the irony and the ecstasy

by urquiza!
Posts Tagged ‘tarahumara’

los polaroidos gigantes

(“los polaroidos gigantes” is twenty-six giclee’ prints from “perdido en califas” exhibited in the council chamber of the city of buena park september 15 — november 6, 2009)    


The City of Buena Park’s Cultural and Fine Arts Division presents “Los Polaroido Gigantes”, Images from Perdido en Califas: A Photography Exhibition by John Tapia Urquiza. “Los Polaroidos Gigantes” are large scale prints of images from the series Perdido in Califas, a body of work eighteen years in the making. This personal and emotional journey through the eyes of artist John Urquiza utilizes photography to connect memories with emotions, inviting the viewer to develop their own relationship with similar experiences of physical and emotional loss, family triumphs, and the present culture of our generation. With the demise of Polaroid film and the rise of digital photography, Perdido en Califas becomes a misty reminder of our histories and opens up a new dialogue regarding the quest for the Mexican-American dream.


“another graveyard” 1996 catalog no. 17
23×28″ unmounted giclee’
california city outside of the airplane graveyard with jessie huang from the series “running through the desert with scissors” 5 of 7





aside from all the hard work it takes to create an exhibition i was reacquainted with the images from another perspective or another scale.  in my assessment post exhibition i feel the story remained, but each image struggled with the other for dominance. the images become more powerful as individuals at this scale. the texture that the polaroid gave the narrative was lost and they became more vivid icons. each image wandered off on its own and away. i like them immensely at this scale. they are fun pop like pieces that create a stir. the city of buena park was extremely generous and supportive. one of the city caretakers gave me a box of polaroid after the reception from the little used city’s stock!



other images from the exhibition

“untitled” 1996 catalog no. 01

“cafe” 1989 catalog no. 03

“the wood shed no.1” 2001 catalog no. 04

“the journey home” 1997 catalog no. 06

“untitled” 1997 catalog no. 07

“beat 64” 1990 catalog no. 08

“old pachuco” 1990 catalog no. 09

“gold plated ride” 1990 catalog no. 10

“the escape artist” 1996 catalog no. 14

“another graveyard” 1996 catalog no. 17

“untitled” 1996 catalog no. 19

“untitled” 1996 catalog no. 21

“untitled” 2000 catalog no. 22

“desert peacocks”1998 catalog no. 25

“untitled” 1998 catalog no. 26

“tapas” 2005 catalog no. 32

“untitled” 2004 catalog no. 34

“church of the silver sun” 2006 catalog no. 39

“evergreen no. 1” 2006 catalog no. 47

“untitled” 2005 catalog no. 49

“untitled” 2006 catalog no. 53

“untitled” 2005 catalog no. 56

“untitled” 2005 catalog no. 57

“untitled” 1992 catalog no. 58

“untitled” 2000 catalog no. 59

“pearblossom highway” 1989 catalog no. 60


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perdido en califas

(lost in the californias)

(this is the original artist’s statement used from the exhibition 09.13.07. the images below have been edited down from the original 60 in the catalog. all images are available as a numbered edition with pigments on hahnemuehle bamboo paper.)

my tribe is from the desert mountains of mexico. the tarahumara indian land is where they say, “the moon is the day of the night”. we came through texas and arizona like thousands of others escaping the past. our ancestors from spain lived amoung a similar land and escaped their past through mexico. our parents escaped to california and i was left here in this new world.

shooting polaroids in the digital camera era seems so provincial now, but this project started when few even had an e.mail address. the polaroid fell into my hands as a tool for documentation at the design office i was employed. after studying and working for several years with traditional film i still considered the polaroid a toy. my first instant images of intellectual depth provoked a crucial emotion that swelled as the image formed on the surface. my photographs until that moment had only been exercises in light, concepts or a forced reality that explored traditional film’s technical limitations.

polaroids eventually allowed me to shed my technical encumbrances. i began to see form and colour. these images became my personal sketch pad of things i could never use. they were for me and no one else except for those maybe sharing the same moment. these and other polaroids now represent the emotional possibilities of the world i walked through. the beginning of my dreams mixing with my reality.

i always traveled through california chasing friends, chasing seasons or escaping the killing jar of los angeles. at first it was coincidence that i traveled to all the places of my youth. then it became a deliberate search for something that i remembered, my youth, my family. i visited these broad landscapes of my youth while trying to comprehend the narrow path of the present. the echo of these images were forms that i could slightly recall from the storage boxes of polaroids, super 8 film and kodak prints of my inheritance. the records of our time as a family contained people whom i recognised, but seemed restrained and afraid while others were invincible. they are nothing like the people i know today.

with these same people i traveled the road trips of my youth. they were sometimes clichéd and painful situation comedies, albeit in spanish. others i could not catch my breath from all the fun. my mother always watched the road from the passenger’s seat concerned and ready to use her imaginary brakes; my sister, the teenager and all that encompasses, rode in the back seat; sometimes our grandmother—dressed in black complete with a shawl for covering her head ready for any church we should encounter along the way—and myself would share naranjas in the rest of the back seat. when it all became too much i would fall asleep in my father’s extra large chrysler while it hushed through the desert to palm springs or even the boulevards of east los angeles.

my mother passed away in 1987. the grief that event carried began the first of my many journeys. i looked for signs to the future, signs of joy and the understanding of sadness. traveling became an act of escape, and with that an act of memory recall, just like my mothers short trips and voyages she took us on. memory is a collection of associations based on feelings, experiences and knowledge. of all the things i forgot about my youth, these images are things i could remember and not let go. this collection of images became associations to a distant memory of trying to heal a grief. in the end, the journey and these images became my own history. as much as my parents’ journeys and ancestors’ journeys were theirs. these images belong to my journey home.




find a lo res version of the entire catalog including those edit out here

press releases and pictures from different shows of the polaroids here



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