Carlos Almaraz, Suburban Nightmare, 1983

Carlos Almaraz, Suburban Nightmare, 1983, the Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine
© Carlos Almaraz Estate, photo by Bliss Photography

‘Playing with Fire’: Carlos Almaraz at LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents the first major survey of paintings by Carlos Almaraz (1941–1989). August 6–December 3, 2017

Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

”Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz” features 65 works, including mostly paintings and several drawings from the artist’s studio practice. Almaraz was legendary during his lifetime, initially as a political activist and a cofounder of Los Four—among the first Chicano artist collectives to emerge in Southern California in the 1970s—and ultimately as a visionary studio artist whose compelling images convey a deep psychological impact. Almaraz first became an activist through his work with the United Farm Workers, painting banners for union rallies.

Among his most visible works from this period were a number of public murals in East Los Angeles that depicted the Chicano civil rights struggle. By the end of the decade, however, Almaraz felt constrained by his role as a cultural worker within the movement and turned his creative aspirations to asserting a far more personal form of expression. “Playing with Fire: Paintings by Carlos Almaraz” explores this personal and artistic transformation.

A highlight of the exhibition is the 24-foot-wide “Echo Park Lake nos. 1–4” (1982), a fourpaneled painting reminiscent of Claude Monet’s Impressionistic renderings of lily ponds and Parisian parks. This exhibition marks the first time that the four panels have been reunited since 1987. Other highlights include: Almaraz’s studio-based art featuring idyllic scenes of Hawaii (where Almaraz and his family maintained a second home); fiery freeway car crashes richly embued with saturated colors; self-portraits; contemplative scenes of domestic life; and surreal dreamscapes.

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