The DART Board: 09.22.2021

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday September 22, 2021


DART honors National Hispanic Heritage Month [September 15-October 15
this week with a feature on Salvadoran-born muralist Josué Rojas. The story of how he found his way in life through painting unfolds in two recent articles about this San Francisco artist, who holds degrees from California College of the Arts and Boston University. Above: Josué Rojas, "Enrique’s Journey" (image courtesy Shane Menez)

Rojas has lived or worked in San Francisco’s Mission District since he was a toddler—his family settled here after fleeing El Salvador’s civil war—only leaving to spend two years at [Boston University’s College of Fine Arts]. Since first picking up a paintbrush as a teenager, Rojas has developed into one of his community’s leading artistic voices, frequently exhibiting his work, painting murals, and encouraging other artists to tell their own stories. "In this community, art is the glue,” he says. The neighborhood that led him to art and continues to inspire him today has also given him the confidence to take a big leap: in 2021, he decided to strip away his other obligations—including running a local nonprofit—and focus full time on his art.


Rojas says his life could’ve gone in a very different direction. His father died when he was 15, and he began acting out. “I started getting in trouble, writing graffiti.” But he also got a part-time job at Precita Eyes Muralists, a nonprofit that has promoted art in the Mission since the 1970s. Soon, he was learning to paint. “It was the first time I had found something that I was actually good at,” he says. Small jobs followed: designing murals, illustrating stories for the Pacific News Service, a publisher of independent journalism. Rojas began writing for them as well, continuing to report while he studied painting as an undergrad at the California College of the Arts. Above: Salvadoran Muralist Josue Rojas photographed in front of his mural in the Mission District of San Francisco on Sunday, February 21, 2021 (photo by Gabriela Hasbun)

Rojas speaks of art as a language.“I felt very comfortable with urban art and what’s understood as Mexican heritage—classic murals inspired by Diego Rivera and then evolving into the Chicano movement of the 1960s,” he said in an interview for BUs alum magazine. Two years in Boston allowed him to develop classic techniques and styles, like abstract expressionism. “Now I feel very comfortable being bilingual—I can speak East Coast and West Coast within American art.” Left: Josué Rojas, “Birds of the Americas” (image courtesy the artist)

Rojas returned to San Francisco as soon as he completed his MFA in painting. As one of his class’ Kahn Award recipients, he received a grant that helped him set up a studio in the Mission and fund his next exhibit, ¡Gentromancer! He also accepted a position as executive director of Acción Latina, an organization that promotes arts, community journalism, and civic engagement in Latinx communities in the Bay Area.

“Murals are an external expression of a community’s internal values,” Rojas told Mission Local, a neighborhood news organization. “For our community to see that a mural is going up, even during these conditions, during the fires and pandemic. For them to see we are coming together, making something beautiful during this time, [that is important].” Read more about Birds of America, his 80 x 50-foot mural which honors the deaths by police shootings of four young local LatinX men since June of 2020 here.



Hacer: Transformations now in the Garment District

Here in NYC, LA-based LatinX sculptor Hacer has his first large-scale exhibition on the East Coast. The Garment District Alliance (GDA) in collaboration with  Fremin Gallery has installed seven gigantic, origami-inspired sculptures as part of its latest public art exhibit, Hacer: Transformations. Located on the public plazas of Broadway Boulevard in the Garment District between 36th and 39th Streets, the show opened yesterday and continues through November 23rd.

“As we head into the fall, we want the Garment District to be a welcoming and enjoyable space for all visitors, whether they are returning to the office, travelling, or just passing through,” said Barbara A. Blair, president of the Garment District Alliance. “We know these supersized sculptures will bring a smile to everyone’s face, and we encourage all to stop by and snap a picture with their favorite origami creation!”

Fabricated from powder coated steel, the sculptures vary in size; with the largest of the series, Coyote, (top) stalking, prowling over Midtown Manhattan at 14 feet long.

After enduring a tumultuous upbringing, Hacer often turned to art and creativity as an escape. Choosing “Hacer” (Spanish verb: “to make”) as his new name, he broke free from his difficult past and now works as a sculptor, designing and building large-scale, origami-inspired forms in bold, solid colors. Through his work, he aims to elicit a dynamic response about the viewer’s relationship to their childhood and believes through this interaction all can begin anew.

Hacer attended the Southern California Institute of Architecture and studied structural welding at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. More at Fremin Gallery

Notes from Subscribers

Hey There LA emailed info about their solo show of paintings by Abira Ali | City of the Sun, continuing through October 5.  Above: Abira Ali, Day Dream
Hey There Projects, 3352 N. San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, CA Info

Continuing in Joshua Tree through October 7, Super Bloom, with featured artists: Aaron Smith, Anne-Louis Ewen Bijou Karman, Calef Brown, Cybele Rowe, Emily Casares, Gina Kim, Gina Triplett, Jason Holley, John Molesworth - Kim Bagwill, Kyle Stewart, Lex Gjurasic, Maria Rendon, Mark Todd, Matt Adrian, Michael Matheson, Olaf Hajek. 
Hey There Projects, 61675 Twentynine Palms Highway / Joshua Tree, Ca

This just in from Katherine Earle, whose duo show with Defne Tutus opens Friday, September 24, 7pm, @AOSJ. Dappled Things, which takes its title from a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins, urges us to reconsider the ways we tend to categorize things in our lives:


@AOSJ, 111 Washington Place, NY, NY




Notes from the Home Office

The short list for the 2021 American Photography Open was announced yesterday in Pro Photo Daily. David Schonauer writes: 

"A perfect dive. A dog in lavender. A Black madonna and child. A portrait of covid-19’s agony. These are the subjects of some of the images shortlisted in the American Photography Open 2021 competition. The judges have had their say, and now you can view all the shortlisted entries and vote for your favorites.

"The competition, as we’ve noted, is open to photographers at every level shooting with any kind of device. Across the board, the work we’ve seen this year has been both powerful and beautiful, timely and timeless. Choosing which images to move forward has been difficult—at times excruciatingly so—but also inspiring. Ultimately, 50 photos from among thousands have been selected. Now it’s your turn.

"If you would like to vote for your favorites, it's easy. Just 'Like' the images you admire. You can vote for as many as you’d like. The entry with the most likes will win a prize from SanDisk and three runners up will receive a copy of this year's Open book." Vote here Photo courtesy ProPhotoDaily


Last but not least, thanks to everyone who signed the petition to Save the Picture Collection! Friends of collected enough signatures that they cancelled yesterday’s rally on the steps of the main research branch of the NYPL. The official statement from the library begins, “The New York Public Library is moving its Picture Collection to a new home within the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The collection will move into Room 119 on the first floor of the building; it had been in a temporary space since 2017, when its long-time home the Mid-Manhattan Library across the street began a major renovation (that transformed library opened this year as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library).”  More Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library