Shizu Saldamando, Irina and Ami / Las Tres Adelitas, 2009. Color pencil and collage on paper, 30 x 49 inches.
Los Angeles, like every other international city, expresses its own ethnic flavors via arts and culture. Shizu Saldamando’s art work in her solo exhibition There is a place at Steve Turner Contemporary embodies a specific subgroup found all over the city, the Latino toe-gazer. For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, it is easily identified by its look (black hair, snake bite piercings, bookish glasses, combat boots and Morrisey t-shirts — remember Larry Clark’s 2005 film Wassup Rockers?). L.A. is the epicenter of a renaissance where an “arte y estilo” unique to Latino culture is simultaneously celebrated and mocked by its youthful and insouciant participants. Saldamando’s artistic production also has a uniquely Asian flavor. Fixated on design motifs and spatial ambiguities and employing blank white or natural backgrounds, the stark beauty of her portraits are a testament to her obsessive focus and rich heritage. Saldamado herself is half Japanese/half Latino, and the amalgam of the two very different aesthetic sensibilities fluidly makes for fabulous eye candy.
Shizu Saldamando, Sandra / I Heart Error, 2009. Color pencil, collage and glitter on paper, 25 x 17 1/2 inches.
Gallery says: There is a place takes its title from a popular Morrissey song, There is a place in hell for me and my friends and it documents Shizu Saldamando’s friends, who are also artists. In her work, Saldamando translates her snapshot photographs into drawings and paintings that depict her friends in social situations that she observes in bars, dance clubs, backyard parties and art galleries. She simplifies, and in some cases, completely eliminates the background to decontextualize the specific setting. In so doing, she has created multi-layered portraits that are both spare and complex.
Saldamado’s friends who attended the opening — the glitterati and the Latino art community — gestured, drank, and canoodled beautifully for us. The show’s title has the perfect mix of existential dread and pop witticism to keep the crowds coming back for more. With celebrity, talent, and good taste in hand, Saldamando could be perfectly poised to take over the international art community, so it’s no surprise that Latino art superstar Mario Ybarra Jr. was on hand for the opening, as well as Shirvin Shabazi (director of Morono Kiang).
Shizu Saldamando was included in the Phantom Sightings traveling exhibition organized by LACMA. She has recently shown at contemporary art museums in the United States and Mexico, and was just featured in an issue of Lowrider Japan. As the art market internationally gradually moves toward Asia, Saldamando posits herself as an artist whose work bridges the gap from East to West using subtle and tacky conflations. Armed with Opium perfume and a wife beater, she reminds this Jet Setter of just how potent a beautiful girl on a mission can be…or maybe I am just “loca.”
This text was contributed by Mary Anna Pomonis