JTF (just the facts): Published in 2018 by Little Big Man Books (here). Softcover with pink cloth spine. Unpaginated, with reproductions of color and black-and-white photographs, printed flyers/posters/announcements, newspaper clippings, scrapbook/album pages, and other ephemera. With an essay (spread over multiple pages) by the artist and a list of party crew names. In an edition of 1000 copies. Design by Stephen Serrato. (Cover and spread shots below.)
Comments/Context: As artists have become increasingly comfortable with vernacular photography as source material, they are systematically extending the previously rigid definitions for how this kind of imagery can and should be used. Now found photographs are routinely used as inspiration or a jumping off place for further artistic experimentation, and physically recombined with new and old pictures alike into larger discourses, strident arguments, complex collages, and unexpectedly creative hybrids. This fluidity has also extended to the ways in which artists have delivered their vernacular-driven works, with traditional framed photographs, installations, and photobooks offering different opportunities for managing the viewer’s experience of the imagery.
In the simplest sense, Guadalupe Rosales’ project MAP POINTZ is an exercise in visual history – it gathers together photographs and other ephemera from a particular place and time and tries to make sense of them. But what’s unique about Rosales’ approach is that it is neither a broad arms length academic-style study, nor is it a single personal statement/autobiography – it is somewhat both, or neither, as it floats in between, extending the main story from Rosales’ own experiences and memories and combining it with those of countless others who contributed their photographs, anecdotes, and reminiscences from the same period to her growing archive. It smartly takes the individual and makes it collective and crowd-sourced (digitally enabled by Instagram), but without losing the intimacy of a very personal teenage narrative.
MAP POINTZ chronicles the 1990s party crew and rave scene in East Los Angeles, where Rosales grew up. Her first person essay begins at age 13, when she first heard the beats of techno and house music coming from a nearby backyard in her neighborhood. She (and her friends) soon became part of the regular party crew scene, where vans of teenagers would bounce from residential parties to industrial warehouses, waiting at random meeting points around town (the “map pointz”) to gather with other party goers and get voicemail directions to the next venue. Each party crew (many were all-female) had its own name and fashion look, with embroidered bomber jackets with crew names (there is a comprehensive list at the end of the photobook), baseball hats, and other garb to make them stand out from the crowd.
While we have seen plenty of underground photographic projects documenting the punk, grunge, and skateboard scenes (among many other possible subcultures), Rosales’ project shows us a world that has largely gone unrepresented. The fact that it was mostly a Latina/Latino group and largely seen from a female perspective makes it all the more unusual. It also differs in its internal vantage point – MAP POINTZ doesn’t peer in from the outside, but is instead the agglomeration of the snapshots (and memories) of the actual participants. As a result, it feels somewhat like a group family album, the collective moments of people who were all at the same parties, their individual images coming together to tell a robust three-dimensional story.
The photographs in MAP POINTZ are essentially found artifacts, and the details they capture are like a 1990s East LA Latina time capsule. The pictures document hairstyles, short shorts, makeup looks, underground fashions, and the unique attention grabbing graphic design found on party posters and flyers. We most often see the girls posing for group shots at the parties themselves, at their homes, at the beach, and cruising around town socializing. Set against the raw violence (both racial and gang-related) in the streets at that time (and alluded to in memorials to lost friends), the party crews provided an alternative, a way to form identity groups and community connections that were more social and female-driven. Of course, there were liquor store runs, kegs, smoking weed, and other party entertainments beyond the music, as well as the boredom of burger joints and hours spent alone in a bedroom staring at a wall of party posters. But MAP POINTZ gives us a rich slice of the details, from the dance moves, DJs, and pagers to the street art, the tank tops, and the girl X’ed out of the group photo.
As head archivist for this project, Rosales has chosen a vibrant, energetic design to house the material. The silvery cover catches the light and swirls into rainbows, the typography bending around to the back where it is distorted even further. Inside, Rosales’ text lays the base foundation, the pictures, flyers, clippings, and other stuff piling up with each page turn and filling in the gaps. Many pages are constructed like scrapbook or album pages, with multiple pictures mixed with text cutouts. Others are printed on blue to pink gradient paper, like 90s era newsletters. Seen as one continuous flow, MAP POINTZ is dense and immersive, like being thrown into the throng of a seething crowd.
This photobook points to using vernacular photography as a means to recreating collective history, especially when that history was never told or was too diffuse to actually see at the original moment. MAP POINTZ delivers a unique artistic combination – an infectious, youthful optimism laid atop a documentary story told with fresh eyed authenticity. It also presents a viable method for an archive to infuse an artistic process with collaboration, opening doors in unexpected directions along the way. Rosales has already turned the MAP POINTZ archive into two installations (linked below), and it seems likely that she can leverage the archive further. More importantly, she’s discovered a new way of working, where the collective voice of the crowd can effectively amplify her own memories.
Collector’s POV: Guadalupe Rosales does not appear to have gallery representation at this time. MAP POINTZ was recently shown as an installation at the Aperture Foundation (here) and at the Vincent Price Art Museum (here).