View of the IdentificarX exhibition as viewed from the street facing the Mullin Gallery, the exhibition
IdentificarX, ArtCenter's largest exhibition ever, on display across four South Campus galleries, opened on June 15, 2024.

feature / alumni / college-news
June 21, 2024
Written by Solvej Schou
With additional reporting by Mike R. Winder

IdentificarX, exhibition celebrating ArtCenter's Latina/e/o/x alumni, opens at South Campus

On Saturday, June 15, IdenitifcarX, ArtCenter’s exhibition celebrating the creativity, diversity and influence of the College’s Latina/e/o/x alumni artists and designers, opened to the public. 

Exhibited across four galleries throughout ArtCenter’s South Campus—the Peter and Merle Mullin Gallery, the Second Level Galleries, the Hutto-Patterson Exhibition Hall and the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT) Gallery—IdentificarX is the largest exhibition ever mounted by the College, featuring more than 100 artists and designers. 

At a private artist’s reception before the opening, President Karen Hofmann addressed the assembled crowd. “This exhibition would not have been possible without our alumni’s relentless commitment and the unwavering dedication of ArtCenter’s faculty and staff to bring this critical initiative to life,” said Hofmann, acknowledging the obstacles and delays the exhibition faced.

“This exhibition holds significant importance as we are leaders in the vibrant cultural landscape of Southern California, where the Latina/e/o/x community is more than 40% of the population of Los Angeles, one of the world’s most dynamic creative capitals,” continued Hofmann. “My hope is that IdentificarX clearly demonstrates the importance and power of identity in representation in art and design education practices.”

The objects on display represent alumni work from multiple disciplines; from across 12 different academic departments, from Art to Transportation Design; and spanning five decades of graduates from the College. “Through their work, we are recognizing the past, celebrating the present, and building for an inclusive future,” said Hofmann, concluding her remarks.

"At this point, I have lived half of my life in Bogota, Colombia, where I was born, and half of my life in Los Angeles," said alum and faculty member Stella Hernandez (BS 11 Environmental Design), one of the curators of the exhibition, at the private reception. "The mountains of the Andes and the desert of California, both places have shaped my life and my identity."

"I know there are many similar stories in the in this room today, and some of your stories may go back generations," continued Hernandez. "Today, I am reflecting on all these stories, and I want to celebrate with you our different identities. I want to celebrate our commonalities and also celebrarte what makes us unique."

"Some of us share similar geographic locations, language, music interests, or perhaps grew up watching 'El Chavo' on TV," said Salazar. "No matter what brings us together today as a community, I believe there is something more powerful that unites us."

Artists and guests discuss work on display at IdentificarX
Artists and guests discuss work on display at the IdentificarX opening reception.

At the public opening reception, hundreds of visitors marveled at the work celebrating the College’s Latina/e/o/x alumni, displayed across South Campus’s four galleries.  

Just outside the packed Mullin Gallery, alum and visual artist Gary "Ganas" Garay (BFA 04 Illustration) spun vinyl by musicians such as the late Brazilian singer Gal Costa. Host of the longtime dublab internet radio show Más Éxitos, Garay pointed out the exhibition’s varied array of work—from graphic design to illustration and transportation design. 

“It's great to be here, among other artists, colleagues, peers, friends,” said Garay, between records, as the sun set behind him. “These opportunities are few and far between, and it’s great to see all this representation. Some of the work reflects identity, and some of the work doesn't. It’s nonetheless an amalgamation of all the disciplines that are here and all the great work that's been achieved here. Hopefully this is a jumping off point for more.”

The exhibition includes two of Garay’s works: 2019’s Tapete, a ready-made cotton matt on sketchers bars that Garay called “painting without painting,” and 2016’s Foundations, pieces of casted cement foundation for a home in northeast Los Angeles, with fiberboard on top with a Venetian plaster faux finish, to give it the look of marble. “It’s a comment on changing a foundation, fixing some paint jobs, and the housing market in California going bananas,” he said.

Alum and artist Gary
Alum and artist Gary "Ganas" Garay, host of the dublab radio show Más Éxitos, spins vinyl at the IdentificarX opening reception.

Upstairs from the Mullin Gallery, in the Second Level Galleries, Photography and Imaging alumni Ramona Rosales (BFA 01) and Joaquín Trujillo (BFA 01) stood beside their work, and looked around and supported the work of other alumni.

“Sharing these walls with so many people that I respect and love—it’s beyond an honor,” said Rosales. “It’s really exciting to see the alumni community come together and that we do have a lot of representation. Seeing work by new students and people who recently graduated, and seeing what they're doing, gives me inspiration that we have a lot more people in our ranks, with creativity that’s beautiful and fun and new. There’s a flavor, though we all have different backgrounds and different experiences.”

Rosales’ longtime editorial, advertising and marketing work includes photographs of celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Selena Gomez, Bad Bunny, Issa Rae, Kerry Washington, Charlize Theron, Kendrick Lamar and Ali Wong, and key art for television and films including Steven Spielberg’s 2021 West Side Story remake, the Netflix series Russian Doll and Starz series Vida.

Wearing a blue floor-length dress, evil eyes on her nails, a gold necklace spelling out “Rosales,” a beaded eye purse, and fuzzy red slipper shoes, Rosales matched the saturated colors of her featured photograph in the exhibition. In the 2007 photo, part of her personal project Balloon Series, a pair of lavender tights-covered legs with yellow shoes walk along a street, jutting out from beneath a huge bouquet of heart balloons, in front of a blue brick wall. Rosales—who is based in Pasadena, and was raised in Long Beach, with her family from East Los Angeles—was inspired after seeing a woman selling flowers and balloons, with the woman’s top half covered by them. 

“There was a connection because my dad would make bouquets as a side hustle on Valentine’s Day,” Rosales said. “Everyone on my dad's side is very enterprising, and whenever we can, we have little side hustles. I love the ingenuity and passion to survive. I thought, with this woman with the balloons, ‘She’s doing what my dad used to do. How can I translate this into a way that is me?’” Rosales called up a stylist friend, bought 72 balloons, and photographed a model “gorilla style” by jumping out of a car, with her friend holding the light. 

Ramona Rosales, in a blue dress, examines work on display as she walks through a crowded Mullin Gallery at the IdentificarX opening reception.
Alum Ramona Rosales, in blue, walks through the Mullin Gallery at the IdentificarX opening reception.

Trujillo, who graduated the same year as Rosales, wore a red patterned shirt and long shorts he designed with a friend from Mexico, and a silver dangly eye earring created in the Mexican city of Zacatecas, where he was raised. His three photographs in IdentificarX—2016’s Mis cuarenta (Yo soy Joaquín), 2018’s Yo soy Joaquín (Yo soy Joaquín, y no soy un latino equis) and 2020’s Los cisnes (Yo soy Joaquín)—are self-portraits that represent him in different eras of his life, he said. 

“I'm really proud because I love ArtCenter,” said Trujillo, standing in front of his photographs. “I had the most amazing time. It was also extremely hard. But if it wasn't for that determination of learning craft and the closest to perfection, I wouldn't be able to have done what I have done, and be in the exhibitions that I've been in.” 

Trujillo’s work has been exhibited internationally in museums including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and at art fairs including Art Basel. His photographs have been featured in publications including The New York Times Magazine and Los Angeles Times Magazine.  

Under the photographs, spread out along the floor, Trujillo’s 2018 piece Paso a paso (Yo soy Juaquín)—12 hand-painted cowboy boots, together the colors of the rainbow—formed their own self-portrait, he said. The shoes showed different levels of scars, shininess and wear. 

“I'm trying to figure out who I am as a gay man in this society, and the boots represented 2018,” he said. “I have used them for different exhibitions and different assignments of my work. I have performed with them. I decided to leave them like that. Everyone's journey through life is different. Some people are really shiny, and nothing bad has ever happened to them. Other people have small bruises, and some people are extremely bruised, even by their loved ones.” 

When alum Melinda Paix Arredondo (BFA 20 Photography and Imaging)—a member of IdentificarX’s curatorial team—first invited Trujillo to be in the exhibition, he thought it over.

“I don't believe it's fair to put us in a box, from Argentina to Mexico, because we all have so many different cultures, so many similarities, but also so many things that make us us,” Trujillo said. “So, my response was, ‘Yo no soy un Latino equis,’ which means ‘I'm not a LatinX, but Latino EQUIS, like the play on words. Equis means just like a nobody, or someone who is just like the norm, and I am definitely not like the norm.”

Alum, faculty and IdentificarX curator Ryan Perez (BFA 08), left, speaks with two guests at the exhibition
Alum and faculty member Ryan Perez (BFA 08 Fine Art), left, one of IdentificarX's curators, speaks with two guests at the exhibition's opening reception.

Nearby, alum and filmmaker Ana Lydia Ochoa-Monaco (BFA 18 Film), one of IdentificarX's curators, and director, writer and producer of the IdentificarX documentary featuring video interviews with alumni in the exhibition, smiled seeing crowds of people.

“Being here, the first word for me would be ‘overwhelming,’ but in a positive way, because you're feeding off of the energy of so many artists and their individual journeys that many of us Latinos go through,” said Ochoa-Monaco, standing next to a flatscreen TV showing her documentary. “We get to see how we're all tethered together.”

“Whether you came to ArtCenter as an immigrant, or you're a U.S. Latino born here, going to a school that is the top design and art school pretty much in the U.S. and then being one of the very few and creating art is so meaningful to so many people,” she added. 

For Ochoa-Monaco, whose award-winning films include the short films Meeting Brown and Lola, interviewing our Latina/o/e/x alumni—from longtime artists and designers to recent alumni—for the IdentificarX documentary gave her hope for the future. The same goes for being at the exhibition’s reception, with visitors from different backgrounds soaking in the work.

“There's a large sense of pride,” she said. “I hate to say the word ‘mi gente,’ but this is mi gente, not just because we're Latino, but we have something in common. We went through ArtCenter as a minority group and we still got out, graduated and were able to create work that resonates and touches so many different people. There's so much pride, history, beauty. You get to see the diversity of Latinos in here. None of us look alike, none of us are dressed alike, none of us have the same hair texture or even eye color. It shows how diverse we truly are, and yet our work really touches on universal themes that connect with people outside of our own culture.”