Friday, July 6, 2012

Art and Music With An Agenda

Art With An Agenda: 
An Exhibit Inspired by Kelly Thomas 
Lilledeshan Bose, John Sollom, Stephen Baxter, 
Brian Torres, Rene Cardona, Valerie Lewis, 
Dan Joyce and others. 
PAS Gallery at the Magoski Art Colony 
223 West Santa Fe Street 
Opening Tonight Friday July 6 
During Downtown Fullerton Artwalk
Reviewed by Allen Bacon The Daily Bosco

This week, marks the most horrible chapter in the history of my hometown of Fullerton, CA. July 5, the day after Independence Day, marked the one year anniversary of the beating death of Kelly Thomas at the hands of the Fullerton Police Department. In a short period our city made the international news for all the wrong reasons.

Sometimes it takes a truly heinous event to change the face of history or the course of a bring a city together. Look at where we are one year later. So much has changed and things are heading in the right direction after a season of tumult. And it can be traced to those events of July 5. It was as if we as a collective, spanning multi-generations, had said. "Enough is enough!"

So on this one year anniversary we have a major art installation opening tonight at Pas Gallery in the SoCo District that commemorates the death and Celebrates the Life of Kelly Thomas.

We've now seen, absorbed and digested the photo, video and audio images of the night and now it's the Artist turn to put the events into perspective.

As organizer Stephen Baxter says, "It was a natural fit because Artists and musicians have been a big part of the Justice for Kelly movement."

"The death of Kelly Thomas has hit me real hard; not only as an artist but a human being," said John Sollom, the show's co-curator and one of the artists whose work will be on display. "Our police take an oath to protect and to serve, not to threaten, intimidate, assault, torture, and kill an unarmed Kelly Thomas. Kelly had mental problems and was homeless. He didn't deserve the inhuman treatment that happened to him at the Fullerton bus depot last July."

Notables taking part in the show include Hagop Najarian, head of the Cerritos College Art Department and Rene Cardona, the artist commissioned to paint the mural installation on the County Clerk building at the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Amerige Ave. in Fullerton. Celebrities such as Susan Olsen (Cindy from the Brady Bunch) and the Runaways' lead singer Cherie Currie are taking part in the show too. Currie followed the case closely, and carved a Kelly Thomas memorial bench for the exhibit. Psychiatrist Stewart Perlman, known for his work and paintings of the Los Angeles homeless, is also on the roster, aside from other Fullerton artists, college students, photojournalists, and artistically minded activists showing their work.

 And there are some truly stunning, shocking and disturbing images here. That's what good art does by the way. It makes you think and reflect. But for me my favorite piece is probably the most simple. It's a painting by Valerie Lewis who painted a healthy teenage Kelly Thomas before the schizophrenia and mental illness set in.

It's soothing and yet sad.

Thomas is remembered as a living, breathing soul, yet at the same time, we are saddened that a human life was taken at such a young age needlessly.

This show is probably the most incredible art installation I have seen in this town in a long time and that is saying a lot in this town of wonderful artists and galleries.

 I urge everyone to get out and see it.  

The Kelly Thomas Memorial Concert, headlined by the Adolescents, will be held on Saturday, July 7, 2 p.m. at the Fullerton Square.

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