As the City’s streets spring back to life, a bright new art gallery has popped up triumphantly declaring “un mundo nuevo en Pico” or “a new world on Pico.”
This boldly titled exhibition features photography, painting, and handcrafted goods from Pico and Los Angeles based Latinx artists. Spearheaded by the Pico Improvement Organization, the initiative seeks to use art to propel the neighborhood’s economic recovery and showcase the area’s Latino heritage.
“I believe in the power of art to bring the community together, to attract visitors, and bring them to our merchants,” said Dana Moorehead, who curated the exhibition and serves as the merchant engagement director for the Pico Improvement Organization.
The exhibit is inspired by the success of a similar pop-up last summer and aims to draw more visitors to Pico to explore the artwork, admire the street’s colorful murals and patronize local businesses.
The PIO renovated the vacant Nancy’s Nails storefront to create the vibrant new gallery space. The exhibition features artwork from Linda Vallejo, Nicola Goode, Anne Carmack, Jeff Gros and Rosa Maria Lares as well as handmade crafts from five Latina Pico residents.
“It felt very important to showcase our Hispanic community, to bring it to the forefront and give it the importance that it deserves as a part of our identity,” said Moorehead. “Our show is a celebration of the diversity and resiliency of people who are amongst us who we aren’t always aware of.”
The gallery is a deeply collaborative project. The City provided an Art of Recovery Grant for the project and the 18th Street Art Center assisted with the curation of local artists. The lease was generously given by the Lares family of the family-owned Lares Mexican restaurant on Pico Blvd. The Lares matriarch, Rosia Maria, is also one of the show’s featured artists.
“It’s a very interesting public-private collaboration that incorporates art to bring the community together and revitalize business,” said renowned Mexican-American artist Linda Vallejo. “I think art builds culture, builds business, builds interests, builds community.”
Vallejo is showcasing five pieces from her ‘Brown Dot Project’ in the Pico Pop-up. In this series she takes striking statistics about Latino peoples in the United States and displays them in data pictographs that she often transposes on top of images.
The pieces on display in Pico feature photographs of Southern Californian adobe houses covered by a dot data grid illustrating statistics on DACA recipients, Latino home ownership and the Latino population in Los Angeles.
“What I like about the Brown Dot Project is that we (Latinos) learn something about ourselves and it teaches other people about us,” said Vallejo. “It incorporates math and art into it, which makes it mind bending and good for expanding learning capacity.”
In addition to the photographs and artwork hanging on its walls, the pop-up features an installation of handmade items crafted by Pico based artisans. This installation is titled ‘Manos a la Obra’, meaning hands to the task, and was curated by Misael Diaz and Amy Sanchez Arteaga of the Cognate Collective.
The goods on display at the pop-up include traditional Mexican paper flowers, knitted home goods, handmade jewelry and hand-sewn clothing. Cognate Collective’s artisan partnerships are part of a larger project called Market Exchange, which hosts an online store to sell these crafts.
“A lot of the artists we are working with, in addition to being interested in providing an alternative economic outlet for themselves and their family, are also interested in preserving traditions that they feel are valuable,” said Diaz.
“These crafts create a vital tie between immigrant communities and diasporic communities and people back home in other countries,” said Sanchez Arteaga.
Diaz and Sanchez Arteaga created an animated neon sign for the window of the pop-up to help attract visitors into the space. The sign depicts hands at work in an homage to the different forms of labor that take place in Pico.
“We have mechanic hands, hands sewing, hands doing upholstery, hands that are preparing food,”said Diaz. “We wanted to create a link between craft based work with other forms of labor that are just as valuable for maintaining a sense of community for the neighborhood and the city at large.”
The Pico Pop-up is open at 2917 Pico Blvd. from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and by appointment.