I saw this poem in Poetry Daily a few weeks ago. I love especially the lines “For you / have been the sand to your own blaze.” It says so much, so efficiently. Larry did a broadside of  Adam Zagajewski’s poem, “R says,” about literary rats a few years ago, that had this line drawing by Roberto Chavez. It goes pretty well with this poem, too.


For your cities, thank you. For your
big noise. For the rain-glossed, thin-skinned

bags of food. For the tunnels, the candy-
pink shell of your walls that we map

by feel, by oilsmear, around you, the richest
place in your house. For poison blunted,

your undersink arsenal defused and dead
by overuse, by you. Thank you. For you

have been the sand to your own blaze.
For you have been a gentle sentinel,

letting us slip in around you,
cryptic, slick. This is what

we hope you’ll take in for your pains:
we’ll stay, I promise, by your side

at every step, like the guns
you love to use till they’re

empty: click click.

Karen Leona Anderson

Internet magic

Almost two years ago, I posted about Roberto Chavez’ show at the Autry Museum in LA. As part of the post I mentioned that over 30 years ago, a gallery owner had sold a wonderful self-portrait of Roberto with a lime-green background that we had loaned to the gallery for the show. Even though it was not for sale, the unscrupulous gallery owner sold it, and although Roberto gave us another painting in its place, I never really got over it. Continue reading “Internet magic”

Forget Paris!

Once in awhile you see an art exhibit that changes the way the world looks to you afterwards. This has happened to me twice before: after a show at the ukiyo-e (woodblock print) museum in Tokyo and an Edward Hopper show in San Francisco.

It happened again last night after seeing the show of Roberto Chavez’ work in the beautiful gallery at Santa Rosa Junior College. While I loved all the impressionist art I saw in Paris, after this show, it seemed merely decorative. The work here had a breadth and depth that was more powerful, more moving than anything I saw in France. Some paintings were hard to look at, some lovely, but the vision of the world they convey has added something to my perception of everyday objects.

No catalog or slideshow can really do the work justice; these just serve as reminders of the power of the work itself.  So if you can get there before it closes on December 13, you won’t be sorry.

Roberto Chavez at the Autry

For those of you au courant with the art world, there’s a dramatic set of exhibitions of Los Angeles artists happening in Southern California. Sponsored by the Getty, and called “Pacific Standard Time: Arti n L.A. 1945-1980.”  I went to the opening of one show at the Autry called Art Along the Hyphen: The Mexican-American Generation. Our old friend, the artist Roberto Chavez, is one of the artists featured in this stunning exhbit. (You can see a short video of him sketching here.)

We’ve know Roberto for decades, and it is a thrill to see his work displayed in such a well-curated show. I’m willing to forgive any number of hyphens for the job the organizers did.  As you come into the show there’s a wall of self portraits of the six artists in the exhibit in various media, grouped almost as you would group a wall of family photos.  Here is Roberto’s self portrait:

We used to own a wonderful small self-portrait of Roberto with a lime-green background, one of my favorite pieces of art. But we loaned it to a gallery for a show and the owner sold it–a shocking offense I haven’t gotten over 30 years later.

There were other works in the Autry show that I loved. One is the wonderful “Group Shoe” portrait as a humorous take on the first show Roberto and three friends were in (a group show, hence the pun) at the Ceejay Gallery. Here’s the photo from the catalog along with Roberto’s painting:


















Another favorite is “Ladies Art Class,” from the days of Roberto’s teaching career. He told another friend that after he painted this, each of the women came up to him individually and told him that he had captured all of the women in the class perfectly, except her.

The only other living artist featured in the show was Dora De Larios, a ceramicist–one of her works is here. She and Roberto were both in attendance and both gave afternoon talks and brief speeches at the gala that evening.  An artist I’d never seen before whose work captivated me was Domingo Ulloa. Two of his woodcuts were especially powerful, Painters on Strike, and Wolf Pack:








You can see more images from the show, but they left out many of the ones I found most moving, including Roberto’s canvas titled Belsen.  This is a grim piece in blacks and yellow greens of bodies being stacked with a bulldozer. When asked about it after his talk, he said “I was interested in people being treated like garbage.”

Here’s a few you won’t see anywhere but here, though, a Chavez painting of apples that hangs in my daughter’s dining room, and a painting of persimmons that I think of as its twin by Bob Ross (another terrific artist) that hangs in mine:

There are more, but I think this is enough for today! (And for those of you who really notice, that’s Larry’s ear in the corner of the apples painting.)