The sneak peak screening of the documentary Dark Progressivism at the Orange County Museum of Art, presented by the OCMA and the Newport Beach Film Festival, was both the culmination of two years of hard work by the filmmakers and the beginning of the film’s path through festivals. The documentary follows the careers and progress of artists whose roots are in the Los Angeles barrios. The development of Los Angeles graffiti style is used by writer/director Rodrigo Ribera D’Ebre as tool to explore the social and political forces at work in Los Angeles, especially during the the last two decades of the 20th century.
D’Ebre, a frequent contributor to Cartwheelart.com, is first and foremost a social historian and, like the artists he documents, came out of gang environment. The author of Urban Politics: The Political Culture of Sur 13 Gangs and three novels, D’Ebre is currently pursuing his Masters in Fine Arts at Mount Saint Mary’s and working on next book, a social history of Los Angeles through its art. He co-curated two art shows focused on Dark Progressivism with Cartwheel Art’s Lisa Derrick who is an associate producer on the film, with the curators’ portion of the sales going to help fund the film. The artists in the film and their friends also donated artwork for a silent auction to raise funds, and Cartwheel Art is the film’s media sponsor.
The OCMA screening was also firm expression of social progress and awareness. Just two years earlier, another museum in Orange County, Anaheim’s Muzeo, was the focus of scrutiny when an important exhibition of Chicano artists, “Con Safos (With Respect): The Art and Culture of Urban Chirography,” was pulled by the curator, Galo Canote, after pressure from the museum’s trustees, after a meeting with Anaheim Police Department’s gang enforcement division (Never mind that the local gangs had called a truce in anticipation of the show so that everyone could safely enjoy the exhibition, proving that art can build bridges). Several artists who were to show in “Con Safos” are featured in Dark Progressivism; the film concludes with artists finishing the “Dark Progressivism” mural at the El Segundo Museum of Art as part of the Getty Special Exhibition’s “Scratch”/”Liber Amicorum” show.
After the screening, D’Ebre, producer James Yi and artists Big Sleeps and Prime participated in a panel discussion, giving a behind scenes look at the film and the subject matter. D’Ebre concludes:
It was a great feeling to be part of the Orange County Museum of art in collaboration with the Newport Beach Film Festival’s Orange Series programming. I think the film was a great fit for their current exhibition with Sandow Birk, which was directly influenced by Los Angeles graffiti.
Sandow Birk: American Qu’ran runs through February 28 at the Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach, CA 92660 (949) 759-1122 Hours are Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday through 11am – 5pm; $10 for adults, $750 for students and seniors. Children are free. On Fridays, the museum is open to 8am and admission is free for all ages.