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A little bit of los angeles in fullerton


By Tim Tuttle/For --

Frank Romero has a body of work that stretches over 40 years. The 75-year-old, born and raised in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles and a lover of all things indigenous to southern California—Mexican-American culture, customized cars cruising on Whittier Boulevard and palm trees—is probably most famous for his 1984 mural “Going to the Olympics.”

It was located on block wall on Highway 101 between Los Angeles and Alameda Streets in downtown Los Angeles. Sadly, it’s gone, painted over several years ago because of graffiti, but Romero has done a downsized version of it, painted on a 12-foot canvas. It shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Romero that it had five cars going single-file, each of them separated by four palm trees.

Once a year, Romero puts together an exhibit for The Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton’s historic and beautiful hillside estate. This year, it’s called, “California Palms.” Exhibit curator Romero calls it a “mixed survey.” It’s eclectic, with a wide range of materials and styles from 34 artists. Romero has 10 pieces plus one shared piece in the gallery. The show began May 11 and runs through June 11 and can be seen Wednesday through Sunday’s from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

“Usually, we start talking about this a year in advance,” Romero said after he gave a personal tour of the gallery on May 11. “I have to gather all the people. A lot of the artists are Latino, from East Los Angeles, from El Salvador, from many places. It’s an interesting mix, as we all are these days.”

Romero was assisted in putting together the show by Howard Swerdloff, who lives in Pico Rivera and whose heritage is Russian. Swerdloff is an artist and works with Romero as his fabricator.

“I was very lucky to have Mr. Swerdloff, who has come to work with me again,” Romero said. “He recommended a lot of these people to me.”

Romero, who divides his residences between Los Angeles and France and has a studio in Highland Park, has pieces from wife Sharon Romero, daughter Sonia Romero, assistants Jin Tran and Sandra Cornejo and protégé and former assistant David Flury.

There are also contributions from long-time friends such as photographer Oscar R. Castillo and painter Margaret Garcia.

The list also includes sculptor Michael Amescua, graphic artist Todd Tostado, photographers Thomas K. Meyer and Larry Cunningham, ceramicists Young Shin Kim and Wayne Perry, painters Salvador Correa, Lynn Coleman, Robin Cohen, Raoul de la Sota, Alisa Dennis, Benjie Escobar, Ignacio Gomez, Sara Harris, Wayne Healy, Bonnie Lambert, Philippe Previl, Ramon Ramirez, Richard Valdez, Katsu Yokoyama, Karien Zachery and Swerdloff and neon artist Michael Flechtner.

Some of the pieces are for sale. The most expensive piece at $16,000 is by sculptor Robert Obion, “Drought Tolerant Alternative, 2017” made with wood, aluminum and stainless steel. Other pieces range from $300 to $10,000.

“It’s a mixed survey and it’s both my personal choices, stuff I’m interested in, and pieces I could bring into it that are good pieces,” Romero said.

Sharon and Sonia Romero are accomplished artists in their own right. Sharon Romero has a psychology from Pitzer College in Claremont and an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts. Her painting at the Muckenthaler is titled, “Hawaiian Palms.”

Sonia Romero, Frank Romero’s daughter from previous wife Nancy Romero, has “Palm Tree 2017” done in block printing, acrylic and papercut on canvas, and “Palm Fan 2017” done in block printing, acrylic and papercut on canvas.

“My daughter is more famous than I am,” Romero said at the May 11 tour.

Tran’s two pieces are acrylic painted on wood called “Distant Lover, 2017” and “Landscape With Palm.”

“It’s very effective,” Romero said. “I really like that.”

Romero also several pieces what mix wood, neon and acrylic, and paintings titled, “Woolworth and Palms” and “Tamale and Palms.” Neither of the two paintings are for sale.

There are some unique pieces that cannot be generally categorized, such as Rosalie Lopez’ “Papel Picado Palmtrees, 2017. It is made with hand cut vinyl and laser cut paper with embossing and hand stitching.

Flury collaborated with Romero on “The Lady in the Palm Tree, 2017.” It is mixed media on wood/electrical lamp.

“David was my assistant for 10 years,” Romero said. “He stole one of my palm trees. I think it’s kind of wonderful.”

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