The Chicano Colloquy of Anthony Ortega

Article excerpt

THE riches of his twin heritages merge in Anthony Ortega's big, bright, bold paintings, collages, and mixed-media art works. Past and present, Mexican and European art history, folk influence and high-art training meet on his picture planes. The universal human condition and the specifics of the Mexican-American experience tug and push the viewer's eye in an ongoing dialogue just as his colors push and pull in constant colloquy.

In art school he learned perspective and color theory along with Western art history. He was influenced by the Impressionists, the Post-Impressionists, the Fauves, and much 20th-century Western art.

"I learned it," he says, "but as a Chicano I had to learn my cultural heritage as well. I've studied Mexican history, anthropology, Chicano studies. All of this feeds into my work. I grew up with the Flintstones and MacDonalds, but at home we heard Spanish and ate tortillas. I see myself as bilingual and bicultural."

Looking for his cultural roots, he studied the folk art of Guatemala, Mexico, and other Latin American countries. He lays his paint down in thin, raw expressive strokes, so that the background often peaks through the paint.

The pure color and the simplification of shapes and gesture he found in folk art impressed him deeply. He began to flatten out the Western perspective he had learned in university, to simplify shape, and to experiment with the bright, clear colors of folk art using the color theory he learned in school. …