Gronk in the Spring of 2006
Glugio Gronk Nicandro
Los Angeles, CA
Gronk (born 1954 in East Los Angeles, California, USA) is the pseudonym of Chicano painter, printmaker, and performance artist Glugio Nicandro. His work is collected by museums around the country including the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Gronk was born in Los Angeles to Mexican-American parents and was raised mainly by his mother. He remembers that he was always making things and he felt that was what he was best at. He also remembers being influenced by popular culture on television. Another artistic influence on Gronk was his uncle who was always drawing and Gronk wanted to be able to draw like him.
Another influence on Gronk was foreign film which he generally watched in Santa Monica. He was fascinated with the larger world and concepts that many of these films from Russia, France and elsewhere brought to his imagination. At age fourteen, Gronk started writing his own plays.
One of his earliest performance plays was Cockroaches Have No Friends, which led to him meeting Patssi Valdez, Harry Gamboa, Jr, Willie Herron and Sylvia Delgado, with the first three of them becoming members of Asco later on. Gronk also worked with Mundo Meza and Cyclona on various performance pieces, especially those that pertained to gender issues.
Gronk took his education beyond what he learned in school. He was a big reader from a young age and liked to learn everything he could about a subject he was interested in. He did much of his research at the library, gaining a vast knowledge of European modern art and film. Gronk recalls that in high school that he did not fit into "the confines of compulsory heterosexuality." He states that he sat at the 'queer table' at lunch but because he was an excellent artist, students at the school didn't consider him to be gay. Bored with High School and stimulated into political action by the anti-Vietnam War and the Chicano Blowouts at East Los Angeles schools, Gronk and friends barely attended their final years in school, and may not have graduated. He took some classes at East L.A. College.
When Gronk performed Cockroaches Have No Friends at East L.A. College, it was a disaster, but afterwards, Gamboa contacted Gronk and invited him to work on a magazine project called Regeneracion with Valdez and Herron. Working on the magazine, they drew together in garages owned by Valdez' and Herron's mothers. This work on the magazine led to the creation of Asco.
Career and Art
Gronk was a founding member of Asco, a multi-media arts collective based in Los Angeles which was active in the 1970s and 1980s. Influenced by European film, existentialism, and literature—especially the work of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Samuel Beckett. Gronk as a member of ASCO made "movies without film" and farcical "happenings" or street performances.
In 1977, Gronk was one of the founders of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE). Gronk's involvement with LACE often involved his creation and execution of murals, many of which were considered controversial. Indeed, other artists criticized ASCO and Gronk for being too nontraditional. Gronk often clashed with founder of East LA's Self Help Graphics, Sister Karen Boccalero, who he called "the smoking nun."
Gronk has not always sought to bring his art to just those who regularly visit galleries: he has circulated fliers about his work at "bus stops, seeking workers, students and the people of the streets." Gronk uses his "lowbrow" style to confront the viewer and ask them to rethink "visual paradigms," using humor and irony to make his statements. One of his most visible challenges to the status quo took place as a member of ASCO when he, and co-members Harry Gamboa and Willie Herron, tagged their names on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) after being told that LACMA didn't collect Chicano art because it wasn't "fine art."
After 1984, Gronk began a series of paintings that included one of his recurring figures, La Tormenta who functions like a guide through his art. This body of work was considered more "acceptable" to the mainstream world of art.
He is best known for his murals, including those at Estrada Courts in East Los Angeles. More recently his murals have been intentionally painted as temporary art works (i.e., Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California) to be whitewashed later.
Gronk's murals, paintings on canvas, and widely collected screen prints, relate to the direct visual aesthetic contained in works by German Expressionist Max Beckmann and the cartoon-like paintings of American Phillip Guston, along with vernacular arts of early civilizations (i.e., Toltec figurines). Gronk has collaborated with Tandem Press. His work is represented by Daniel Saxon of Saxon Gallery, West Hollywood, California. Gronk is accessible to students and others, often seen walking in Downtown Los Angeles. Comfortable with the moniker "Chicano artist", Gronk's intense devotion to craft and multi-disciplinary pursuits are informed by a wide knowledge from a myriad of global and historic sources.
Gronk has been involved with theater since his Asco days, and in 1995 he was commissioned to design sets for the Los Angeles Opera and Santa Fe Opera. His scenic work has also been featured onstage with Latino Theater Company and East West Players.
In 1996, Gronk won a Los Angeles Dramalogue Award for Set design of the Theatrical play of "La Chunga". He has collaborated with composer Joseph Julian Gonzalez on “Tormenta Cantada,” a visual/musical piece performed in 1995, and with Kronos Quartet at University of California, Los Angeles. In 2003, Gronk was in residency at University of New Mexico, as part of the Cultural Practice/Virtual Styles project. In 2011, he was Artist-in-Residence at Fullerton College. That same year, his work was exhibited in the retrospective ASCO: Elite of the Obscure at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the same venue that where Asco famously left its graffiti "tag" decades earlier in protest against the official Chicano art of "Los Four." He also curated "Altares", a small exhibition at UCLA's Hammer Museum.
"I didn't go to galleries or museums. They weren't a part of my childhood. Yet all I had to do was walk outside my front door to see visual images all around me. Graffiti was everywhere and it helped me develop what I wanted to do."
"Ephemeral is also art."
"I'm an observer of my time, and I share my observations. That for me is the greatest job of an artist, the ability to share."
- Moratorium - The Black and White Mural by Willie Herron and Gronk (1973) located at 3221 Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
- Max Benavidez, Chon A. Noriega, Steve La Ponsie (2007). Gronk. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-89551-101-0.
- A Giant Claw, What Books Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-9823542-8-5
- "Gronk Biography – Gronk on artnet". www.artnet.com. Retrieved 2016-04-07.
- Rangel, Jeffrey (January 1997). "Oral History Interview with Gronk, 1997 Jan. 20-23". Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- "Gronk". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
- Gamboa, Jr., Harry (July 1991). "In the City of Angels, Chameleons, and Phantoms: Asco, a Case Study of Chicano Art in Urban Tones (or Asco Was a Four-Member Word)". In Castillo, Richard Griswold Del; McKenna, Teresa; Yarbro-Bejarano, Yvonne. Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985. Los Angeles, California: Wight Art Gallery. pp. 121–130. ISBN 0943739152.
- Jones, Amelia (2012). "Lost Bodies: Early 1970s Los Angeles Performance Art in Art History". In Phelan, Peggy. Live Art in LA: Performance in Southern California, 1970-1983 (1st ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-0415684224. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- McCaughan, Edward J. (28 March 2012). "Signs of (Be)longing and Exclusion". Art and social Movements: Cultural Politics in Mexico and Aztlan. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0822351825. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Acuña, Rodolfo F. (17 April 1996). Anything But Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles. Verso. p. 13. ISBN 9781859840313. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Beagles, John (January 2014). "Artmoreorless". Sight & Sound. 24 (1): 60–61. ISSN 0037-4806. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Isé, Claudine (27 February 2003). "Considering the Art World Alternatives: LACE and Community Formation in Los Angeles". In James, David E. The Sons and Daughters of Los: Culture and Community in L.A. (1st ed.). Temple University Press. ISBN 978-1592130122.
- McCaughan, Edward J. (28 March 2012). Art and Social Movements: Cultural Politics in Mexico and Aztlan. Duke University Press Books. p. 132. ISBN 978-0822351825. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
- Solis, Nathan (5 February 2015). "The Chicana/o Printmakers of 'Estampas de la Raza'". KCET. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Beardsley, John (1987). "And/Or: Hispanic Art, American Culture". In Axelrod, Alan. Hispanic Art of the United States. Abbeville Press, Inc. p. 75. ISBN 0896596885.
- Candelaria, Cordelia; Aldama, Arturo J.; Garcia, Peter J., eds. (30 October 2004). Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture, Volume 1. Greenwood. pp. 40–42. ISBN 978-0313332104.
- Selz, Peter. Art of Engagement: Visual Politics in California and Beyond. Susan Landauer (contributor). University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520240537. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
- Baca, Judith Francisca (1986). "Murals/Public Art". Chicano Expressions: A New View in American Art. New York: INTAR Latin American Gallery. pp. 33–37. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-09-09. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
- "GUEST ARTISTS/SPEAKERS: GRONK (aka Glugio Nicandro)". Fullerton College. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
- Randy Kennedy (August 25, 2011). "Chicano Pioneers". The New York Times.
- Fuentes, Ed (26 February 2013). "Tree Seeds Graffiti Art Installation on Empty Downtown Floors". KCET. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- Norte, Marisela (2006). "Gronk". Bomb. Retrieved 25 March 2015.
- on YouTube
- Profile at Santa Fe Opera
- Moratorium - The Black and White Mural
- Tandem Press profile
- Complete list of work and publications
- LA Times profile (October 2005)
- Smithsonian Archives of American Art oral history interview with Gronk (January 1997)
- Gronk, by Max Benavidez
- Cal State LA online alumni art gallery