all its forms, I look forward to learning new ways to share my expressions with you. Recent exhibitions have included not only my hand made prints but original illustrations, paintings and mixed media pieces. As of 2018 I returned to school to study Printmaking and hopefully within the next few years I will be able to acquire an MFA in Printmaking in hopes to continue to evolve as a student and as an artist.”

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