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LA/LA: Self Help Graphics & Art

By Peggy Roalf   Friday August 4, 2017

Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is an exploration of Latin American and Latino arts in dialogue with Lo Angeles, taking place from September 2017 through January 2018 at over 70 cultural institutions from Santa Barbara to San Diego and from Los Angeles to Palm Springs. 

Among the Southern California arts rooted in protest is the Chicano movement, which was born out of West Coast handstyle graffiti, tattoos, and literary works along with lowrider culture and fashion as forms of self identification and cultural pride in the midst of oppression and segregation. The influence of Chicano mural art has proliferated world-wide, with aerosol and wheat paste street art having been taken up in urban centers from Paris to Seoul.  

One of the founding centers for public art Chicano-style is Self Help Graphics & Art (Self Help or SFG), which originated with artists Carlos Bueno, Antonio Ibáñez, Frank Hernández, and others making protest art in an East LA garage back in 1970. Two years later, the group was funded by the Sisters of St. Francis, who donated $10,000 and offered 9,000 square feet of space for the rent of $1 per year. Local funders took note of the educational and social aspects of the programs originated by Self Help, and the group expanded their offerings. In 1974, Self Help produced the first Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Celebration in North America; it continues to be the premiere event of its kind in the US.

La Trenza mural at Self Help Graphics & Art; artists (from left to right): Vyal ReyesLeo LimonWayne Perry, the Esparza Family (Ofelia EsparzaRosanna Esparza-AhrensJacqueline “Jaxiejax” Sanders-EsparzaElena Esparza), Los de Abajo (Poli Marichal, Don Newton, Kay Brown, Nguyen Li, Victor Rosas Marianne Sadowski), Yolanda GonzalezJohn Carlos de Luna, William Acedo, AsylmMargaret AlarconFabian Debora, Ricardo Estrada, Raul GonzalezRaul Baltazar, and Sand.


Self Help has had its ups and downs, having lost its sponsorship by the Sisters of St. Francis in 2011 and endured an uphill climb to where it is today: a vital center for multi-disciplinary, inter-generational programs promoting artistic excellence and empowerment.

As an official Getty Foundation Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA exhibition site, Self Help Graphics will present Día de los Muertos: A Cultural Legacy, Past, Present & Future to explore the evolution of the celebration in Los Angeles and the foundational transnational dialogue between the Chicano/Latino community and Mexico that continues to shape the tradition celebrated on both sides of the border.

Left: Día de los Muertos celebrants

SHG will present a future-focused exhibition supported by educational programming including printmaking lectures/demonstrations, artist panel discussion, family-friendly tours, and a catalog to document this historical narrative.

The curatorial team includes Lead-Curator artist Linda Vallejo and Co-Curator Dr. Betty Brown (Emeritus Professor of Art History, California State University Northridge) in partnership with SHG staff.

Día de los Muertos: A Cultural Legacy, Past, Present & Future exhibition and educational programming will take place between September 17, 2017 and January 20, 2018 with the main communal celebration on Saturday, November 4, 2017.

The exhibition will feature three Day of the Dead “ofrendas” by artists Ofelia Esparza (East Los Angeles), Tijuana’s Gerardo “Acamonchi” Yépiz (Mexico), and Marcus Kuiland-Nazario (Los Angeles) as well as select Día de los Muertos prints, photographs and ephemera from across the four-decade history of SHG’s celebration broken down into a chronological evolution including the unveiling of the 44th Annual Día de los Muertos Celebration fine art limited edition serigraph.

Among the educational programs in place for Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is the Barrio Mobile Art Studio, which SHG operated in Latino neighborhoods from 1974 to 1985.

Re-launched in 2014, BMAS’s 25 artists will facilitate community workshops that include printmaking (silkscreening, linocut, dry point, monotype), digital art using mobile devices and tablets, aerosol art (including temporary murals), and stencil work, among other workshops that can be customized to fit any community or school program. 

Self Help Graphics & Art, 1200 East 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA Info Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, over 70 venues in Southern California. Info Photos courtesy Self Help Graphics & Art

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