Los Angeles prides itself on diversity. At this point in the city’s history, it’s cliché to refer to the sprawling space as a melting pot of cultures, but that argument still holds. Just think of the art scene–walk into any gallery opening and you can view work from an artist that works halfway across the world amidst a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural crowd. And through their art you can learn about cultural and economic forces that shape our world.
Visitors to “A Certain Evening Light” on Saturday night at Seeley Studios in Glendale might not know the modern meaning of a “Zapatista,” but might recognize the figures from works on the street, in galleries, and even in the news. Eyeone, an artist I met about a year ago while helping out at Hold Up Art, began creating the characters for today’s Zapatistas, ENZL (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional or Zapatisita Army of National Liberation). These Zapatistas take their name from the Mexican revolutionary and land reformer Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919) and his Liberation Army of the South, which played a major part in the Mexican Revolution and that country’s liberation from colonial rule. Eyeone’s art played a major part in creating ENZL’s visual identity and bringing their message to a global audience.
ENZL, which came to life in Chiapas, Mexico in 1994, focuses human rights, anti-globalization, education, and economic reformation through non-violence. Eyeone helped the movement with the creation of his characters which came to exemplify the movement, which has also received the support of musicians like Rage Against the Machine and Brujeria. From Chiapas, Eyeone’s characters came to Los Angeles, appearing in street art works like those he creates with Cache, a prominent street artist and muralist famous for his chicken characters.
“A Certain Evening Light” dedicated one wall to chronicling the move from Eyeone’s Zapatista support to his presence on Los Angeles’ walls. The scrapbook-like display gave a quick synopsis of his involvement with the movement and the development of his Zapatista characters. Across from that retrospective wall, visitors took in a very different aesthetic as Eyeone captured familiar scenes from Los Angeles’ streets through mixed media on wood. The images felt like the corner of many a city intersection, the sidewalks of Skid Row, and the local hangout spot of Downtown bicyclists. In hazy, gritty-looking works, Eyeone captured the heart of a city that can feel simultaneously hopeful and heart wrenching. In Lying, Eyeone includes a Spanish paper sign advertising a room for rent next to the figure of a sleeping, homeless man. The sign might read in Spanish but the figure’s state remains universal.
Ultimately, that type of juztapostion makes Eyeone’s work representative of Los Angeles and its art scene — even when we might not speak the same language, good art uplifts our spirits beyond words, affecting both our hearts and minds. And as I drove away from the show and spotted a mural with Cache and Eyeone characters, I remembered that message goes beyond the four walls of a gallery.
Top: Pinatas by LeHumanBeingSeeley Studios
1800 South Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91204