Graphic identify and logo of ArtCenter
Logo and detail of graphic identify of ArtCenter's exhibition IdentificarX designed by alum Carla Figueroa.

feature / alumni / faculty / college-news / diversity
June 12, 2024
By Solvej Schou

Curators highlight work in exhibition IdentificarX celebrating our Latina/e/o/x alumni  

“NO CONTABAN CON MI ASTUCIA. They Underestimated Us.” These words—the catchphrase of Mexican television character El Chapulín Colorado (the Red Grasshopper)—follow the names of more than 100 exhibiting artists and designers listed in the publication for ArtCenter’s exhibition IdentificarX, celebrating our Latina/e/o/x alumni community.  

The show, which opens June 15, explores the contributions that our Latina/e/o/x alumni—representing an array of disciplines at the College—have made to the fields of art and design, and significant cultural impact. Recognizing that the Latina/e/o/x community is not a monolith, the value “x” in the title acts as a placeholder for inclusivity and agency.  

Work exhibited across several South Campus galleries and spaces will be accompanied by events, including a reception June 15, an alumni panel, a film festival and community tours. The exhibition’s publication, with text by Humanities and Sciences Associate Professor Rocío Carlos and designed by alum Erron Estrada (BFA 22), will be available in conjunction with the show.  

IdentificarX’s curatorial team includes Melinda Paix Arredondo (BFA 20), Stephanie Marie Cedeño (MFA 18), Leo Eguiarte (BFA 09), Carla Figueroa (BFA 95), Julian Flores, Stella Hernandez (BS 11), Stan Kong (BS 83), Ramone Muñoz (BFA 77, MFA 90), Ana Lydia Ochoa-Monaco (BFA 18), Ryan Perez (BFA 08) and Olivia Sandoval (MFA 21), plus curatorial assistant Citlalli Esmeralda Aguirre (BFA 24). Figueroa designed the exhibition’s logo and graphic identity, and Ochoa-Monaco directed an IdentificarX documentary featuring video interviews with alumni.  

Here are works by nine different alumni featured in IdentificarX, with each piece of work—by a different alum artist and designer—highlighted by an exhibition curator, in their own words. The curators’ perspectives showcase the importance of celebrating the creativity, diversity and influence of our Latina/e/o/x alumni artists and designers.

Solar eclipse poster designed by alum Agustín Garza.
Solar eclipse poster designed by alum Agustín Garza.


Chosen by IdentificarX curator, Los Angeles-based artist and Professor Ramone Muñoz (BFA 77 Advertising, MFA 90 Art), this poster by alum and former longtime faculty member Agustín Garza (BFA 81 Graphic Design)—founder of the full-service marketing communications agency the Garza Group—was created by Garza after Mexico’s tourism board asked him to help position Mexico as the preferred destination to experience the total eclipse on July 11, 1991. Through the design process, Garza discovered that Aztec poetry had envisioned this eclipse, with Coyolxauhqui, the Aztec goddess of the moon, rising to confront Tonatiuh, the Aztec sun god, to destroy him, marking this eclipse date as the end of the Aztec empire. Coyolxauhqui is depicted facing the sun at the base of the poster. Writes Muñoz:  

“The poster I selected was promoting a solar eclipse in Mexico, which—knowing that Agustín is an astronomy nut—made perfect sense, and that he would be called upon to make such a work. There is something very mysterious and engaging about this poster. It combines archeology with the pre-Hispanic religions of Mexico. It pays homage to Mexico’s Indigenous ancestors, while making the subtle statement that this ancient energy is still alive and can be felt all the more when these celestial events occur. Very few words were needed. You understand the message by feeling it. Having traveled, myself, throughout Latin America, and especially in Mexico over the years, I can say that Mexico is also a place of intense feeling. That feeling is an important part of the IdentificarX exhibit. I’m sure that this unique passion and energy, shared by all LatinX people, will come through in many of the works being exhibited.”  

“Agustín is the senior member of the exhibit, having graduated from ArtCenter in 1981. He and I have been friends since I joined ArtCenter faculty in 1984. He was already teaching in the Graphic Design department, and I lectured with him, visiting some of the best art and design schools in Mexico City to talk about ArtCenter. Agustín has had a very distinguished career in graphic design, working with some of the best architects in Latin America on all kinds of cultural projects. He was a very successful teacher at ArtCenter, and one of the first faculty members of the graduate Graphic Design program founded in 1991. Agustín is also a very accomplished fine artist, and he has created many conceptual works that speak of his roots in Mexico. Some of my younger LatinX students have referred to me as an ‘OG.’ I thought that might mean ‘Old Goat,’ but in fact it means ‘Original Gangster,’ which is a compliment, of sorts, kind of like a Godfather. Agustin Garza is an OG, big time.”

Poster for the short documentary Bad Hombrewood by alum Guillermo Casarín.
Poster for the short documentary Bad Hombrewood by alum Guillermo Casarín.


Chosen by IdentificarX curator and L.A.-based Mexican American filmmaker Olivia Sandoval (MFA 21 Film), the 2021 short documentary Bad Hombrewood by Mexican film director, screenwriter and producer Guillermo Casarín (BFA 19 Film) tackles Hollywood's lack of representation of the Latina/e/o/x community. The film features emerging and renowned filmmakers, including Academy Award-winning director Guillermo Del Toro, and it has been selected in more than 50 international film festivals. Writes Sandoval:  

“I chose this work because it's a piece that speaks about the difficulties of being a Mexican trying to break in the film industry in Hollywood, where Latinos, for the longest time, have been portrayed as ‘bad hombres’ who are usually the enemies, and the first ones to get killed. In a country where Latinos and Hispanics constitute almost 20% of the population, and only about 4.6% get a role in movies, this documentary is paramount to empathizing and understanding the struggle of the Latinx community in reclaiming a space on the big screen, and in the eyes of millions of Hispanics who crave representation. This piece speaks for the Latinx community and shines a light on the need of acknowledgment and representation to a very big part of our nation, our society and ourselves.”

Photographic self-portrait Se Sufre Pero Se Goza by alum Angeles Portilla.
Photographic self-portrait Se Sufre Pero Se Goza by alum Angeles Portilla.


Chosen by IdentificarX curator, Filipino Mexican American artist and Associate Professor Ryan Perez (BFA 08 Fine Art), the photographic self-portrait Se Sufre Pero Se Goza (“We Suffer But We Rejoice”) by Mexican artist Angeles Portilla (BFA 23 Fine Art)—from her 2023 graduating thesis exhibition El Peso De La Vergüenza—shows Portilla taking back her power and digesting her complicated feelings towards her experiences being raised in a very Catholic environment, and spending most of her puberty at a conservative school. In the piece, Portilla—who learned to see pleasure and punishment as two continuums, one following the other—refuses to give up the enjoyment that her suffering brings to her. Her primary mediums are performance, self-portraiture photography and video, with her processes based on experimentation and observation. Writes Perez:  

“I view this work as an expressive self-portrait, explicit in its progressive recording of self-flagellation. The artist is kneeling before a blank wall with her back to us. Each frame is a stage in the process, a silent utterance of what my imagination hears from its literal image. In the end, there is the explicit use of text that poetically and figuratively functions as a period to a sentence that triggers a history of shame, guilt and penance—a history upheld by the invisible powers of coloniality. When I selected this work for the exhibition, I asked these questions: Who put shame in our minds? Who put whips in our hands? And when did we begin whipping ourselves?”

Still from the video installation Ascent of Weavers by alum Rebeca Méndez.
Still from the video installation Ascent of Weavers by alum Rebeca Méndez.


Highlighted by IdentificarX curator Perez, the 2018 three-channel video installation Ascent of Weavers (“Ascenso de Tejedoras”) by Mexico-born and L.A.-based interdisciplinary artist, designer and teacher Rebeca Méndez (BFA 84 Graphic Design, MFA 97 Media Design Practices) was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oaxaca, Mexico. The piece focuses on an Indigenous cultural story of transformation and healing the Earth. Among her accolades, Méndez has received the 2012 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in Communication Design, the 2017 AIGA Medal, and was inducted into the One Club Hall of Fame in 2017. Perez writes:  

“We selected Rebeca Méndez’s piece Ascent of Weavers as it aptly represents the complexity of the Latina/o/x/e diaspora and the potential of our past and present experiences to enrich and sustain culture. The work is a collaboration with the Hernández Quero family, weavers of Zapotec descent from Mitla. Mitla, recognized as the city of the dead in Zapotec culture, is framed by the artist to provide a narrative structure as she visually conveys a journey of weavers into the underworld of the Mixtec mythology, undergoing many trials, and eventually emerging as warrior goddesses who lead civilization to a just, more equitable and sustainable relationship with our planet. The video piece in many ways serves as a metaphor for many of us of Latinxa/o/x/e descent who found their way to becoming artists and designers, with the goal of bridging cultures and sustaining our own cultural traditions—both past and hybridized present.”

Painting We’re Out Here by alum Michael Alvarez.
Painting We’re Out Here by alum Michael Alvarez.


Chosen by IdentificarX curator and L.A.-based multimedia artist Leo Eguiarte (BFA 09 Illustration), the painting We’re Out Here by painter and teaching artist Michael Alvarez (BFA 07 Illustration) reflects Alvarez’s work and efforts as an educator. Alvarez facilitates various greater L.A. area programs—at art-focused charter schools to juvenile halls—and was a featured artist in the Made in LA 2023: Acts of Living exhibition at the Hammer Museum. Writes Eguiarte:  

“In We're Out Here, Michael collaborated with students to create a work that is reminiscent of the quintessential classroom highlight board. This mixed media painting captures the essence of adolescence, and the communal struggles that are often shared with our peers growing up, navigating through personal and educational developments. The work uplifts the underserved Latino community by demonstrating the importance of empowering youth through education. Michael's commitment as an educator is a selfless endeavor. He has guided many students who, for social economic reasons, would not have the opportunity to achieve the basic goal of graduating high school.”

Adidas Adizero Afterburner 8 cleat designed by alum Harold Arandia Jr.
Adidas Adizero Afterburner 8 cleat designed by alum Harold Arandia Jr.


Chosen by IdentificarX curator and Product Design Chair and graduate Industrial Design Co-Chair Stan Kong (BS 83 Product Design), the Adidas Adizero Afterburner 8 cleat designed by Bolivian American, L.A.-born and Portland, Oregon-based artist and Adidas Senior Designer Harold Arandia Jr. (BS 99 Product Design) blends innovation, technology and storytelling. Arandia Jr. has designed footwear and furniture, and his own line of handcrafted chocolates. He has worked with global companies including Mattel and Asics, and he is currently leading and developing creative direction for Adidas’ baseball products. Kong writes:  

“In general, it is more difficult for designers to reflect their cultural background into their work unless the culture is embedded into the brand or product. Most designers are given a market to design to. Harold Arandia Jr.’s work, both professional and personal, reflects his culture, travel, nature and friends. I found Harold’s design for the Adizero Afterburner 8 shoes to be interesting since he was able to pitch to Adidas the project celebrating Latino culture and heritage. I know Harold from Pasadena City College, when he was a beginning art student. He is the first person in his family to attend college and earn his BS degree. As a teacher, I think it’s important for young aspiring art and design students to be able to see role models that look like themselves, creating work that is mainstream. This is particularly important in industrial design related fields, since many young students are unfamiliar with these careers. They are often counseled to study architecture or engineering when they express they like making things to a career guidance counselor.”

Concept design work for Hyundai and Honda by alum Franco Corral.
Concept design work for Hyundai and Honda by alum Franco Corral.


Also chosen by IdentificarX curator Kong, work for Hyundai and Honda by Honda Advanced Design Exterior Designer and Assistant Professor Franco Corral (BS 09 Transportation Design) showcases his multilayered career. Originally from Mexico, Corral cites the television show Knight Rider as igniting his passion for automobiles. After working at Hyundai Design North America on production and advanced projects for the brands Hyundai and Genesis, he joined Honda Advanced Design. There, he has been working on 2040 vision projects that include Honda and Acura automobiles, mobility vehicles, power sports and robotics products, using scenario and storytelling based XR experiences. Kong writes:  

“I chose Franco for much of the same reason I did Harold and others exhibiting in IdentificarX. Franco submitted work he was proud of, and work he could actually show. Most designers can’t show work they are currently working on. Often, it’s difficult to be able to take full credit on large projects that are developed by teams. Franco is one of many former students that I met as beginning art students when I was head of Product Design and faculty at Pasadena City College. Like many former students, they were inspired to pursue their educations in industrial design at ArtCenter and have a career in their field of study. Ultimately, the success of the transfer of students between PCC and ArtCenter has been the pathways that have been established, and it’s important that all the designers I’ve invited be celebrated for their success. Importantly, they serve as role models for the next generation of designers.”

Photograph La Fuga by alum Bibs Moreno.
Photograph La Fuga by alum Bibs Moreno.


Chosen by IdentificarX curator and fashion and portrait photographer Melinda Paix Arredondo (BFA 20 Photography and Imaging), the 2023 photograph La Fuga (“The Escape”) by L.A.-based Chicana multimedia artist and photographer Bibs Moreno (BFA 18 Photography) is of Moreno’s friend Maeve, an experimental producer, for her debut album’s title track. The personal and intimate shot stemmed from Moreno and her friend playing around experimenting with lighting and diffusion, and the photograph was eventually used professionally. Arredondo writes:  

“Bibs Moreno is an incredibly talented photographer and multimedia artist who is creating work that draws you in and takes you outside of the boring square of the commercial world. With such a saturated industry, her work stands out, takes you to a new place and the attention to detail that has gone into each image is incredible. From the lighting, the design, the multimedia work to the references and props, everything is done beautifully, with intention and in Bibs’ unique style. When I was asked to curate the Photography and Imaging department's work, Bibs Moreno was the first person I thought of to add to the exhibition. I was lucky enough to attend ArtCenter with Bibs, and I am so glad I did. She’s always motivated me, helped me and has been an inspiration to me. Her work is an extension of who she is, and she puts her whole self into it, and you can see it in the results. It is important to include work from artists like Bibs because her vision is unique, but is representative of who she is. There weren’t many students who looked like us or came from backgrounds like ours, but that’s what makes including Bibs so important. She is one of a kind, has a vision that many people don’t, and she can create work that hasn’t been seen or fits into the box that’s expected from us. She is often imitated, but never duplicated, and I’m proud to include this badass Latina from the I.E. [Inland Empire].”

The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, guest room with design led by alum Christopher Alvarado.
The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, guest room, with design led by alum Christopher Alvarado.


Chosen by IdentificarX curator and Spatial Experience Design Associate Chair Stella Hernandez (BS 11 Environmental Design), the Cabo San Lucas hotel project The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, with its design led by Christopher Alvarado (BS 06 Environmental Design), demonstrates Alvarado’s ability to drive creative vision and programming from concept to reality in the hospitality industry. Alvarado currently works as SH Hotels and Resorts’ senior vice president of design. Writes Hernandez:  

“This hotel project in Cabo San Lucas masterfully leverages its natural setting on Monuments Beach, offering each room breathtaking views. The thoughtful design and carefully selected finishes accentuate the natural beauty of the landscape, making the hotel experience truly unforgettable. Christopher led the creative design and brand vision for this project. I chose to highlight this project because it beautifully marries the stunning Latin American landscape with the creative and talented work of our alumni. Including Christopher’s work in this exhibition is crucial to highlighting the achievements of our alumni, who have succeeded and are recognized in the industry as creative leaders. Their accomplishments serve as an example and an inspiration to people in Latino communities who aspire to follow their dreams and can see themselves reflected in the success of others.”