Thursday, January 21, 2016

From East Oakland with Love

By Salvador "Chamuco" Cortez
Published by Pochino Press

As a historian, my mind is always boggled at how modern artists create images that are reiterations of what their ancestors did several hundred years before. It is as if the blueprint for modern art was encoded in one's DNA. Upon perusing he work found in “From East Oakland with Love,” I had to educate myself on linocuts. It is a sort of woodcut but linoleum is used for the medium. As a b-boy, I have an affinity for linoleum, so Chamuco Cortez' work spoke to me in different ways. So Cortez's work is generational and brings so much to the forefront.

I didn't know what to expect when this piece came to my desk. I think Pochino Press did it a dope job putting it out as a book. I will admit that I stray away from art books if they are not in a coffee table book format. However, Pochino Press put together a wonderful book and they really allowed Cortez to flesh out how he gets down. The poems and essays coupled with the art pieces give the reader much to digest. It allows Cortez to be his full artistic self and leaves no room for assumptions.

There is a linocut piece entitled “Confession a Feeling” where two cholos are kissing one another. It conveys so much in just one piece. This is followed by “To Serve and Protect” another linocut with a pig posing as an Oakland Police Officer. This is reminiscent of what Huey P. Newton expressed back in the late sixties and early seventies.

Probably the best part of “From East Oakland with Love,” is how Cortez pays homage to Aztec culture. He introduces the reader to many of the deities of the Aztecs. He then connects them to cholo culture in California. He then connects it to the zoot suit culture of the 1950s. In doing so, Cortez takes the reader through a virtual time machine via linocuts. In one scene, he gives the reader a linocut of Kuauhtemoktzin and on the next page he provides one of El Pachuco. Cortez provides the parallels to each story and makes that important connection.

My favorite would have to be “Still Warriors No Matter How” where he has a Brown Beret reflecting off of an Aztec deity. This personifies Brown Power and Pride. The reader can flip the page and enjoy the detail and notice the similarities between both characters. While Cortez does not give insight as to who this Aztec deity could be, it provides that mystery that keeps the reader intrigued.

I enjoyed how Cortez uses poetry from other writers to add on to his cipher. This approach to art and activism is a dope mixture. Pochino Press did a great job in this format. Hopefully we can see more art in this medium that puts together art and activism. It's refreshing to find a press that still puts out 'zines.

From East Oakland with Love and be purchased here at the Pochino Press website.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Little Red Fish Issue 2

Written by James Moffitt
Illustrated by Bizhan Khodabandeh

In issue 2 of this allegory, James Moffit and Bizhan Khodabandeh brings the reader back to the aquatic reef after the epic battle between Manuchehr and the heron. Initially, I assumed that Manuchehr died as a result of the battle but he is alive and well. He is also living amongst the fish in his aquatic form. We find that while there are fish who support Manuchehr and see him as a hero, there are those who see him as trouble. Not only do some fish find him troublesome, the eels make it a point to sabotage his message.

As I stated in the previous review for issue 1, I always find it difficult to teach my students the valuable lessons of events such as the Iranian Revolution. While there are heroes and villains in these points of history, there are also people who blur the lines of those titles. There are those who completely avoid the conflict as much as they could and there are those who make decisions that have bigger repercussions than they actually are aware of. On top of that, there are law abiding citizens who are good but take the side of the villain for various reason. History like life, is not just black and white.

While it is clear that the eels have their own interests in mind, there are some fish who do believe that if Mancuchehr wasn't around, there would be less trouble. While to the reader, this may seem counter productive, but it is a sentiment many have about several activists. When the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) was alive, there were quite a few people in his community who felt he was a rabble rouser. Many felt, that things didn't get out of hand until he showed up. The Iranian Revolution is no different.

The best part about issue 2 is that we find the actors taking sides. We see the build up. We even witness some fish state that Mancuchehr is not needed to fight a revolution and that the people cannot wait for him to recover. There are even those who feel that Mancuchehr has to fight for the people. This build up keeps the reader engaged. I cannot stress enough how Khodabandeh's artwork really brings it all to life. His breakdowns are very detailed. Everything is visible down to the smallest fishscale.

Overall, I am looking forward to the conclusion of these story. While we know the outcome of the Iranian Revolution, it will be amazing to see how Moffitt and Khodabandeh put it all together to deliver this wonderful story.