Francisco Alvarado: Luminous Work in Running With the Bulls

Franc 2

Above, artist Francisco Alvarado. Below – another of his vibrant bulls. Note the abstract, almost collage-like quality, the depth, the dots and lines.

franc 4

Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Francisco Alvarado has found a physical home in the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles, and a spiritual home in his art.

franc 5


Raised with an explorer’s eye and a passion for color and landscape, Alvarado calls himself “Lucky to travel with my father at a very early age. I used to explore the Amazon jungle…my father was also a bullfighter. No one sees a bull as happy, living a special life, running in the hills of South America and bred to be active. I try to show that in my work.”

Franc 7

From bold bulls to beautiful, compellingly colored landscapes, Alvarado speaks with his colors, which he mixes himself. The inherent luminosity in his work comes in part from creating a transparent glaze which he layers in. There is a serene strength and poetic power in the artist’s approach.

franc 3

“You can add surface, build texture when painting with acrylic. For the most part the medium is flat, but you can add dots and lines,” he relates.

Alvarado tells his visual stories at times using digital technology, drawing with his mouse, using Apple Air to simulate painting. “I’m currently looking at land art, the drawings in Peru, the large spirals,” he notes.

Alvarado began making art by sketching his friends at the age of 6, and he moved on to create maps. Today his work in acrylic includes a series based on the characters in Don Quixote, images that are fragmented and abstract.

His evocative works tell stories. “I was influenced a lot by my grandmother, Esther. She was a wonderful story-teller who encouraged me to read. I’m an avid reader,” Alvarado explains. 

franc 6

“The story I’m trying to tell here is of lying in tall grass in green lush fields, looking up at the sky,” he notes. “In my imagination, I create happy pieces. I paint the experiences people have, I have – and where do they take you.”

franc 8

We saw this artist’s vibrant work in his “Running with the Bulls” at Art in the Arthouse held in Laemmle’s NoHo 7 Theater- a great space for an exhibition and talk.  “Running with the Bulls” has just completed it’s “run” through early May at the Laemmle. Look for Alvarado and his fresh, stirring work elsewhere around Los Angeles in the coming months.

Franc 1

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Genie Davis


Sacred Landscapes: The art of Hung Viet Nguyen


Tish Laemmle’s Art in the Arthouse series places beautifully curated art exhibits in Laemmle theater space. Running through December at the Laemmle Monica Film Center, her current exhibition, Sacred Landscapes is a visionary gallery show that’s simply not to be missed.


Artist Hung Viet Nguyen‘s mosaic-like paintings play like a precise and beautiful series of dreams. Each work has a hush about them, a reverence for nature and beauty that makes the show’s title all the more true – this is a spiritual, sacred experience. The works shine like jewels as they reach into the depth of Nguyen’s experience, which becomes a piece of each viewer’s experience, too.


Born in Vietnam, the Los Angeles-based Nguyen once studied biology in Saigon, but moving to the U.S., he worked as an illustrator, graphic artist, and designer before following his muse full time into a world that’s magical, mythical, and mysterious. His finely textured oil works evoke Japanese woodblock prints, Chinese scroll paintings, and perhaps a touch of Van Gogh fused with David Hockney.


But the overall these masterful works are uniquely Nguyen’s, as complex as they are beautiful, as lyrical and light-seeped as they are deep.


“Mostly nature draws me to create art. I don’t do plein-air painting anymore, what I do is I go hiking to an area and I try to feel what I see. Then, I try to bring my feeling from hiking into the picture. I sometimes take a photograph and bring that home, but mostly I paint from my memory or my imagination,” Nguyen relates.


As to his process, he notes “I do planning for a little control, but during the process of painting things happen that I can’t control. There is a certain edge of mystery to it even for myself. There is something out of control in my art; my art work has its own life.”

That it does, a life that soars with color, a life that leads viewers into a world that’s rich and nuanced, moving, elegaic. You may have been there before, you may have been there in another life, or within a dream. The paintings carry you along on a journey to a place that is beyond the ordinary, beyond the defined.


“My skies used to be simpler, with more pastel colors, but the color has become darker recently. I was thinking perhaps I’ve spent more time and put more layers into the color and my technique got better,” he says modestly. “The way that I work is almost like sculpting the piece. I have to wait for each of many layers to dry. ”


As to his subjects, Nguyen explains “I travel a lot. I don’t pick a particular place in my paintings, I let it all come back to me, I combine them, the places that I’ve been.”


Whether we are looking at beautifully created images of an “Ancient Pine” – based on trees Nguyen has come to know and love in the Bristle Cone Pine Forest – or spectacular seascapes, landscapes, or his wonderful images of birth, death, and the life cycle in his “Cruelly-Go-Round” series, the overriding sensation of seeing Nguyen’s work is of discovering treasures. Sacred treasures. It is, without being overly religious, a blessing to see these works, a benediction riven with the vital sweep of a karmic life force.


Sacred Landscapes is an exhibition to savor and enjoy, and it is appropriate to see the works in the gallery space at the Monica Film Center. Each piece is its own, highly cinematic world. And if, while at the gallery space, you’re moved to take in a film, you’ll find another glimpse at Nguyen’s work, in the form of a short trailer the artist created. The trailer plays before each feature selection.


hung-8 hung-9 hung-21

The Laemmle Monica Film Center is located at 1332 2nd St, Santa Monica,  and there’s free city parking directly across the street.

  • Genie Davis; Photos: Genie Davis