Artist Combines Filipino Culture With L.A. Childhood

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Artist Alvin Gregorio’s exhibition, “New Work: Little Boy Wonder and the Island of Brown Magic,” portrays a blended image of his American childhood in Los Angeles and his Filipino background.

“Little Boy Wonder and a handful of his closest friends embark on a journey that takes them back in time to learn the brown magic of their ancestors,” said Gregorio, in a speech he gave at the art gallery Monday about his works. “… Little Boy Wonder and his Clan return home to the City of Angels. This exhibit is a visual journal of their adventures.”

One drawing, “Bulol,” represents a Filipino deity that protects and cultivates rice. The deity holds a flower to his head, a gesture inspired by Gregorio’s suicidal past.

Another painting, titled “DFK in Pink,” introduces a young female character whose hair is covered with flowers. According to Gregorio, the flowers were placed on children’s heads to avoid evil spirits from stealing them. Gregorio dedicated this piece to a friend whose wife had trouble conceiving a child.

The drawings and paintings are placed on different types of paper such as canvas, manila folders and paper towels. In this exhibit, Gregorio works in collaboration with several young aspiring artists.

“Little Boy Wonder is charming in his vulnerability, yet he retains an uneasy sorrow in his eyes as he explores a jungle of popular culture seeded by ritualistic street art,” said Gallery Director Annabelle Aylmer.

Student Leyla Akhyari said, “Gregorio relates with the students on so many levels, especially artistically.”

In the artist talk, students had an opportunity to interact with the artist one on one. Gregorio explained his grandfather’s involvement as a soldier in World War II and his eagerness to start to migrate the family to the United States.

Gregorio said, “Since my parents were strict, I sometimes called the American dream the American nightmare.” At 17, Gregorio ran away from home and planned to join the military. His older sister influenced him to attend Cal State Fullerton instead.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in art, Gregorio took nine months off to travel to the Philippines. It was there that he progressed as an artist by studying Filipino culture.

“Sitting in public transportation,” said Gregorio, “talking to those people was what I considered lifelong learning because it offered more than 100,000 sentences from anyone else.”

The dream-like characters in Gregorio’s art have been exhibited at Brewery Projects, Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, Patricia Correia Gallery, Sotheby’s and in the Drawing Room Gallery in Manila.

“My advice to student artists,” Gregorio said, “is to take away relationships with your classmates because they will be the ones to help you in the future.”

Gregorio currently works part time as an art teacher at Cal State Fullerton and teaches high school students from juvenile and runaway centers.

Students have one last opportunity to see the exhibit today. The art gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission is free.