‘Richard Duardo: Maestro of Pop’ at the McNay features LA artist’s iconic imagery
BY STEVE BENNETT STAFF WRITER
Richard Duardo was a master printer known as the “West Coast Warhol” An exhibition of his vibrant, colorful prints is on view at the McNay Art Museum.
“A Clockwork Orange” was another of Durado’s nods to icons.
Los Angeles artist Richard Duardo paid homage to his idols in his screenprints including Frida Kahlo
With a degree from the University of Texas at Austin burning a hole in his pocket, Ricardo Romo went west in the late ’60s to take a teaching post at Franklin High School in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, near Dodger Stadium.
One of his students was Richard Duardo.
“He was an amazing individual,” Romo, who is now president of the University of Texas at San Antonio, said recently. “He was one of the few students who really embraced my mentorship. I went to his home and met his family. It was touching that somebody cared for the new teacher.”
Duardo, who died in November at age 62 of complications from diabetes, would become (through his work at legendary L.A. studios such as Self-Help Graphics, Centro de Arte Público and finally Modern Multiples) one of the most influential figures in Latino art.
A master printer who worked with more than 400 artists, including David Hockney, Keith Haring and Shepard Fairey, Duardo also was a respected artist in his own right, known as the “West Coast Warhol.”
“Richard Duardo: Maestro of Pop,” which just opened at the McNay Art Museum, features 19 of Duardo’s large-scale, vibrantly colored master prints of cultural icons ranging from Pablo Picasso to Raquel Welch. All were donated to the McNay by Romo and his wife Harriett, a professor in the sociology department at UTSA.
“For this show we focused on Richard’s iconic imagery — of fellow artists, musicians, actors and celebrities,” said Lyle Williams, McNay curator of prints and drawings.
The exhibition features bold screenprints — embellished with Duardo’s expressive pastel markmaking — of icons such as Marlon Brando, Pablo Picasso, Audrey Hepburn, Billie Holiday, Frida Kahlo — even Miley Cyrus, in her underwear with a dartboard on her chest.
“It’s not my favorite piece in the show,” Williams said, “but I felt we had to include it because it says a lot about Richard’s personality and character. He loved to keep up with the latest in music and popular culture.”
Many of Duardo’s works — his images of Marilyn Monroe, for instance — obviously owe a debt to Warhol, and to Pop Art in general — hence the tag “West Coast Warhol.” But Warhol didn’t define him, Williams said.
“It was a nickname he was ambivalent about, I think,” Williams said. “I don’t think he was trying to emulate Andy Warhol, but they did share certain interests, in celebrity, for example. But Richard also had a great love for music and film, and he liked to pay homage to his artistic heroes. I think he was just trying to do his own thing.”
Gregarious and outspoken, Duardo “always had several pots on the stove,” Williams said.
“He lived hard, died young,” Romo said. “But he accomplished so much.”
When he died last year, comedian and art collector Cheech Marin told the Los Angeles Times: “An artist could have no better friend than Richard. Richard had a fantastic eye. He would find artists in his travels, and he knew how to promote them. For me, he was a guide and mentor.”
Ditto for Romo.
“Los Angeles was the place where Harriett and I fell in love with art, and Richard was our great connection,” said Romo, who rekindled his friendship with Duardo in the ’80s. “He would invite us to the studio and show us the process and introduce us to other artists. Then we would go out to dinner and talk about art for three hours. It was very exciting. The roles were reversed. He became my teacher.”
Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the iconic Obama “Hope” image, blogged last year after Duardo’s death that his friend and colleague was a mentor as well.
“Richard was enthusiastic about my work,” Fairey wrote, “and encouraged me to step up the scale and sophistication of my prints with his help. In many ways, I owe the evolution of my fine art print work to Richard’s craft and willingness to share his years of printing knowledge and range of techniques. Something I learned quickly about Richard was that he loved people and was constantly fostering artist’s relationships with each other, museums, collectors, activists and charities. If there was an art event or a progressive gathering going on, Richard was likely to be there. He was a very important part of the LA art ecosystem and deserves a major tribute.”
“Richard Duardo: Maestro of Pop” is certainly a tribute to the artist. When Romo previewed the show, he was shaken.
“It was very emotional for me,” Romo said, a tremor in his voice. “To see all his work in one room … I could feel Richard’s presence. We all miss him, but he lives on in his art.”