Altar de Amor: Notes on Proper Balcony Conduct (Panel # 42 - Pedro
Photo, resin, mixed media & silk screen on plexiglass panel, 16" x 24"
Text: from the Mexican love song Por tu maldito amor: "Por tu maldito
amor, no logro acomodar mi sentimiento y el alma se me sigue consumiendo"
(because of your damned love, I cannot accommodate my feeling and my soul
continues to burn or to be consumed).
In 1995 Alex Donis was invited as one of seven artists to create Día de los
Muertos installations for an exhibition titled Altared, curated by the artist
Gronk at the UCLA Armand Hammer Museum of Art & Culture. Donis choose to create
an altar relating to the second floor balcony of the museum's inner courtyard.
The installation was titled Altar de Amor: Notes on Proper Balcony
Over sixty plexi-glass panels where mounted directly onto the museum's second
floor glass balcony. The installation made reference to the balcony as a place
where visitors might cruise for meaning via advice offered from the quotes
on plexi panels.
of the panels had lyrics fromold Mexican ballads printed on them, that suggested
the tradition of la serenata as an act of devotion. On panel # 42 famed Mexican
actor Pedro Armendáriz floats in a pool of translucent resin, wearing a taco
for a headdress while raising his eye brow toward a bottle of Tapatio hot
sauce. The work rekindles a form of devotion towards this old cinema star
and suggests that a fiery love affair with a Mexican could also be akin to
The Spanish text is from a favorite Mexican torch song "Por tu maldito amor"
(Because of your damned love), made popular by Mexican singer Vicente Fernández.
The text led to an intercommunication between Spanish speaking visitors and
those who required translation, igniting a dialog around the collective memory
of Mexican sentiment, history, and folklore.
Silkscreen on offset poster, 30" x 21"
In 1995 & 1996 Alex Donis was invited to produce an experimental series of
prints on varied surfaces and found objects at Self Help Graphics in East
Los Angeles. After producing a body of work on fabric, plexi-glass, costumes,
and bumper stickers, he turned to a collection of religious posters that he
had accumulated over the years. Donis decided to print silk-screened quotes
directly over the images of Catholic saints, in an attempt to somehow humanize
these divine characters with psychological and sexual double-entendres. The
project was immediately brought to a halt by the directorship* at Self-Help
Graphics. The conflict of interest was centered around the poster I Lied,
an image that disputes the mythology built around the Virgin Mary, while teasing
out questions regarding her as a sexual personae.
* The Director of SHG at the time was the late Sister Karen Boccalero who
feared risking her funding from the Catholic Archdiocese if the posters were
ever exhibited in connection to SHG. I Lied is not a limited edition
print and was the only poster of its kind produced at SHG. Later prints from
this series were produced as iris prints via computerized digital imaging.
From the installation
My Cathedral (Che Guevara and César Chávez), 1997
Oil & resin on plexi-glass light box, 36" x 24" x 7"
Destroyed Sept. 15, 1997
Although the pairing of Che Guevara and César Chávez in a homosexual embrace
is fictional, I personally enjoy the thread of reality inherent in the painting.
Both of these characters never actually kissed, but in this painting, the
paradox is that they have and have not.
I created this work to try and melt down the stoicism in male Latino heroic
figures and address the fear in feminizing masculinity.
Galería de la Raza in San Francisco approached me to do this exhibition as
part of their "Regeneration Project." At that time I sat down and wrote out
a list of historical characters that I considered my personal heroes. Both
Che Guevara and César Chávez were on that
When I first visited Galería de la Raza in the Mission District, I noticed
several murals around the neighborhood depicting both Che Guevara and César
Chávez. During my visits I continually reflected on what connections I had
with this community as an artist, a Latino, and as a gay man.
Returning home to Los Angeles, I made several drawings of these characters
on translucent vellum. On a light table I laid them side by side so that it
seemed they were almost embracing. Soon after, I began collecting images of
people kissing, from the Pope kissing the head of a small child, to the deep
throat kissing found in pornography. I created several other fictionalized
pairings of historical characters kissing one another and decided to paint
the final works onto plexiglass light boxes. During the run of the exhibition
they lit up onto the streets in reference to the stained glass of churches
I realized that joining these two almost cult figures in Latino culture, positioned
them on the frontline of a very different cause, subverting and redefining
the rhetoric to which they had historically been so entrenched.
The exhibition caused a mass hysteria that swirled around the neighborhood
of the Mission and ultimately caused the destruction of this painting.* Ironically
the window smashing occurred on the 15th of September 1997, the day Latinos
march to celebrate their independence.
* The first light box to be destroyed was Jesus Christ kissing Lord Rama.
One week later the work depicting Che Guevara & Cesar Chavez was destroyed.