In November 2011, we organized a Williams Alumni event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), an opportunity for alumni in the region to see the exhibition Asco: Elite of the Obscure. CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of LACMA Michael Govan (Williams ’85) spoke to the large group near Chris Burden’s Urban Light (2008) before we rode up the exterior escalator of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) at LACMA to see Asco.
Williams alumnus and LACMA Director Michael Govan
Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) at LACMA
Asco was installed on the same floor of the museum as Glenn Ligon’s retrospective. At left is Ligon’s Negro Sunshine; At right is the Asco stamp.
Exhibition co-curators C. Ondine Chavoya and Rita Gonzalez took the group through the show in what happened to be the curators’ first real opportunity to do a talk in the exhibition space together.
Williams Alumni listen to Rita and Ondine talk about Asco.
The next day, LACMA had organized a public walking tour of Willie F. Herrón III’s murals in his City Terrace neighborhood in East Los Angeles. On the occasion of Asco: Elite of the Obscure, Herrón was commissioned to create a mural in an alley where he had made many other wonderful examples. This new mural, East of No-West, is the artist’s homage to his years of participation in Asco. The subject matter is a photograph by Harry Gamboa, Jr. of the group’s early performance, Walking Mural (1972).
Asco, Walking Mural, l to r: Patssi Valdez, Willie F. Herrón III, and Gronk, 1972, gelatin silver print by Harry Gamboa, Jr. Courtesy of the artist. © Asco; photograph © 1972 Harry Gamboa, Jr.
Detail, Willie F. Herrón III, East of No-West, 2011.
Willie F. Herrón III in front of East-of-No-West mural in progress
Herrón treated us to a fantastic and lively tour of what are perhaps his (and LA’s) best-known murals. Until I saw them in person, I did not realize just how beautiful they are, or the fact that they are just around the corner from each other in City Terrace. We saw his Quetzalcoatl: The Plumed Serpent mural (1972) as well as The Wall that Cracked Open, the mural Herrón painted the night his brother was stabbed in the alley.
Willie F. Herrón III, Quetzalcoatl: The Plumed Serpent (1972)
The artist (at left in black) talking to our group
Willie F. Herron III, The Wall that Cracked Open (c. 1972)
Herrón (at left) talking about his Farmacia mural
One of the most poignant moments came near the end of the tour when we had almost circled the complete block. Earlier I had noticed a man who was not officially part of our group joining us in listening to Herrón. The entire tour, I thought to myself “he looks incredibly familiar,” but I just could not place him. In front of the pharmacy, above which Herrón had painted a brightly colored mural, the artist opened the Asco book to the page with Roger Minick’s photo. The man who had joined us was none other than this young boy all grown up! He just happened to run into Willie that day since he still lives in the neighborhood. Needless to say, he got a round of applause from everyone.
Roger Minick, Young Man with Radio at Farmacia, City Terrace, East Los Angeles, 1978, archival pigment black and white print. Courtesy of the artist
Herrón and friend
I still wish I had gotten the man’s name, but perhaps I’ll ask Herrón at the Asco Opening tonight or at the Asco Symposium tomorrow.
–Kathryn Price, Curator of Special Projects