While the film industry celebrated the art and glamour of the movies during the Oscars ceremony last weekend at the Dolby Theatre, there was another exhibition playing out underground. This wasn’t a celebration of people watching a movie at 24 frames per second, but one of Angelenos looking at themselves one day at a time.
Artist and California State University, Northridge Chicana/o studies professor Harry Gamboa Jr.’s exhibition, “Vidrio,” focuses on seven photographs in light boxes lining the Hollywood/Highland Metro Red Line Station. The works are images of Gamboa’s ensemble troupe, Virtual Vérité, as they take a final bow during what he calls “a compelling visual opera.” The images overlook the throngs of Metro Rail riders as if members of the troupe were there with them — which was part of Gamboa Jr.’s greater goal.
“The title ‘Vidrio’ implies that there is a need for the viewer to discern between transparency and invisible barriers,” he said. “’Vidrio’ portrays the successful decoding of complex social, cultural and political rules of engagement that is necessary to break through glass ceilings.”
Gamboa is no stranger to provocative art. As a founding member of the ’70s and ’80s Chicano art collective Asco, he and his cohorts in the group shook up the the norms of the day using photography, performance art and film to respond to the socioeconomic and political conditions surrounding the Chicano community in East Los Angeles. They caught the attention of people around the world. Gamboa’s work within the group achieved international acclaim. He regularly exhibits his work and speaks about art to groups all over the globe.
“I was invited by Metro to submit work for [a] competition, to present work for public display at Metro Rail Stations,” said Gamboa. “A Metro arts committee selected ‘Vidrio’ for installation. The use of light boxes was predetermined as part of the competition, [and] I elected to produce a work that I believed would function particularly well in a back-lit condition.”
There was no direct connection made by the Metro Line committee to the back lighting of the photos with the projection of movie images onto a screen, but Gamboa sees the link. He considers “Vidrio” a repudiation of what he believes is Hollywood’s narrow worldview, something he’s been using as a target since his days with Asco.
“’Vidrio’ is taking a multicultural bow on behalf of the people of Los Angeles beneath the Dolby Theatre, where [they hold] the Oscars — a TV event that most often does not share the same breadth of cultural celebration,” he said. “I am excited that people of Los Angeles will have an opportunity to see ‘Vidrio’ in juxtaposition to the Oscars.”
The exhibit will be on display at the Metro Red Line Hollywood/Highland Station through July.