Guggenheim Gallery
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

» Guggenheim Gallery: Currently on View

Welcome to the Bunny House

January 31 – March 15, 2024

Chapman University's Guggenheim Gallery is thrilled to present Welcome to the Bunny House, an exhibition of paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Raul Baltazar. 

Please join us for the artist's reception on Sunday, February 18, 2024, from 2 - 5 p.m.

As artist, (via a trans-disciplinary practice) I channel the revolutionary struggle rooted in Mesoamerican Indigenous cultural resistance to the home base of the "Colonial Entertainment Capital" of the World, Los Angeles. By creating contemporary art rooted in ancient culture, I share our story, how we struggle to survive in what bell hooks names, Imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. I make art because it provides me purpose, a vantage point, and a sanctuary while enduring abuse of power and authority by means of sanctioned and unsanctioned reiterations of violence. I also love bunnies, coyotes, flowers, and hills.

                                                                                                            -Raul Baltazar

Baltazar's singular acrylic paintings on raw canvas are characterized by his swift and intensely energetic draftsmanship, which gives rise to images charged with a multitude of references, quotations, and layered meanings. As in his public and social practice, the themes of his paintings center around the artist's immediate life experiences and personal history as part of the history of the Americas. His subjects range from the exploration of disrupted lineages and the genocide of millions of indigenous people to the syncretism of Catholicism, belief systems, and masculinity. He further addresses the history of painting, the significance of domestic space, the dynamics of civil unrest, environmental decline, and the nature of systemic corruption and power misuse.

Baltazar's visual language alludes to anarchic and psychedelic political cartoons while invoking a figurative vigor reminiscent of Spanish Baroque era paintings — a period coinciding with the initiation of the first wave of colonization in the Americas. The characters in his puzzling paintings, encompassing humans, animals, and hybrid beings, echo historical personalities, indigenous deities, or alternate manifestations of the artist. Ranging from tender affection to depictions of power struggle and dominance and extending to psychological portraits, the interactions of these characters portray the broad spectrum of human interpersonal dynamics. 

The allegorical tales unfold against the backdrop of domestic and suburban environments, illustrating the link between individual experiences and larger political contexts. Quick brush marks flock across the canvas in vibrant, acidic hues, balancing stability with disruption. Various framing methods calibrate this dynamism: some pieces are encased in physical frames, others feature frames painted as part of the image, and some incorporate elements like fences. The reference to delineations and boundaries not only connects the work to domestic space but also embodies the notion of the home as a refuge. Baltazar explores the relationship between painting and private spaces, considering it one of the primary settings for painting's impact, emphasizing its capacity to subversively yet profoundly transform the domestic environment, quietly projecting its energetic and intellectual presence.

The exhibition title, Welcome to the Bunny House, references Baltazar's former Echo Park home, where he lived from 2008 until 2021. This location was a cultural hub for public art projects, performances, rehearsals, filming sessions, and barbecues. Notably, the property became a meeting ground for the Public Practice program at Otis College of Art and Design during Raul's graduate studies there. Over the 14 years, well over 100 individuals, artist colleagues, and friends from Austria, Germany, Korea, and different parts of the United States resided and worked here. A significant number of the paintings showcased in the exhibition were created within this highly energetic but spatially restricted environment, influencing Baltazar's distinctive painting style and affirming his paintings as extensions of his social practice. Bunny House was a sanctuary where art, spirit, and levity converged, inviting participants to contemplate the transformative potential inherent in embracing indigenous roots and finding solace through creative expression.

The home was named Bunny House after Tochtli 7 - the Aztec Bunny, a symbol of transformation and cultural connection that emerged within the Xicano/a art community of Self-Help Graphics. The origins of this figure trace back to a unique request from the directors Omar Ramirez and Gabriel Tenorio, who approached Raul Baltazar to perform as a rabbit for the Aztec New Year of the Rabbit Tochtli 7celebration. Reflecting on this opportunity, Baltazar recognized it as more than a chance to be a pseudo-mascot. It became a profound calling, the opportunity to embody the spirit of the trickster, a coyote dressed up as a rabbit. In mythology, the coyote is a mischievous and unpredictable schemer that playfully yet subversively teaches lessons. Baltazar says: My Nagual (spirit animal) is the coyote, and Tochtli is the mask that this trickster puts on. The gesture of intertwining identities, meanings, and places, seen in the artist's paintings, originates here.

Baltazar’s inspiration deepened by witnessing Chief Phil Cummins, also known as Crazy Bull, during the Big Mountain Sun Dance, a 4-day Lakota ceremony in 1996. Crazy Bull, a Hayocoatl medicine man, and sacred clown stood resilient in the Sun Dance arbor, bringing rain through his dance despite the challenging conditions of dry, hundred-degree heat. The transformative impact of Crazy Bull's presence inspired Baltazar to create Tochtli 7 as an ode to Crazy Bull and a way to infuse levity into his community's ceremonial practices.

Raul Baltazar (b.1972, Los Angeles) is an artist who works through aesthetic notions given in Mesoamerican and Western culture. Baltazar often mixes performance, video, photography, drawing, painting, murals, and community-based projects to create new relations for the decolonial art object. His work is often driven by the struggle of the subaltern, specifically, Xicano/a's, and Mesoamerican Indigenous communities and their revolutionary vision for change in the context of Los Angeles. In addition, his work postulates responses to trauma and the body, examining the experience and rational abuse of power and authority by means of sanctioned or unsanctioned reiterations of violence in contemporary life. Baltazar challenges this by participating in the creation of contemporary cultural production rooted in artistic research of ancient cultures. Where his work opens up a space for healing, communication and reflection; in order to engage publics and communicate the value of a self-reflexive identification with indigeneity.

Raul Baltazar received his MFA in Public Practice from Otis College of Art and Design in 2013, and his BFA in Sculpture and New Genres from Otis College of Art and Design in 2008. He has exhibited extensively in Los Angeles, and internationally in Mexico, Australia, Vienna, Egypt, and Taiwan, and was the 2015 recipient of the California Community Foundation, Fellowship for Visual Arts, LA County Arts Commission Short List, 2015 and recipient of The Armory Teaching Fellowship, 2016.

Kerry Tribe is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Known for expansive and profound works in film, video and mixed media, her practice explores elusive aspects of human consciousness including memory, love, and doubt. Recent projects consider text messaging within a family, the use of “standardized patients” in medical training, and the interconnected ecologies of the Los Angeles River. Tribe’s work has been the subject of solo presentations at the Wellcome Collection, London; Cantor Arts Center and Anderson Collection at Stanford University; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and The Power Plant, Toronto.

Find out more about the artist and past exhibitions on the Gallery Programming page!

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Contact & Gallery Information

Gallery Coordinator: Marcus Herse
Contact: Tel: 714.997.6800 or
Admission is free into the Gallery
Hours: Monday – Friday, noon – 5:00pm, Saturday, 11:00am – 4:00pm