Conversation with David Avalos, Professor, CSU San Marcos: Monday, April 7, 11:30 am in the Art Gallery

Richard A. Lou’s installation “Stories on My Back” explores his mixed Chinese and Mexican heritage by speaking of his connections across the Pacific and in the Americas, both ancient and modern. Lou’s work connects autobiographical memory with geography and history. It continues a narrative from earlier work referencing issues of power, immigration, racism and assimilation.

In the gallery the visitor will enter a ceremonial nine-foot post and lintel structure clad in golden cornhusks and illuminated from within.  The columns are studded with images and quotes from the artist’s Chinese father, his Mexican mother and his grandparents. The cornhusks represent the scales on the Aztec plumed serpent Quetzalcoatl but also reference Chinese dragons.  Audio and video components add layers, additional voices and iconography.

Also featured in the installation is a piece by Louisiana artist Chere Labbe Doiron, who five years ago took on the task of breathing new life into Richard Lou's father's lazy-boy chair. The chair assumes the role of illustrated historian and part talisman as it protects and convenes the stories of the Lou family. The installation has been on exhibit throughout the US.

James Luna uses photography to preserve performance actions into images that have a dramatic voice of their own. Luna is internationally renowned for powerful work that transforms gallery spaces into battlefields, confronting the audience with the nature of cultural identity. From his unique indigenous perspective as a resident of the La Jolla Indian Reservation in North County, Luna has given voice to Native Americancultural issues with over 30 years of exhibition and performance experience.

"I CON" is a new series of performance based photographs by James Luna. Many of the photographs are humorous in nature but they also contain a serious statement about mainstream culture’s icons, heroes and celebrities. It explores the tension between icons and stereotypes commenting on the effects of American pop culture’s inclusion and exclusion of American Indians.            

This is the premiere showing of this exhibition which will travel throughout the US and Canada.


Richard Lou’s previous work has ranged from photography, to installation, to performance art. While living in San Diego in the late 80s and early 90s, Lou worked with groups such as the Border Art Workshop. He collaborated with artist Robert J. Sanchez as Los Anthropolocos. As curator he organized the Hecho en Califas exhibition in 1999. He has received numerous teaching and arts awards including an NEA Visual Arts Fellowship in 1988. He participated in the Venice Biennale in 1990 and has exhibited his work internationally. He is currently Chair of the Art Department at the University of Memphis, Tennessee.

 James Luna has been a performance and installation artist since 1975. He has performed at MOMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary, Art San Diego and the Los Angeles Museum of Art, among others. He was selected as the first SponsoredArtist of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and he presented at the Venice Biennale in Italy in 2005. He has performed his work internationally and received major awards.

Gallery Hours: MTW 11-4 pm, Thursday 11 – 8 pm. Closed Fridays, weekends and school holidays. 

Image credit: Richard A. Lou, Stories on my Back, 2012, installation detail/James Luna, O.J. “Trial and Error”, 2014