The Art of the Ring
It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been to a lucha libre show. Twenty years I think. I’ll watch the CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre) on LATV still, but I hadn’t been to one. I hadn’t heard the roar of the crowd. I hadn’t felt the heat of the bodies. There aren’t that many places in SoCal to see lucha anymore – the Grand Olympic Auditorium in downtown LA has been a church for a good ten years now. Frank & Sons rarely does events like it used to. It’s out there, but you have to search it out.
Last Saturday, April 11, La Bulla was held at the Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Park. Billed as “A Lucha Libre Event, Art Exhibit & Concert”, it lived up to that moniker in spades. I’m sure it’s no secret that it was the art that drew me to the show initially. I knew several of the names on the list – Keith J Rainville, Jason Gonzalez, Lalo Alcaraz – coupled with the sheer number of artists announced – the promise was there. Plaza de la Raza itself is a beautiful Southern California park with its sleepy lake and hacienda style buildings. The perfect place, on a warm spring night, to peruse some art, listen to some bands, eat some wicked cupcakes care of Viva Los Cupcakes, and watch some lucha.
With some sound advice, I took in the art exhibit first. The exhibit gallery at the Plaza de la Raza is intimate. First coming in, it was easy to be overwhelmed by the ofrenda to the late Perro Aguayo Jr.that dominated the entrance hall. On very short notice, this was an incredible, and moving tribute to the wrestler. Past the entrance, the hall itself was packed with all manner of art depicting different facets of the lucha world. Paintings. Photographs. Wood work. Leather. Altered pesos. Works that reminded you of Rembrandt with their dark lush colors. Works that reminded you of 70s grindhouse films. Works that pulled out all the stops. It could be overwhelming, some of the walls stacked three high and four across, but the energy, the passion, behind the work shown through. In an exhibit where everyone had one piece (with only a few examples), almost everyone brought their A game. I took my mom with me, someone who had never seen a lucha libre match in her life, who had really never pondered this at all. Within a few paintings, she was moved, and she was engaged. That is the measure of true art.
We did barely beat the art rush, by the time we had finished the gallery was wall to wall with people. The show opened at 7pm, and we were out of the gallery around 8. I stuck my head in around 9:30 and the crowd was even thicker. Indeed, the show had an amazing turn out; we had been about three hundred or so back in line when we got there early, and about 10, the line to get in was as long, if not longer. Quite a turn out for a first time event, and deservedly so.
And the lucha? Ah, the lucha! We saw two matches, a three on three tag team match and a sixteen man (well, fifteen man and one woman) over the top rope match. The ring was set up on one side of the plaza, opposite that where the bands were playing and the sales booths were set up. Packed in tight close to the back wall, the clay tile roof of the plaza proved part of the night’s attraction as it was used to knock down a luchador in the three man, and then used as a launching pad in the rope match by one of the high flyers. The action was sweet, hard, and furious. The luchadores came to put on a show, and did not fail to delight. If there was any issue on my side was the MC did not do a fair enough job announcing the luchadores and selling them to the crowd. The tropes were there, Che Guevara, a mask, the pretty boy, the long hair, the mountainous creature, so it was easy to pick some favorites, but it would have been nice for a little more personality to flow through before the matches. Especially the sixteen person one, where it would have gone a long way. However, the crowd ate it up; rowdy chants for favorites were quickly established, and the warm evening air was filled with smacks of the canvas and howls from the crowd.
In short, it was a night of incredible art and high flying lucha.
Check out La Bulla’s website at: http://www.labulla.org/ and their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/labullaevent for a glimpse of the show. Next year’s show is already in the planning stages from what I’ve heard, perhaps even semi-annual.
And if you are in Southern California the next month, go see the art exhibit. It will be on view through May 15. Scroll down for just a glimpse of some of the amazing work that is on display.