A parking lot a block from MacArthur Park used to be the Vagabond Theater. As a teenager in the late 1960s painter John Valadez spent a lot of time there watching art house films.


The owner had painted scenes from Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin on large canvases and draped them on the side walls. John says right on, when I tell him one his newest pastel works, Muertedores Baile would be a great scene in an early Luis Buñuel film. In the pastel three bullfighters in blue, pink and white carry out a cape move in a circle at a dusty cemetery. The capes and bull are absent. A green-suited bullfighter lies on a cloud above, limp like El Greco's Count Orgaz.

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In the 1990s John shifted from Chicano realism to more allegorical, somewhat surreal work. His Broadway Mural, done in the early 1980s stands as a master work in Chicano art. John was one of the first to use superb draftsmanship to depict Chicano urban life in a hyperrealistic style. John's friend Ruben Guevara - an L.A. poet, musician and concert promoter - said Muertedores Baile took his breath away when he saw John working on it. There's a lot going on and the dusty cemetery reminded him of one he's seen in Mexicali. When Kathy Gallegos of Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park asked Ruben to take part in a February 14th reading that pairs up writers with works of art, Ruben said he'd like nothing better than to write a poem based on John Valadez's painting. For Ruben, the bullfighters in the work of art pay tribute to the hundreds of working-class women killed in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez. The killings remain largely unsolved. Here's what Ruben will read on Saturday.

Traje de Luces / Suit of Lights
(Por Las Mujeres de Juárez / For the Women of Juárez)
A Xikano Haiku for John Valadez's Muertedores Baile
By Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara

The warm night calls you
"Tonight, a Dance for Lovers!"
Corrida de luz

Strokes of life and death
Dance in the darkness of light
Dance with destiny

Aztec virgins scream
Hearts explode into fire storms
Souls cut, scarred, bleeding

¡Matador! Say it!
"¡Las mujeres de Juárez!"
"¡Descansen en paz!"

Fury transcended
Ignites the light in terror
Dries God's bleeding tears

Life, love, ecstasy
A dance for lovers only
Xikan@ heaven

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