Portraying farm workers beyond fields, honoring gay liberation: New LA art

By Rebekah Ludman

Artist Narsiso Martinez uses a series of portraits of farm workers to talk about the agriculture industry. His work is part of the exhibit called "Many” at Craft Contemporary. Photo by Josh Schaedel.

At Craft Contemporary on Wilshire Blvd., one new show features 12 LA-based artists who use repetition in various ways. “Many” runs through Sept.11. 

One of the artists is Narsiso Martinez, who grew up around farm work, and creates portraits of agriculture workers that are drawn onto cardboard boxes. His series is called “Sin Bandanas.”

“It's the first series of portraits like this that Martinez has done where he doesn't draw the subjects with their usual protective gear on, some masks or bandanas or glasses, as they're working out in the fields,” says Lindsay Preston Zappas, founder and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles.

She thinks that Martinez does this to let the farm workers’ individuality show through, and says you really get to see the number of people who contribute to agriculture. 

Each of the artists in the “Many” exhibition use the concept of repetition differently. Photo by Josh Schaedel.

The other show, which also runs through Sept. 11, is called “The Sum of the Parts: Dimensions in Quilting,” and it features five artists who use quilts to create dimensional and sculptural pieces. 

“We don't often think of quilts as sculptural, we think of them as these flat things that are … used in our homes or hung on a wall. But actually, quilts are made in layers and include many pieces,” says Preston Zappas.

The exhibition points to how quilts have been used for communication, community, and healing, she notes.

What stands out most to Preston Zappas is a series of sculptural pieces by Jade Yumang. The sculptures include quilts, wood, furs, zippers, and rope. They reference Drum magazine from the 1960s, which told stories from LGBTQ perspectives — something other publications didn’t do at the time. The magazine’s founder was arrested for distributing what the FBI labeled as pornography. 

Jade Yumang printed pages of Drum magazine (1960s) on fabrics to create the quilts. Photo by Jade Yumang.

Yumang used the issue that led to the arrest — printing those pages onto fabrics and making quilts with them, Preston Zappas explains. Those quilts went into each sculptural piece.

“The pieces are really an homage to that history and to struggles that have led to gay liberation,” says Preston Zappas. 

A show at Craft Contemporary displays work from five artists who use quilts to create dimensional and sculptural pieces. Photo by Kathryn Clark.