Art Scene: New exhibit opens at Avenue 50 in Highland Park

Portrait by Ricardo Estrada/Photo by Nathan Solis

Story and Photos By Nathan Solis

A Saturday opening night reception at Avenue 50 Studio in Highland Park featured a trio of local artists, a pack of cyclists  and dozens of other local characters. The exhibit showcases the minimalist stencil work of  Oscar Magallanes,  the humanist portraits of Ricardo Estrada  and,  in the Avenue 50 Annex,  Jose Lopes’ contorted subject paintings. Also sharing the gallery was a woman who folded palm fronds into flowers, a herd of bicyclists who met at the railroad crossing out front and a handful of other artists who call the studio home.

From the back wall in the main gallery space, Tupac Shakur watched over the crowd from a Magallanes painting, the details not as important as the messages of what he calls “sophisticated subversion” and “heuristic.”  Another famous face, that of  Martin Luther King, stared out from another Magallanes portrait. “It’s not a stagnant portrait of someone, but a response of my character and principles,”  Magallanes said of his work.

Opposite the familiar faces painted by Magallanes were Estrada’s portraits, images dense with detail that give the work a real sense of weight that anchors these people from the neighborhood, subjects he calls “everyday faces at the gas station or on the street.”

In the adjoining annex space were the wrestling men by Lopes, his subjects practically nude on the canvas, their limbs and shapes frozen into place. The small space of the room brought an immediacy to people’s reactions.

“It’s very bare,” said a group of women. “It’s wonderful that someone could pull this off,” said a mixed martial arts fan who marveled at the attention to detail.

“That’s what I want to hear, what I like to see from my work,” said Lopes. “Art is meant to incite a reaction and that’s what I was trying to do with these images, these paintings. This is not my usual style, I paint much more abstract, so I was a little afraid to isolate my fans.”

 The hustle of people milling about the gallery next to the Gold Line tracks seemed to invigorate and excite the artists, who were eager to talk about their work and Avenue 50 Studio, a combination gallery, studio and community space run by Kathy Gallegos.

“This is a great opportunity for us to show our paintings, to show our work,” said Estrada. “I know if you go out to the west side and show this, people would ask, ‘what the hell is this?'”

The work of Estrada, Lopes and Magallanes will be on display until May 5.

Painter Oscar Magallanes (left) discussing his work with gallery visitor.

Jose Lopes’ wrestlers in the Avenue 50 Annex.

Palm frond folk art in the Avenue 50 backroom.

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.


  1. Great photos and story. Thanks, Nathan!

  2. I guess unless its omeone getting shot by the police most people aren’t interested but Yea this is a great story about one of the great cultural resources in our neigborhood! Keep posting stuff like this please!

  3. Fabulous show at Avenue 50 Studio. Great job Kathy!

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