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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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06/13/2005 Archived Entry: "An Interview with Roberto Delgado"

Interview with Roberto Delgado

Roberto Delgado’s work evolves from the reality of the photo. Both his easel work and public art murals have been based on the people and circumstances that he encounters, with both being an appreciation of the human figure. He was born and raised in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles, did his time in the US Army, and is a 1976 MFA graduate of UCLA. He spent most of the 70s and 80s in Chiapas State, Mexico, where he honed his skills in murals and public art. In 1985 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and lived in Mexico City, working on large monotypes and murals. Delgado works and lives in Los Angeles, the second largest city in Mexico. He continues to paint and lately has been doing some airbrush over photosilkscreen experiments in cut fired tile. Mr. Delgado gave this interview via email to Kathy Gallegos of the Avenue 50 Studio where Mr. Delgado has a show up until July 4, and Ginger Mayerson of J LHLS in June 2005.

Ginger Mayerson: What are you working on these days?

Roberto Delgado: I make my money from public art commissions, mostly in the public sector. I use acrylic for indoor treatments and tile for the outdoors. I have no illusions that what I do for shows such as at Avenue 50, is more than just fun, fun, fun and maybe a bankroll for my estate down the line.

GM: What media do you work most in?

RD: Acrylic when the weather is nice and wet and the paint flows like butter; oils when not; and 2D ceramic tiles with airbrush over photosilkscreen glazes.

GM: Did you have formal training in art or are you self-taught?

RD: MFA, UCLA, 1976. GI Bill, good scholarship money, free medical, a studio, and the keys to the print shop. Other than that, self-taught in murals and ceramic tile.

GM: What artists or art periods, if any, do you feel have influenced or inspired your work?

RD: Benvenuto Cellini and the interesting intrigue of public art in the renaissance. Not so much because he was such a great artist, but because Benvenuto took no crap from anybody in a time when this could get you killed by a cardinal named Borgia and/or his sister Lucretia. Had good discipline to keep the inspiration going and was an excellent craftsman and technician. Wouldn't want to live at that time, though.

GM: What do you consider the most important aspects and experiences in your development as an artist?

RD: Chiapas, Mexico in the 70s and 80s.

GM: How has your personal and artistic background influenced your art?

RD: Stationed with US Army Southern European Task Force, Vicenza, Italy, 1967-70, midway between Padua and Verona. Good art history. And then I went to Chiapas. Oh boy. Now, hanging out at these places and making some art takes a little bit of self-discipline. In public art, working with others not necessarily harmoniously, but to get the job done with the highest quality - that helps. And that's probably a personal background that has more to do with high school sports than Painting 101.

Kathy Gallegos: Does your culture or the Chicano culture here in Los Angeles have any influence in your art?

RD: The culture of Mexico, about thirty centuries old, two hours away, and still maintained. Can't avoid it. Unlike the Germans and Irish, it's right next door. "Chicano culture" is such characteristically gringo hubris, as if it's not part of something bigger, and sprouted whole cloth from the inner city. But then Mexican has always been considered a dirty word - especially by Mexicans born, living, and dying in LA. See denials and misperceptions below.

GM: What are the most important aspects and experiences in your practice of art now?

RD: Denials and mass misperceptions: Apart from being a moneymaker, the public art game is interesting in how it's looked at by the fine arts establishment. On the one hand, the High Renaissance is studied and praised, on the other, no one considers a contemporary muralist a serious artist. Which is good for me, because they don't teach public art and mural painting in the university art departments, giving me less competition and good job prospects. Denials and misperceptions: "Chicano" art as if that 600 pound gorilla called Mexico had nothing to do with it. For those who bother to see deeply the colors and forms of what's coming out of an LA barrio, if not read about what the Olmecs were doing around the time of Abraham, low rider culture has more to do with the Mercado Sonora in Mexico City than with Detroit. Detroit has a good basketball team.

GM: Are there any shows in the LA area or elsewhere you've seen lately that have had an impact on you?

RD: No, but they're a lot of fun to go to and watch the people with some free wine.

KG: If you would talk with younger artists, how would you explain the role of inspiration and self-discipline?

RD: It's hard to keep inspiration going without some self-discipline, and self-discipline is easier when you have mastered the craft, and mastering the craft is OJT and trial and error. And if you don't enjoy the above, you probably want some money up front so get your real estate license, make some bread, and buy my art.

KG: Which is more important?

RD: Self-discipline.

GM: What are you reading and/or listening to these days?

RD: Book on what happened in China at the start of the investment frenzy in the 1990s. Written by a Brit who learned Mandarin and was in on some of the biggest Wall Street underwitings of China Inc. Listening to Wayne Healy's XM satellite radio at the Rosemead studio: Bull Dog Drummond and the Whistler from late 40s radio; the latest from La Habana and Paris. Other than that, classical guitar.

GM and KG: Thank you, Roberto.

Mr. Delgado has a show of paintings at Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N. Ave 50, in Highland Park until July 4. Please call 323-258-1435 for gallery hours or visit the website at

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