We had the good fortune of connecting with Leonardo Bravo and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Leonardo, what are you inspired by?
Throughout my artistic, education, and social engagement projects, I have been deeply invested in fostering ecosystems for creativity and social justice that weave a sense of collective agency and critical thinking towards our understanding of a shared commons and public space. I believe that it is critical to work from a place of interdependence rather than an ego-based approach, one that pushes forth a co-designing perspective that relies on the knowledges and cultural capital that already exist in a group. My mission and inspiration has been to support vibrant and resilient perspectives from creatives of all backgrounds and provide a platform that brings forth social change either within the context of schools, within cultural institutions, or projects that are based in local communities. Even before the radical changes that have revealed so much pain and trauma during this year of the pandemic, I’ve been keenly aware of the need to have a turning point on how we approach issues of equity, race, oppression, and displacement within our communities. Ultimately my place of inspiration is to work towards social justice in small and large ways and bring forth a collective vision to heal and inspire with truth, beauty, and joy.   

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I see my work as a constantly emergent practice and a web that touches on elements of education, curation, and art making to create platforms that highlight the power of the arts to transform and catalyze vulnerable and marginalized communities. I am interested in those moments beyond language that foreground our shared humanity and sense of being in the world without definitions or labels. I believe the arts are a vehicle to transport us into states that go beyond our divisions and isolations. Some of the lessons that I have learned along the way is to tap into that same sense of joy and wonder I had as a child in looking at the world. To maintain a belief of something beyond our cognitive understanding that offers moments that go beyond recognition and definition, into something that creates an opening of boundless possibility. In my own paintings I try to activate that feeling by drawing upon the language of modernist geometric abstraction an setting up visually complex structures and systems in saturated colors that suggest a constant state of becoming and unfolding. These works take their cues from a variety of sources including Bauhaus master weavers Gunta Stolzl and Ani Albers, the wall drawings of Sol LeWitt, the Tropicalia movement in Brazil, and traditional South American woven tapestries. Inherent in my work is the visual tension suggested by the relationship of each color form to the other, and the way in which negative space becomes a counterpoint to each fixed form. The complexity of these structures might suggest an architecture of time and space in which forms continue to build upon each other, emanating new relationships, and suggesting pathways that open up to limitless possibilities, questions, and complexities. In my recent body of work, Sin Fronteras, I’m pointing to the constructs of the urban and social environment; the inherent tensions, pressures, and counter logic that form narratives of individual and collective memory, mourning, and loss. The loss of exile, of migrant dispersal, of a longing for a place other than here. Yet the paintings also suggest sites of unfettered liberation, traversing boundaries and reductive binary oppositions, ultimately shape shifting into new subjectivities. Through the inherent tension between lines, colors, and space the works in Sin Fronteras are akin to visual mappings or wall markings calling forth a collision of histories, voices, imaginings, and incantations.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It’s important to recognize the history and context of a place. The impulse in Los Angeles is to always erase history and the past towards the shiny new object of the present and purported future. There’s also the context of so much natural uprooting that takes place here because of fires, earthquakes, and other natural disasters that point to a state of constant disequilibrium. On the other hand, this remaking of place is interesting as there’s this potential for reinvention that is not grounded by the weight of history. These tensions and polarities are super interesting and offer that perfect LA duality of “sunshine noir”. I think my hangs would be based on exploring and excavating parts of unrecognized LA history. One of these would be a trek along all 51 miles of the Los Angeles River and to understand how this body of water embodies so much of LA’s contested history and its potential futures. Another one would be to do tours of murals in East LA, Pacoima, and Boyle Heights to understand the rich history of this art and its aims to represent its migrant communities. This is a critical foundation for seeing how art making has been an essential tool for storytelling and building pride and resilience for marginalized communities. Finally I would keep it local by heading down to Leimert Park and supporting the African American stores, cafes, and galleries that are the heart of this vibrant and important community in South LA.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A tremendous inspiration for me has been the love and values that my mother passed on to me. She embodied the classic immigrant story combining both tremendous struggle and a sense of possibility while providing for us through her work as a domestic worker for most of her life.  Marta Graciela believed in the inherent potential of people and the rights for those who have very little agency in society. At her core she was formed by the social and political struggles in Chile and held firm to the notions of a just and equal society for all. Her example of hard work, of a sense of beauty in the everyday, and a potential for all that there is, continues to inform me and inspire me to this day.

Website: leonardobravorts.com
Instagram: @bravoarts
Linkedin: Leonardo Bravo

Image Credits
No image credits.

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