His Kill the Pachuco Bastard! is one of the most recognizable and stunning works of recent contemporary Chicano art, a lucid, violent painting depicting the L.A. Zoot Suit Riots of 1943. But Vincent Valdez, a 28-year-old artist, is not from L.A. He’s from “San Anto” — San Antonio. And he just moved here.
In a way, Valdez’s move to a live-work studio in Boyle Heights with girlfriend Shizu Saldamando, an emerging young artist as well, is the completion of a circle begun with his 2001 painting that has traveled the country as part of Cheech Marin’s Chicano art collection. Valdez arrived in September to work on a commission from songwriter Ry Cooder that explores another turning point in the history of Latino L.A.: the eviction of residents from Chavez Ravine, which opened the way for the construction of Dodger Stadium. Both artists requested details of the piece not be divulged, but this viewer can say the work in progress promises to surpass anything Valdez has given us before, technically and thematically.
“Now I’m back to depicting this actual event in early Los Angeles . . . All of my work in between those two, in between that Zoot Suit piece and this [piece], everything has been based on the same elements, this angle of social American history, whether it’s inner city or, on a grander scale, of what society is and how society functions,” Valdez said. “It was perfect timing, I’ve always had in the back of my mind that I knew I was going to wind up out here.”
This fall Valdez makes his L.A. solo debut at Western Project in Culver City.