Miranda: In the ‘cacophony’ of the Americas, painter Eamon Ore-Giron finds elegant patterns

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Eamon Ore-Giron’s work draws from artistic and musical traditions from throughout the Americas.
(Christina House / )

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What can be conveyed with a circle or a square or a slender band of color? Perhaps it’s an outline of architecture. Or a pattern that summons a musical beat. Or the sensation in the retina when a ray of sunlight slips between mountain peaks and illuminates a high-altitude landscape. Maybe it’s the histories, brutal and sublime, embedded in some of those forms.

Look closely and this is some of what materializes in “Infinite Regress,” a series of paintings by Los Angeles artist Eamon Ore-Giron, on view through late May at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. In his solo show, “Competing with Lightning / Rivalizando con el relámpago,” linen canvases, earthy in appearance, serve as backdrops to cosmic arrangements of circles and rays of gradient color that recede into the horizon. All of it is framed by stepped architectural structures that are rendered in luminous gold.


His elemental patterns can be found across cultures — in ancient temples or the early 20th century paintings of Russian suprematist Kazimir Malevich. But the ways in which Ore-Giron brings them together and remixes them is singular.


“When I started to think about what is my take on abstraction,” he says, observing a row of works-in-progress in his Eastside studio, “I always saw it through the lens of lineage.”

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That lineage contains many threads.

A vertical canvas shows repeating architectonic patterns of arches and steps over patterns of circles and rays of color
“Infinite Regress CXLIX,” 2021 is part of a recent series of paintings by Eamon Ore-Giron that explores abstraction.
(Charles White / JWPictures.com)

Ore-Giron, 48, is the son of an Indigenous father from Peru and an Irish American mother from Arizona. He was born and raised in Tucson, but has spent periods in Mexico City, San Francisco and Guadalajara.

He spent a formative stint in Huancayo, a mining and agricultural hub in the central Peruvian highlands where his family is from — a region that is home to deep traditions in music and dance. There, in the late 1990s, he apprenticed with Peruvian painter Josué Sánchezan artist whose work draws, in modern ways, from Andean art and craft.

“He taught me how to use highly-saturated colors in ways that could give them a bit more weight,” says Ore-Giron. “When you think of highly saturated colors, you think of Latin American work. In architecture, you think of [Luis] Barragan. Those are colors that in the palette of minimalism in the US — no, you would never do that. But [Josué] gave me license to explore that in a sophisticated way.”

Two women, their bodies fringed by clouds, are shown making food at a kitchen table
“Cookin’ 2,” 2002, an early painting by Eamon Ore-Giron, showed a domestic scene fused with elements of landscape.
(Glen Cheriton / Collection of Daniel Sakaguchi and Jennifer Kapczynski)


In Ore-Giron’s early figurative paintings, that brilliant color palette materialized in scenes tinged by the surreal.

At the MCA Denver are paintings such as “Cookin’ 1″ and “Cookin’ 2,” both from 2002, which show his aunt and his cousin making humitas, Peruvian fresh-corn tamales. It’s an intimate scene, until you move in close and realize that the walls of the kitchen resemble the sky and the women’s bodies are penetrated by floating wisps of clouds.

What might a mountain spirit look like in the 21st century? Perhaps like two women cooking.

Other early works feature chonguinada dancers, in which performers of the central highland dance don rosy-cheeked masks and parody colonial Spaniards. Ore-Giron has set these against horizons of flat color, giving the performers an otherworldly feel. In addition, some canvases feature a recurring mestizo character from Andean folklore known as El Chuto.

“He is kind of magical and he’s a clown and he’s also kind of mischievous,” says Ore-Giron. “I’ve always identified with that character as an artist. Somewhat the clown in this dance that is kind of serious and has very serious undertones.”

Ore-Giron is an affable figure, an enthusiastic conversationalist who, in a single sitting, can veer from the multimedia canvases of Peruvian Modernist Jorge Eielson to the performances of German conceptualist Joseph Beuys to a wild anecdote about inhabiting a tiny room in Mexico City that once served as a dwelling for chickens. In between, he might jam in a comic analysis of how he views himself as the hybrid son of a Peruvian immigrant father and American mother — what he calls “this identity of being half.”

“I think my father is the coca leaf and I’m the cocaine,” he says. “He was this pure leaf that grew up out of the ground. I’m the processed, mind-altering product for the American market.”

A step ladder and a series of in-progress paintings with circular patterns are seen inside a warehouse studio
Eamon Ore-Giron creates his patterns by hand — without the aid of masking tape or stencils.
(Christina House / )

After leaving Arizona, Ore-Giron completed his undergraduate degree at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1996, studying under figures such as underground filmmaker George Kuchar and multimedia artist Carlos Villa, In 2004, he landed at UCLA, where he completed his master’s degree in fine arts. Since then, Los Angeles has been home base — though he has lived abroad and in other parts of the US for short spells.

This peripatetic life perhaps accounts for the polyglot nature of his artistic career.


In addition to painting, Ore-Giron has created videos inspired by Peruvian mining towns and created installations out of musical instruments, Over the years, his work has popped up at the Hammer Museum‘s “Made in LA” biennial and an exhibition about cultural power at SFMOMA,

He has also worked in concert with other artists — including notable collaborations with Tijuana-born artist Julio Cesar Morales. Calling themselves Los Jaichackers, the pair once crafted a room-size mirrored cube that functioned as sculptural listening station and remix studio. It was a highly visible (and audible) part of the 2008 group exhibition “Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

A separate work by the duo, “Subterreanean Homesick Cumbia,” is on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum in East LA, as part of the group show “Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art.”

The piece was inspired by a legend about the accordion’s arrival in South America. As the story goes, a German ship loaded with instruments sunk near the mouth of the Magdalena River, depositing accordions all over Colombia’s shores. In their video, Los Jaichackers return the instrument to its watery origins, showing an accordion bobbing alongside a riverboat to a bubbling soundtrack of cumbia.

A large mural of geometric forms, including circular patterns and bands of color that evoke light, wrap around stairs
Eamon Ore-Giron’s “Angelitos Negros,” 2018, greeted visitors to the Hammer Museum’s “Made in LA 2018” biennial.
(Brian Forrest / Paramo Gallery / Fleisher/Ollman / Hammer Museum)

Music is not incidental to Ore-Giron’s work.

He has a deep knowledge of Latin American music — of the sort pumped at working-class dance parties — and he has a long-running side hustle as a DJ. Though to describe his DJ work as a “side” hustle is a misnomer, since DJing has been a through-line in his creative output since the beginning. (Ore-Giron has played guitar since he was a kid.) As DJ Lengua — “DJ Tongue,” in case you’re wondering — he has been part of a musical movement that has dipped into cumbia of the Mexican, Colombian and Peruvian variety and made it groovier: slowing it down and fusing it with the sounds of electronica .

With fellow DJ Sonido Franco (Joseph Franko, who is based in the Bay Area), Ore-Giron once established a small record label, Unicornio Recordswhose big claim to fame is that it released Chicano Batman’s first album,

The fame, however, is only in hindsight, since that first album was a flop. “We had a thousand records,” recalls Ore-Giron, referring to real-deal vinyl, his preferred musical medium. “When a thousand records come to your house — it’s like twice the size of a barbecue. And they are really heavy.”

That experience didn’t stop him from pursuing other musical projects. Last month, Ore-Giron teamed up with Samy Ben Redjeb of the Analog Africa label to release a compilation of hallucinatory cumbias rebajadasthe reduced-tempo cumbias Popularized by Mexican sonideros beginning in the 1960s. “Saturno 2000: La Rebajada de Los Sonideros,” as the album is titled, is a trippy tour of synth-soaked tunes from all over the continent made extra spacey by their languid pace.

An album cover shows a vintage photo of Latin American DJs sitting on a speaker stack outdoors
“Saturno 2000: La Rebajada de los Sonideros, 1962–1983” brings together cumbias from around the Americas.
(Kathrin Remes & Yacine Blaiech / Analog Africa)


Yet as critical as music is to Ore-Giron’s life, it is painting to which he has devoted the most focus over the last half-dozen years. “I had to be honest with myself and be like, you’re a painter, you’ve always been a painter,” he says, “and you don’t have multiple lives to live.”

It is on his paintings that the Denver exhibition is focused.

This includes his early figurative works, as well as numerous canvases from his “Talking S—” series. Begun in 2017, the series engages the deities of pre-colonial myth — deities that have become a daily part of Latin American iconography: the Aztec gods Coatlicue and Quetzalcoatl, as well as Amaru, a serpent deity from the Andes. Deployed as national symbols by the Indigenism movements of the early 20th century, these gods now regularly materialize in murals, restaurant menus and earrings on Etsy.

Ore-Giron digests them through the language of art.

“It’s a subversion,” he says. “How do you simultaneously refine a Modernist aesthetic and blend it with some aspect of Indigenous design and forms that are inspiring and beautiful and tie it into the legacy Indigenismo,

There’s a lot going on beneath his spare forms.

Two paintings in a gallery depict Indigenous deities using a combination of circular and angular geometric forms
Eamon Ore-Giron, “Talking S— With Amaru,” 2021 — which refers to the…

Source: www.latimes.com

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