O P E N
S T O R A G E
b. 1951, United States
White Rose, 1983
Pastel on paper
59.5 x 41.75 in.
Collection of The Bass
Gift of Eileen and Peter Norton
John Valadez is one of the most significant artists to have come from the Los Angeles Chicano art scene with his realistic paintings and murals recording the Chicano experience in Los Angeles from the 1970s to 1990s. While his earlier works focus on the challenges Mexican Americans face following the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, his more recent works have extended to emphasize ideas of global importance, creating works in which they expose our shared pleasures and anxieties across all cultures.
Valadez’s early portraits of people encountered on the streets of his hometown, isolated within fields of blank paper, become beautified iconography beyond the limits of cultural identity. In all his large portraits, the figure looks directly out of the work, holding their gaze to the viewer, confronting and challenging us to see them as individuals.
In White Rose, Valadez has given this woman agency in her portrayal. Her seductive features and the delicacy of her dress sensually revealing her body underneath entices the viewer to come closer, but yet her serious demeanor reveals that we are not meant to be drawn in. With her harsh and intimidating expression, this woman is not presented as a weak, seductive, or stereotypical woman, but instead Valadez records her standing strong, defiant and empowered.