Editor’s Word: That is a part of the 2022/23 Emily Corridor Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators, and the second of three posts by the creator, the third of which shall be an email-only exhibition despatched to all Hyperallergic subscribers.
Lengthy dwell Cyclona!
On this interview with Robert Legorreta, often known as “Cyclona,” we talk about the origins of his efficiency artwork, collaborations with the artist Gronk, and ongoing political activism. Legorreta (b. 1952, El Paso) was raised in East Los Angeles and commenced his first public performances in 1966. Famous performances embody the debut of “Cyclona” within the 1969 play, “Caca-Roaches Have No Pals” and a 1971 wedding ceremony efficiency at California State College, Los Angeles. He collaborated with the artwork collective Asco and his longtime good friend Mundo Meza. Legorreta was additionally concerned with the non-profit, VIVA, Lesbian and Homosexual Latino Artists.
Legorreta discusses the facility of rock and roll music on his era and parallel scenes that pushed the boundaries of gender, drag, and efficiency, similar to John Waters, Divine, and Andy Warhol. As a Los Angeles artist, Legorreta pre-figured the “terrorist drag” of Vaginal Davis.
Legorreta considers himself a trainer and activist by the mediums of artwork and music. His work is presently within the collections of The UCLA Chicano Research Analysis Heart and the ONE Archives on the USC Libraries. Legorreta has most just lately proven within the touring “Axis Mundo” exhibit, devoted to his good friend and frequent collaborator, Mundo Meza; along with “Mundos Alternos: Artwork and Science Fiction within the Americas.” He’s presently engaged on a podcast and guide. This interview has been edited for size and readability.
Dakota Noot: You’re a dwelling legend! So I suppose simply to start out off: The place does the title “Cyclona” come from?
Cyclona: It was a “Pachuco” title. Through the zoot swimsuit time, they’d name the wild ladies at the moment “Cyclonas.” […] It additionally comes from the cyclone of “The Wizard of Oz.”
DN: You’re a good friend of Dorothy!
For me, it represents an assault on society, as a result of a cyclone will are available in and cleanse the earth. It’s not a nasty factor. Individuals wish to freak, however then they rebuild. They’re nonetheless dwelling there. I see it as a cleanser of Earth and a cleanser of society, and a cleanser of ignorance, and one thing to confront it. That’s in your face and says: You’re not going to get away with that as a result of I’m going to inform it like it’s. I nonetheless carry the spirit of the Sixties as a result of I used to be by no means on medicine. I used to be a younger child. I used to be in my younger teenagers when the ’60s occurred. So the hippies, to me, had been a bunch of idiots.
DN: Talking of reactions, and being a cyclone coming in, how did the Chicano group react to your work?
C: Loopy. Loopy. I used to be ready to make use of it as a software to confront first: the cruisers on Whittier Boulevard. Each Halloween for at the very least three or 4 years. And they’d freak, they simply beloved it actually. Guys wished to take me residence. Guys would open their automobile door. Individuals would chase us. I’d go into the bars though I used to be like 13 or 14 years outdated. They didn’t know as a result of I used to be all finished up. After which within the psychedelic outfit. So I used to go in there and dance, and the drunks and all people would have a loopy time.
Throughout that point, Gronk used to observe us between the shops, and conceal within the garments on the walkways. He was a really bizarre character. And me and Mundo [Mundo Meza] had been like two glitter queens, going up and down Whittier difficult all people’s thoughts and I beloved it as a result of I used to be being chased. I used to place two water balloons and tie with water on each to appear to be I had breasts and I’d put on these psychedelic outfits.
DN: You’re a visit!
C: Yeah, positively. That’s when Gronk requested us to affix “Caca-Roaches” [Caca-Roaches Have No Friends].
The man [Larry Domasin] from “Enjoyable in Acapulco” was with us. The little man, that little Mexican man that takes Elvis: he was the primary “Cyclona” as a result of he was purported to be within the play. However then he was thrown out and I used to be chosen as “Cyclona.” Gronk stated, “Oh, there’s one thing about you.” However he didn’t say what it was. As a result of he didn’t wish to admit that he was following us. Nicely, we knew he was. He was a leftover beatnik from that point. However he was additionally an artist. So it appeared slightly bit trampy as a result of the artists at the moment at all times appeared slightly bit trampy.
DN: I feel they nonetheless do!
C: Yeah, just like the beats. They’d carry their artwork and little pad. And that’s the way in which he appeared: He had wingtips and was sporting that shiny materials from the ’60s. And we had been simply completely in outer house. Loopy. Sporting ladies’s clothes and jewellery, being all glittered out and dragged out and every thing. He simply couldn’t imagine us, and we knew nothing of Andy Warhol. We knew nothing of the Manufacturing unit. We had been secluded from that. All we knew was rock’n’roll!
DN: I’m curious, what made you wish to proceed “Cyclona,” previous Caca-Roaches? How did you resolve to take it on and make it your individual?
C: As a result of it was so highly effective. That night time, I did the primary efficiency of “Caca-Roaches Have No Pals.” It was put within the Belvedere Citizen. “Caca-Roaches Have No Pals: a play for all audiences.” We had been smack dab on in Belvedere Park. Subsequent to Maravilla Tasks, which is nothing however gang members. All of them got here to the opening night time. We didn’t have a daily society and so they fucking freaked out. They threw eggs. They began burning the place down. They referred to as the police and we actually needed to run for our lives! That was simply opening night time.
DN: I imply, that’s an ideal response.
C: We solely did it twice! […] on the lake was the primary night time, and the second night time was within the indoor gymnasium. on the Belvedere aside gymnasium. Yeah, I’m an actual wild character.
DN: I’m additionally glad you’re simply being so trustworthy and candid. As a result of I really feel like plenty of youthful artists, after they work in teams, wish to be very ‘fake-nice” and get together with everybody. The truth is that personalities are going to conflict.
C: When you don’t take a fucking likelihood in life, you’re by no means gonna get wherever. I’m not who I’m as a result of I simply stood there and hoped anyone would acknowledge me.
DN: Uncover me!
C: Uncover me or see me. Just like the exhibits on the stage and PBS. I don’t must go on that stage. You simply must go to the folks and provides them a motive. And that’s what I did. So it blows me away to know that I’m educating the youngsters to be activists by artwork, by efficiency, and thru music, as a result of that’s what I used to be about. I’m not an artist: I’m a politician first, then I’m an artist as a result of I do my politics by artwork and music. So I’d inform you what I’m doing however you would possibly acknowledge it a month later, and name me and say, “oh Cyclona, I received what you had been saying.” As a result of it occurs. That’s simply the way in which I’m. So if it’s not political, and if it’s to not educate society one thing, I don’t do it.
DN: What did you consider the entire Warhol superstars?
C: I feel it was nice. It was meant to occur. As a result of we had been all coming by that. The kids that had been from the warfare, had been very free and open. And so there was nothing tying us down. But till the ’60s occurred, then after they realized all these kids are beginning to go nuts and have free intercourse and free artwork and all this shit. In order that they began to shut down and cease making an attempt to cease every thing, however they by no means may, as a result of artwork and every thing is freedom, that’s what we had been dwelling on the liberty from our dad and mom who’ve fought within the warfare.
DN: What received you into singing, performing, and doing the blues?
C: I feel spirituals did as a result of I used to be slightly child. I went down the block. And I purchased some 78s for like a penny, which at the moment had been two cents. I received the religious music going residence. I put it on. Very gradual document. So it was religious. After which we had a Holy Curler church down the block, and they’d scream, and bounce and go loopy and every thing with the music. And so I’d have a look at that as an outdoor insider. After which, Elvis hit once I was 4 years outdated. So I noticed him on TV for the primary time. I used to be an enormous fan of his as a baby. Then in fact, the surfer motion got here in, and all of us turned surfers, and every thing on the radio was nothing however surf music, to Seaside Boys, Jan and Dean, all that crap, all the unique stuff, “Wipe Out,” and every thing. In order that was part of our life for about 5 years until about 1963. After which folks began to take heed to the Beatles. And it simply modified the entire fucking world. Utterly. Every thing modified. The subsequent day, all people in class was English, speaking English, dressing English, listening to rock and roll, and every thing. Everyone was freaked out. As a result of it was now not what they need, what the varsity needs. It was what WE need.
DN: How did drag queens react to what you had been doing? Like, had been they too formal in comparison with you?
C: Loads of them favored me.
DN: Okay, that’s good!
C: Yeah, for what I did politically. They favored me, and knew that I’m not a drag queen. So they simply admire me and simply see that I’m there. I’ve been round plenty of drag queens and stuff, however they simply respect me, and there’s no animosity, there’s no hatred.
God provides you no matter you’re going to be, and I imagine that God gave me Cyclona. I actually do.