Los Angeles Downtown News 1993


Collecting Collectors: Galería Las Americas Cultivates a Following 
and a Roster That Span the Hemisphere
Los Angeles Downtown News
Vol. 22, No. 6
By Suzanne Lummis
February 8, 1993


Collecting Collectors: Galería Las Americas Cultivates a Following 
and a Roster That Span the Hemisphere

“The Mexicans have an expression for it: yo soy en mi salsa,” says Linda Vallejo. I ponder the possible translations. Is that like when we say “he’s feeling his oats?”

“Yes, yes!” declares the gallery owner, “Yo soy en mi salsa—I’m feeling my oats—that’s it.”

Linda Vallejo has reason to be in her salsa. Her loft district-based Galeria Las Americas, formerly Galeria 
Nueva, has a spectacular nighttime view of the highrises that rivals any New York penthouse. Under the former name, the gallery carried only Mexican and Chicano artists, but since she bought out her partner, Vallejo has opened her space to whole continents of Spanish-speaking artists.

“Now,” she says proudly, “Chicanos are buying Cuban work, Cuban collectors are buying Puerto Rican work, South Americans are buying Mexican artists…” 
In order to encourage new collectors and those who aren’t wealthy, Vallejo has a low monthly payment plan. She rattles off some statistics.

“Fifty-five percent of my collectors have never collected before. 50 percent of my clientele are women; 90 percent of my collectors are Latin American. It’s incredible because people don’t believe that market exists. The say only rich people can buy art. I’m proving them all wrong.”

Tea and Degrees

With so many people complaining of low self-esteem these days, it’s refreshing to meet someone who doesn’t have that problem. 
This world-traveled artist, arts consultant, homemaker and businesswoman has degrees from Whittier College, the University of Madrid and Cal State L.A., where she studies printmaking, philosophy of religion and drama. “The only thing I haven’t gotten to is writing. But I’ll get to that, too.”

We are having peppermint tea and crackers. A Ms. Hernandez calls to talk to Vallejo about her monthly payment and tell her how delighted she is that she will soon be able to take home a painting she would otherwise never be able to own. 
When she comes back to the table Vallejo confesses that although she spends eight hours on the phone of her working days, she allows herself Saturday, Sunday and Monday off. “I don’t believe in making a killing; I believe in making a living. I don’t want to smolder; I don’t want to burn. I just want to have a steady clientele that I enjoy and to make some money for my artists and for me.”

Cubans and Cubists

Here, as in most post-postmodern milieux, diversity isking. Vallejo aspires to show “the full spectrum, every kind of artist possible.” The walls hold paintings, drawings, prints, watercolors, lithographs, etchings and photographs by artists from South America, Mexico, the United States and Cuba.

Some of her favorite artists currently on exhibit include the 80-year-old Mexican painter in the abstract mode, Gerzso; 26-year-old Cuban surrealist futurist Julio Sanchez; L.A.-based Cuban-American artist, Gloria Longval; and a mostly self-taught painter from the Yucatan, Efrain Nobelo.

What are her criteria for selection? “I want to see artists be themselves and express their innermost thoughts and feelings,” she says. “If an artist brings in work and I go, ‘Wow, this is really well-worked; it really makes a statement; it really has feeling, it touches me,’ that’s what I like. I look for good stuff.”

“One thing you’ll notice about most of the work here: It has a lot of guts and passion. This is one of the reasons Latin American art is at the top of the market.”

Now we are drinking Darjeeling tea and musing about art and home life. “I have a husband, children, a home and a mortgage. If you came to my home you’d go, ‘Wow, Linda, this is a real home.’ People don’t believe you can have a real home and be an artist. I say baloney.”

Of course, I suggest, there are all kinds of ways to be anartist. Georgia O’Keeffe, for example, went out into the desert…

“I’ll do that, too,” says Vallejo. “I’m planning on doing that very soon.”

Captions

Linda Vallejo carries what she calls “orthodox Chicano art,” but she also deals work by artists from Cuba, Central America and South America. And her clientele is equally diverse. Vallejo also deals her own work (below).

Photo by Alejandro Rosas
Detail from a work by Gerzso