Visiting Gabriel Figueroa @LACMA

Mexico has a long history of amazing cinematographers, but none is more beautiful nor visually eloquent as Gabriel Figueroa.

Gabriel Figueroa was a master of light and shadows, one of the most prolific Mexican cinematographers who shot the films that are representative of the Epoca de Oro del Cine Mexicano. He worked with the most famous directors and actors of his day and helped create a collective image of a time and place in Mexico that existed mostly in black and white. And the remarkable thing is he did it with a film camera, a light meter, and film negatives. Remember those? There weren’t any computers, no Photoshop nor digital tools back in the 1940’s. 

LACMA recently opened a new exhibit featuring his work and influence. “Under the Mexican Sky-Gabriel Figueroa: Art and Film” is a joint project between LACMA, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Televisa, Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and Conaculta. I’m glad all these organizations got together to make this happen because there aren’t usually many exhibits dedicated to cinematography. This is a real treat.

As you walk through the hall you see montages on large screens of his films with the directors El “Indio” Fernandez and Luis Buñuel. What struck me most was how much a single image, a still frame of a moving shot, could be a stand alone piece of art.

Those images convey beauty, sadness, pride, melancholy or just profound admiration for the landscape and scenery, el paisaje mexicano. I was also struck by how much women cried in these stories- puro melodrama y sufrimiento- and how men were  always “engrandecidos y valientes” almost to a fault. There are bits of his work from the movies Flor Silvestre, Maria Candelaria, Enamorada, Bugambilia, La Perla, Maclovia, Un Dia de Vida, Los Olvidados, among many others. 

You also see the influence painters such as Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco had on Figueroa’s work. It was like he was applying film to their paintings. My dear friend Alex Munguia used to tell me that if I wanted to take better photographs, then I should study famous painters and try to emulate what they did. Of course he was right, but it became completely evident to me once I saw the relationship between Diego Rivera’s Murals of the Mexican Revolution and Gabriel Figueroa’s Cinematography. Isn’t it interesting how different art forms relate and influence each other? The medium is different, but both are equally powerful.

Mr. Figueroa lived to be 90 years old and stayed active in film and the arts until the end. I hope you can go admire his work in this fabulous exhibit. It runs until February 2, 2014.

Gabriel Figueroa in 1945 during the filming of "La Perla" (Dir. Emilio "Indio" Fernandez)

Gabriel Figueroa in 1945 during the filming of “La Perla” (Dir. Emilio “Indio” Fernandez)

Los ojos de Maria Félix, forever immortalized by the lens of Gabriel Figueroa.

Los ojos de Maria Félix, forever immortalized by the lens of Gabriel Figueroa.

There are plenty of screens with montages of his works as well as still shots and other memorabilia.

There are plenty of screens with montages of his work, as well as still shots and other memorabilia.

Mexican beauties as observed by Gabriel Figueroa, who wa snot afraid of the extreme close up. Among his leading ladies are Maria Félix, Dolores del Rio and Columba Dominguez.

Mexican beauties as observed by Gabriel Figueroa, who was not afraid of the extreme close up. Among his leading ladies are Maria Félix, Dolores del Rio and Columba Dominguez.

Maria Félix and Columba Dominguez in a dramatic moment.

Maria Félix and Columba Dominguez in a dramatic moment.

"Dia de Flores" by Diego Rivera, apr of the exhibit and cited as one of the references in Gabriel Figueroa's cinematography.

“Dia de Flores” by Diego Rivera, part of the exhibit and cited as one of the references in Gabriel Figueroa’s cinematography.

Even if she wanted to look ordinary, Maria Félix was stunning on screen.

Even if she wanted to look ordinary, Maria Félix was stunning on screen.

The contrast, shadows and light are simply beautiful.

The contrast, shadows and light are simply beautiful.

Un paisaje con la "Mujer Dormida" al fondo.

Un paisaje con la “Mujer Dormida” al fondo.

Pedro Armendariz in all his glory.

Pedro Armendariz in all his glory.

Para mi, Roberto Cañedo is the most attractive man in Mexican Cinema. Here he romances Columba Dominguez.

Para mi, Roberto Cañedo is the most attractive man in Mexican Cinema. Here he romances Columba Dominguez.

Posters from Mexican movies, in different languages.

Posters from Mexican movies, in different languages.

Gabriel Figueroa checking his negatves in 1994. This photograph was taken by his son, Gabriel Figueroa Flores.

Gabriel Figueroa checking his negatives in 1994. This photograph was taken by his son, Gabriel Figueroa Flores.

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Go see this exhibit on view at LACMA.

Go see this exhibit on view at LACMA.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month in LA

Are you enjoying your Hispanic Heritage Month? There’s a lot going on to celebrate it, even if nosotros los Hispanics never actually need a specific reason. But it’s nice to have a whole month dedicated to observing the fact that los Hispanos somos lo máximo. 

One of the perks of living in Los Angeles is that we have no shortage of events, be it Hispanic Heritage Month or not. The last 2 weeks in September and first 2 weeks of October are actually jammed packed with lots to do, see and eat. So let’s go celebrate.

I received an invitation from Macy’s to attend an event which I’d like to share here and invite you to attend.

Our resident Oaxacan ambassador in LA and all around super cool lady, Bricia López, will be hosting a cooking demo and presentation this Saturday Sept. 28th at 2 p.m. at Macy’s South Coast Plaza, where she’ll bring some of her best loved Mole dishes from the famous La Guelaguezta restaurant in LA.

Bricia is synonymous with good food and you may have heard about her on NPR, the LA Times, among others. She is proud and passionate about representing Oaxaca, its food, delicacies, art and Mezcal. If you love good food, I would make it a point of being there. Tickets are $5 and they benefit La Plazita de la Cultura y las Artes.

Bricia at Macys

Speaking of La Plazita de la Cultura y las Artes, I recently had the chance to visit for the first time and I fell in love with the place. If you haven’t been and you’re interested in learning more about the history of los mexicanos en Los Angeles, you need to go visit. You can find information on their website here: www.lapca.org

La Plazita is located just across the street from Plazita Olvera in DTLA and it’s a small but very well thought out museum. They have rotating exhibits, plus spaces dedicated to the braceros, Mexican zoot suits, several artists and a very cool representation of life in DTLA in the 1920’s. The grounds ouside are perfect for kids running around and just hanging out with la familia.

Here are some pictures from La Plazita. Hope you have a chance to go and support it.

Entrance to La Plazita de la Cultura y las Artes in DTLA.

Entrance to La Plazita de la Cultura y las Artes in DTLA.

You can enjoy great exhibits and graphics around the museum.

You can enjoy great exhibits and graphics around the museum.

Plazita art

Maria Isabel Santiago, 15 years old, and her painting "El Gran Azul." She is part of the PAINT program at the Los Angeles Music and Arts School in East LA.

Maria Isabel Santiago, 15 years old, and her painting “El Gran Azul.” She is part of the PAINT program at the Los Angeles Music and Arts School in East LA.

Kids from East LA participated in this project.

Kids from East LA participated in this project.

Plazita Plaza Studio

On the second floor there is a recreation of La Calle Principal- Main Street today- from the 1920’s in Los Angeles. A creative and hands on experience.

A clothing store just as you would see it in the 1920's on Main street.

A clothing store just as you would see it in the 1920’s on Main street.

Another view inside the clothing store.

Another view inside the clothing store.

This was especially exciting for me, a photo studio recreation from the 1920's where families would dress up and g take "la foto del recuerdo" which woud be passed on as an heirloom form generation to generation.

This was especially exciting for me, a photo studio recreation from the 1920’s where families would dress up and take “la foto del recuerdo” which woud be passed on as an heirloom from generation to generation.

Here's a closer view with an explanation of how significant it was to go to the photo studio to get your portrait done...Those were the days! Now it's just a "selfie" on your phone that will probably never be seen by future generations.

Here’s a closer view with an explanation of how significant it was to go to the photo studio to get your portrait done…Those were the days! Now it’s just a “selfie” on your phone that will probably never be seen by future generations.

Another view.

Another view.

Th museum is inside the beautiful Brunswig Buiding and Plaza House.

The museum is inside the beautiful Brunswig Buiding and Plaza House.

Where to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in LA? Come on over.

Cinco de Mayo weekend (yes, this year it’s a whole fin de semana) is upon us and if you haven’t yet made any plans, here are a few options I’ve been running into on my daily morning websurf. They all sound like fun and gives us a chance to remember this Mexican holiday, that is not Independence Day but La Batalla de Puebla, when we beat the powerful francesitos.

Tacos & Beer 5K & Festival, Saturday May 4

Long Beach has a few options that stand out, for example the TACOS & BEER 5K & Festival which gives you a chance to run a 5k antes de que te eches tus ice cold chelas. Sounds like a plan, especially with this calorón we’ve been having.

Check for the details on the image below, from their facebook page: facebook/tacos&beer5k .

Look at the Finisher’s Medal. May I say, what a clever, clever idea of having it do double duty as a cerveza bottle  opener. That’s what I call multitasking!

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Good idea! 5K&Beer medal serves as a bottle opener too.

Good idea! 5K&Beer medal serves as a bottle opener too. Photo from facebook.com/5K&Beer.

MOLAA Cinco de Mayo Festival,  Satruday May 4 and Sunday May 5.

For those of us who aren’t running anywhere in this kind of weather, maybe the Museum of Latin American Art Cinco de Mayo Festival in Long Beach sounds like a much more relaxed, but still cerveza friendly outing with events all happening weekend long.

Check out their webpage for more details, but they have a Cinco de Mayo Beer Tasting event on Saturday May 4 from 7:00 pm on, where you can sample beers from L.A. based Golden Road Brewery and some others from artisanal beer producers from Baja California. (Got to support my peeps!)

On Sunday, starting at 11:00 am, the Cinco de Mayo festival gets under way with music performances, art, vendors and great food, like burgers from El Burger Luchador Food Truck (me gustó el nombre) and Zumba demo classes to burn it off.

You can check out the details on their website here.

Target Free Sundays@MOLAA celebrates Cinco de Mayo this Sunday.

Target Free Sundays@MOLAA celebrates Cinco de Mayo this Sunday.

Other options:

If you’re craving Mexican food, then take a look at Jonathan Gold’s list of Best Mexican Food restaurants in Los Angeles, from the LA Times website.

In my humble opinion, I concurr with one of them on the list: La Guelaguetza in K Town has the most amazing Oaxacan Mole in Los Angeles.

Click here for the complete list.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, Baby! Remember to stay safe and don’t drink and drive.

From the LA Times and Jonathan Gold: Top 14 Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles. www.latimes.com

From the LA Times and Jonathan Gold: Top 14 Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles. http://www.latimes.com

Must see exhibit: Stanley Kubrick at LACMA

Authentic film buffs and admirers of the “cine de autor” genre have pretty high standards for their movie preferences, and surely Stanley Kubrick must be on top of their list.

He was a genius and a little far out in his ideas, one of those once in a lifetime people who changed the world (and how we see it) through his movies. Lucky for us in Los Angeles, at the moment we have an amazing exhibit that allows us to get to know the mind and the work of Mr. Kubrick.

Ongoing till June 30, 2013 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA) “Stanley Kubrick” is a great collection of the work of Mr. Kubrick, from his early days when he started out as a photographer for Look Magazine all the way to his film masterpieces. There are entire sections dedicated to A Clockwork Orange, Lolita, Paths to Glory, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, and Barry Lyndon. There’s a collection of his film cameras, lenses, scripts and production notes, images and costumes from his movies, as well as personal mementos. It’s a real treat for movie lovers.

I never considered myself a fan of Kubrick’s work, (yo me veo mas como una Woody Allen person) but after this exhibit, this film god has my total admiration. Be sure to catch it if you can before it leaves in the summer.

Here are a few glimpses from Kubrick at LACMA.

The Kubrick exhibit at LACMA runs until June 30th. Go see it!

The Kubrick exhibit at LACMA runs until June 30th. Go see it!

in 1949, a young Stanley Kubrick was a photographer for Look magazine. This is a great picture of Rocky Graziano.

In 1949, a young Stanley Kubrick was a photographer for Look magazine. This is a great picture of Rocky Graziano.

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The wing for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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I always found this movie to be very creepy. “A Clockwork Orange” is on full display.

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Remember these? Ay ay ay… “The Shining” cuatitas costumes on display.

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One of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite cameras, a Arri, for which he had special lenses made. Got goose bumps just to think what this camera has captured.

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“All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.” Yes, the typewriter is here.