On this page: Information about the artist and exhibition, pictures of the artwork, and a full catalog pricelist for acquiring the art via purchase from the center's gallery location.
Ricardo Duffy Exhibition
Ricardo Duffy: Art as Political and Social Commentary
The Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center (LBCAC) presents Ricardo Duffy: Art as Political and Social Commentary, the most in-depth examination of the artist’s work from nearly four decades.
The exhibition of 40 art pieces, on view through January 4, 2024, focuses on Duffy’s work from the 1990s to the present, the richest years of his prolific career. During this time, he created an oeuvre that addresses “his Mexican and Indigenous roots and a deep questioning of how these borderlands, sited and embodied, had come to be incredibly fraught,” according to art writer Tatiana Reinoza.
Duffy also immerses in his work symbols and iconography illustrating our world’s travails and political concerns. His pieces address issues regarding George Washington’s complex tenure, struggles within the Chicano society, contemporary Presidents, humanity’s darker side represented by fierce coyotes, and even UFO’s. The jaguar, also depicted in many of his pieces, represents him and indigenous people. Like the jaguar, indigenous people are hunted and annihilated — curiosities to be frightened of. The jaguar, as his animal spirit or “Nagual,” will shred its attackers when threatened.
One of Duffy’s most important pieces in this show is “The New Order,” conveying Manifest Destiny through its Marlboro sign, appropriated from 20th century ads. With a finely detailed Western landscape backdrop, the print contains a chalky faced George Washington with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, indicating his collusion with the Marlboro corporate vision. It includes the 1990 “Caution” immigration sign of a family running across the highway; an indigenous woman and child, running along Interstate 5; and the words, “PROP 187,” referencing a 1994 California ballot measure denying public services to undocumented people. The print was exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2000.
Other pieces include “Monsanto Come Caca” of acrylic paint and spray can stencil on a Corvette Fiberglass Hood. It features a skeleton spreading seeds, expressing the effect of Monsanto herbicides that altered our food and damaged our bodies. Here also are “Under the Cross,” a conceptual depiction of the overwhelming conquest and murder of the Indigenous people during the American mission system; “Bugged,” featuring Trump’s face within a cockroach body, reflecting his accusations in 2017 that President Obama had been wiretapping (bugging) Trump Tower in 2017; and “In Your Face/LA,” of a Cholo gangster in L.A., pointing a gun at the viewer’s face with a cityscape in the background.
About Ricardo Duffy
Duffy, born in Monterey Park in 1951, was an unbridled, talented, creative child and teenager. With an indigenous, Mexican, Irish, Lithuanian ancestry, he was raised by his Jewish grandmother who encouraged his artistry from a young age. He embraced in his work early on (and still does) our political and social climates, while referencing the historical influences that led to our current circumstances.
Duffy studied ceramics at Ventura College and at Cal State, Fullerton, where he worked with ceramic superstar Jerry Rothman. He opened his own ceramics studio in Costa Mesa, creating whimsical, colorful lamps, and tri-footed clay art works, wheel thrown, hand built and glazed, influenced by pre-Columbian vessels, inspired by his mentors Rothman and John Stokesbury.
He apprenticed at Self Help Graphics & Art, a print atelier and studio in East L.A., in the 1980s and 90s. As a student of Sister Karen Boccalero, he created the politically inspired work he is known for today. He produced more than 200 prints there, including “The New Order,” most infused with electric color and expressive rendering.
Combining his life experiences with his observations about our country's controversial history, Duffy creates paintings, drawings, prints, ceramics and mixed media work. He permeates these art pieces with social and political perspectives, particularly as they relate to people of indigenous and Mexican ancestry. Other works express the travails, divisions and political struggles in the U.S. and Latin America. Themes in several canvasses are also rooted in Pre-Columbian artifacts, history and myths. “My artwork includes a visual statement about the diaspora of the people of Turtle Island (the Americas) through the lens of genocide and terror,” he explains. “It bears the same social perspective as the works of José Guadalupe Posada, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera.”
Duffy has worked on many large-scale public art projects, several incorporating murals and mosaic floors. These include “Serpent of Knowledge” at the Lincoln Heights Branch Library, L.A., featuring a hybrid plumed serpent dragon to honor the Latino and Asian communities; and East Los Angeles Civic Center Park playground seating installations, with handcrafted tiles of whimsical Mayan figures skateboarding.
He mounted for artist Richard Wyatt at Capitol Records the porcelain tile mural installation, “Hollywood Jazz.” In 2012, he was oversight manager for the restoration of 20 murals at Chicano Park, San Diego. The project received several honors including the San Diego Cultural Landscape Award and the California Governor’s Historic Preservation Award. He served on the John Wayne Airport Arts Commission for 10 years.
Duffy’s artwork is in many collections, including: Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas, Center for the Study of Political Graphics Archive, Los Angeles, El Instituto Cultural Mexicano, Mexico City, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, J. Paul Getty Museum Archive, Los Angeles, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, Chicago, Orange County Museum of Art, Costa Mesa, CA.