A Hip Alphabet, traces the relationship between Black, Pachuco, Chicano and Cálo sub cultural vernacular in relation to musical culture of the 1940s and 50’s and the subsequent erasure of that history through popular consumption. The drawings re-contextualize text from a cartoon layout in a 1958 humor magazine Cracked issue #13 and combine hand drawn graphite portraits from archival research.
The portraits unveil the proliferation of music and zoot suit culture in the 1940’s with portraits of a young Malcolm Little (X), a young Cesar Chavez and Germán Valdés aka "TinTan", Cab Calloway, the zoot suit riots, sleepy lagoon murder case, a Gordon Parks photograph and more. A Hip Alphabet continues the artist ongoing psychoanalytical and linguistic inquiry into the symbolic violence that language produces, while highlighting the multiple levels of operation and ultimately about fundamental nature of language, which as George Bataille once wrote, is about "the tasks of words" not their semantic or pedagogical constructions.
This series represent a crucial juncture in how subcultural vernacular becomes subsumed by popular discourse, while dis-connecting its violent history. What was at one point in time ostracized by the mainstream, became popular through a process of sublation. Some of these "hip" words have stayed with us throughout the course of history and today remain commonplace.
The drawings are accompanied by the artist own collection of hip/jive, pachuco, cálo language dictionaries including the first dictionary publish by an African American which was Cab Calloway's Hepster Dictionary: A Guide to the Language of Jive (1944 edition), which was the starting point for this project. The collection also includes Barrio language dictionary: first dictionary of Caló (1974)by Dagoberto Fuentes and José A. Lopez and Lowrider - "Dictionary of Pachuco Slang" by Mr Cantu.
Medium: Drawing | Archive | Music
Graphite on paper 27 - 8.5" x 10", hip, jive, pachuco, cálo language dictionaries