No PortraitsJanuary 28, 2013
Art Practical is honored to present the U.S. premiere of Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s No Portraits, a photo-performance portfolio that pays tribute to eight artists influential to his career. Gómez-Peña is a performance artist and writer based in San Francisco, where he is the artistic director of La Pocha Nostra, an international collective of artists, curators, and intellectuals. A native of Mexico City, Gómez-Peña has created pioneering work in performance, video, radio, installation, poetry, journalism, and cultural theory that explores cross-cultural issues, immigration, the politics of language, “extreme culture,” and new technologies. La Pocha Nostra is a “conceptual laboratory of live art” that combines artistic languages, mediums, and performance formats to “challenge, cross, and erase dangerous borders between art and politics, practice and theory, artist and spectator, mentor and apprentice, body and cultural nightmares.”
No Portraits: A bizarre tribute to Joseph Beuys, Frida Kahlo, Stelarc, Orlan, and other artists
For more than thirty years, I’ve been obsessed with photographic documentation of my performance work in dialogue with history. As a self-defined Chicano, I need to be in control of my image. Throughout the years, I have been lucky to be able to work with amazing photographers such as the Mexican Antonio Turok, the Italian Manuel Vason, the Canarian Teresa Correa, the Spanish Javier Caballero, the Lebanese-American R.J. Muna, and the Argentine Julio Pantoja, among others. In collaboration, my performance and photographer colleagues and I have developed amazing photo-performance archives and portfolios. Many of these photos populate my ten books and myriad magazines, newspapers, websites, posters, brochures, and even a few murals and comic books. Others are virtually unknown, especially those capturing projects that were invisible to the art world.
It wasn’t until 2004—in response to a challenge from my longtime friend, the Spanish curator Orlando Britto-Jinorio—that I began to think of performance photography as a product in itself. Since then, I have developed eight portfolios strictly for the camera. The most recent one was created for a retrospective of my work that took place last year at the Centro Atlantico in the Canary Islands. As the curator, Britto-Jinorio wanted me, at age fifty-six, to restage eight of my classic performance personas. I wanted to pay tribute to eight artists who influenced me at different times of my life. The result was both a reenactment and a tribute. To carry out my project, I invited my close friend, the San Francisco–based video artist and photographer Jen Cohen, to be the witness and documentarian. We spent a weekend in my San Francisco home talking, drinking, and working on the images. We shot more than one thousand pictures. The final portfolio contains eight images chosen by Britto-Jinorio, Cohen, and myself. They have never been published in an art magazine. This is the first time a U.S. audience will get to see them. Enjoy!
Mexico City, Technochtitlan.
One month after the end of the Mayan world