Fragments of Los Angeles 1969-1989
Photographer: Gusmano Cesaretti
Text by: Jeffrey Deitch, Michael Mann, and Aaron Rose
Publisher/Date: Damiani/Alleged Press (c. 2013)
Format/Condition: New hardcover book in Fine condition. 160 pages, index. Dimensions: 9.8 x 12.8 x 1 inches. Profusely illustrated in black-and-white.
Description: Self-taught Italian photographer Gusmano Cesaretti (born 1944) was one of the very first photographers to document the street culture of East Los Angeles. Cesaretti has lived in Los Angeles since 1970--it was the raw energy, graffiti, culture and people of East L.A. that seduced him. Though much of Cesaretti’s work focus on narrow subcultures in California — the members of the Klique car club and graffiti artists in East L.A., punks in Chinatown, hippies in San Francisco, a Vietnamese refugee camp at Camp Pendleton — he ranges farther afield as well. There are images of a Muslim village in Thailand, a scrap yard in Chicago and a series from his trip to visit Maria Sabina, the “Magic Mushroom” healer in Oaxaca, Mexico. These photographs are “not just documentation” but “remarkable works of art” writes Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in the introduction to the book that surveys two decades of Cesaretti’s images. “In addition to their formal strength, they were infused with tremendous human sympathy.”
Cesaretti grew up in Lucca, Italy, but as a child he fell in love with America and listened to jazz and rock ’n’ roll on the radio. He was drawn to the worlds of Marlon Brando and James Dean in Hollywood movies and also to the work of Beat writers such as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. His father bought him a one-way ticket to America and he arrived in the United States at age 19 on the day Kennedy was assassinated. Eventually he made his way to California where he found work in the photo department of the Huntington Library in Pasadena. It was during this time, in the early 1970s, that Cesaretti began to explore the Latino neighborhood of East L.A., photographing the people he met and the graffiti that decorated the buildings. Cesaretti credits his poor English with allowing him to earn the trust of local residents--he found it hard to understand their graffiti on his own and had to ask for help. Independent curator Aaron Rose describes him as “one of the few true artists documenting outlaw cultures in the tradition of Robert Frank.”