Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire
Carlos Almaraz was one of Los Angeles leading contemporary artists when he met his untimely death to AIDS in 1989.
Born in Mexico City he moved to Chicago then Los Angeles as a young boy where Hollywood and Walt Disney sparked the wonder, the quality of light and color pallet that would later define his artistic vision.
After high school Almaraz moved to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming an American Artist. More importantly it offered anonymity and freedom to act-out the sexual abuses he suffered as a child at the hands of a pedophile uncle and a priest. This launched a lifelong toxic journey of self- doubt and dangerously promiscuous gay and bisexual explorations.
The film follows Carlos on a path of alcoholism and mental illness that eventually lands him on a deathbed in Los Angeles.
Pancreatitis is my new name, a 29 year old alcoholic he would scribble in his sketchbook after surviving 42 days in a coma where hes given last rites, dies, leaves his body and encounters an alien spacecraft that takes him to explore the galaxy to answer his many questions about the mysteries of existence, the universal language and the Creator.
When Carlos recovered, he immersed himself in the cultural renaissance of the Chicano Movement. He remained committed to that work until the last 10 years of his life when he entered the mainstream gallery arena.
The use of fanciful imagery and humor in the context of self-reflection enabled Almaraz to traverse dark passages of the psyche as exemplified in one of his most acclaimed series, The Car Crash Series. The car crash evoked a modern day symbol like a burning effigy to the technological age. Almaraz readily espoused their representation as the clash of twentieth- century man
and machine, the clash of cultures and of the sexes, creating fertile social commentary on the human condition within the context of one of modernity's most powerful myths, the "American Dream" represented by the automobile.
He would write; The American Dream is, you come here, you become an individual, you take your chances in order to make it big. The cost of that is that you may not make it. CRASH!"
Carlos greatest love affair was with painter Elsa Flores. They married and had a child, Maya. As a family they found an artistic hideaway on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
This film offers an intimate portrait of a precocious East Los Angeles youth, struggling New York artist, spiritual seeker, intellectual, cultural worker, activist, charismatic leader of the Chicano Art Movement, comrade to Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union and artist pursuing his dreams. We will also shine a light upon the insidious dimensions of the AIDS epidemic during the 80s.
With full access to the Almaraz Estate, much of the narrative is told through Almaraz own voice utilizing vintage footage, poetry, interviews and journal readings by iconic voices like Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against The Machine) and Edward James Olmos. Artist Louie Perez (Los Lobos) composes the music.
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TCL Chinese 6 Theatres (View)
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Third Level
Hollywood, CA 90028
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