Alex Donis


Altar de Amor: Notes on Proper Balcony Conduct
(Panel # 42 - Pedro Armendáriz), 1995
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 Conduct.

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.

Several 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 getting heartburn.

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.



I Lied, 1996
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"

Work non-extant. 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 or cathedrals.

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.