Latinx Artist Fellowship

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John Valadez

Painter, Muralist, and Photographer

Los Angeles, California

Instagram @johnvaladezart

From the beginning when I was establishing my realistic motives to render what I see, figurative is a narrative choice. Telling stories from and about the Chicana/o, or Chicanada, I address issues with conflict, contrast, humor, and the obvious urban spectacle–especially the ignored.
The mediums I use are based on established traditions, including scale and immediacy with quality in presentation. Acrylic, oil, and pastel are all mastered then mixed with photography as tools, all learned techniques, all matched with intuitive storytelling. A risk-based trust in artistic conclusions. It all becomes a motivation sourced from ideas. The accumulation towards a means to an end in an artistic form.

The best of the work seeks a transcendence, a timelessness of ourselves from thought into picture.

John Valadez (b. 1951, Los Angeles, CA) is a painter, photographer, and muralist living in Los Angeles. A trailblazer of the early Chicano Arts Movement in the 70’s and 80’s, following the Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s, his work has come to define an iconography of Chicano experience in the city by catalyzing it’s changing dynamics and reconstructing a mythical allegory that speaks to an alternative vision. Valadez was active in early impactful collectives such as Los Four and Center de Arte Publico and continues to pursue politically engaged work with a significant career arcing over 40 years years championing Chicano and Latinx communities. Through his multidisciplinary practice, spanning documentary photography and portraiture, public murals, ambitiously scaled paintings, and pastel works, Valadez cultivated a style of his own that transcends genre designations. Never settling into one box, in neither medium, concept, style, or theme, the transmutations in his work evoke the ebbs and flows of fluidity between multiple cultures, idioms, and visual lexicons, effectively mirroring the unrestful experience of the Chicano identity. 

Lauded for his groundbreaking realist painting, with “high art” techniques radically applied to everyday, urban, and working-class scenes of Los Angeles, Valadez was one of the first painters to portray social commentaries and witnessed encounters with dignity, pride, and the distinctive aesthetics of his communities in Downtown, Boyle Heights and East LA. A distinguishable factor in Valadez’s social practice does not merely depict his community but also gives an agency to facilitate dialogue and imagine their own outcomes. These works not only address identity issues that challenge stereotypes and biases against Chicanos (faced both then and now) but also create a space for Chicanos at the helm of contemporary art. Valadez’s Implementation of mannerism, abstraction, and montage as a vehicle for allegory and vigorous storytelling activates a myriad of social-political and economic conversations. However, it is Valadez’s dynamic use of realism that exemplifies a necessary centering of such critical discourses in humanity.

Selected Works

An orange lowrider convertible overlooking a dramatic cloudscape is full of swirling water.
Two figures sit on the edge of a destroyed sinking ship and look at the water. To their left, a woman looks over the bow at the water.
Two shirtless men stand in front of a array of dolls. Above their heads, refracted images of women’s faces form a large circle.