Local artist uses work to fight oppression at SF State art show


Chris “L7” Cuadrado poses for a portrait at the Art Gallery in the Caesar Chavez Student Center at SF State on Sept. 6, 2018. Cuadrado’s art is known for informing communities about resistance. Cuadrado’s art is in this picture is a message-based collage involving decolonization, oppression, and liberation through the act of resistance. (Evan Moses/Golden Gate Xpress)

Veronica Hamilton views Chris “L7” Cuadrado’s different message-based art about decolonization, liberation, and oppression through resistance at the Art Gallery in the Caesar Chavez Student Center at SF State on Sept. 6, 2018. (Evan Moses/Golden Gate Xpress)

Dressed in a blue printed button-down shirt with his shoulder-length hair gracing the top of his shoulders, Christian “L7” Cuadrado walked into the room with a small piece of sage poking out of the top of his pocket. “It’s to calm my nerves,” he said. “I picked it on the way here.”

He hosted his first solo art show at SF State on Thursday night, which was put on by the Associated Students Art Gallery on the third floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.

“I was more than happy to say yes,” he said. “I was humbled and honored.”

His collection of work, “Ni Izquierda, Ni Derecha: Art From Below” lined the white walls of the art gallery in one horizontal line wrapping around the room. Visitors were able to walk through and stop at each piece leisurely while enjoying food and drinks. Cuadrado stood off to the side as people admired his work.

“I’ve been waiting all day to see it,” said Lavette Kings, a senior at SF State.

His goal is to “take political artwork and show it through a cultural lens.” Cuadrado referred to the Zapatista Army of Liberation as his inspiration, which is a libertarian-socialist political and militant group that controls Chiapas, a large amount of territory in the southernmost state of Mexico. His art is his way of speaking out for liberation and to fight against oppression. 

Cuadrado refers to himself as a “remix artist,” meaning he uses a mix of collage imagery, photo manipulation and his own photography to create his pieces.

“I take imagery and symbolism and put a spin on it,” he said. Cuadrado will take an arrowhead, for example, which is used in Native American culture and is a symbol for alertness. He will then add his own writing over it as part of his artwork. 

Cuadrado has been working on this collection for about 10 years. He said that although he can finish some of his pieces in a day, he won’t release it for a while. “The benefit of being a digital artist is it can be changable,” he said.

One of his pieces, titled 1776, presented an upside-down American flag. “This was done on the couch while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race,” he laughed. “There are different ways history is talked about; this piece shows what dominant narratives exist.”

Another one of his favorite and most recent pieces is titled Autonomous Struggle. The piece shows a revolutionary figure with a succulent covering the face. The words “the decolonial struggle is the fight to realize autonomous self-determined communities” are displayed across the bottom.

Cuadrado uses poetry as another way to tell stories and express his political and cultural views. Although he travels all over the coast doing readings, he said he can be found at the Lunada Literary Lounge in the Mission District. He also works in the Mission with at-risk youth to help them cultivate their interest in art and use it for a positive purpose.

“I want them to turn their interest in art into a hustle,” he said.

One of Cuadrado’s co-workers, Celina Lucero, showed up to support his show. “He shares his love of art to the youth,” she said. She described herself as a big fan of him and his art.

“There’s so much power behind it,” she said.