USC’s busy master’s and Ph.D. students might see something familiar in the new “Head Spin” tapestry hanging in the Graduate Student Lounge at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
Javier Carillo’s tapestry of a hip-hop dancer spinning on his head is an image “everybody can identify with,” according to artist John Nava, who served as a mentor for the project.
“Metaphorically, everybody feels like their whole lives are spent spinning on their heads trying to get things done, so it works on a double level. Probably those graduate students who are madly studying in that lounge can relate,” he said.
Carillo is aiming for a more literal connection with his audience. “Music and dance bring together the many diverse cultures of our city,” he explained.
Carillo landed the commission through Art Division, a privately funded, professional visual arts training program that serves students ages 18 to 25 in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park neighborhood.
For its first tapestry project, Art Division collaborated with the Tutor Campus Center’s Art and Trojan Traditions program, which enables the center to display works from its own permanent collection as well as the USC Fisher Museum of Art.
“The Campus Center’s Art and Trojan Traditions program is not only bolstered by its partnerships, it is dependent upon them,” said Cindy Robinson, educational program coordinator for the Office of Student Life and Involvement. “We are thrilled to have a partner in Art Division with this new tapestry by Javier Carillo.”
To design the tapestry, Carillo created a woodcut print inspired by hip-hop dancer and Art Division staff member Wilber Urbina.
“Javier is a very mature artist,” said Dan McCleary, founder and director of Art Division and former adjunct professor at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts. “He’s 25 and he’s going to Pasadena City College, and he’s just a very focused young artist with a great imagination and skill. He works in a realist, expressionistic vein, and a lot of his work is derived from Mexican imagery and his Mexican roots.”
Nava, who teaches and serves on the board of Art Division, shared his expertise with Carillo about how to transform his woodcut print into black-and-white cotton jacquard. Like Nava’s “Trojan Family Tapestry,” the center’s signature commission, the “Head Spin” tapestry was woven at a mill in Bruges, Belgium.
“It’s great for young artists to get to work with these really seasoned masters and hone their skills,” said Patrick Bailey, senior associate dean of students.
Selma Holo, director of the USC Fisher Museum of Art and professor of art history, considers the collaboration “an example of USC’s larger mission: being an agent of the creative imagination in our community.”
“It’s yet another step for Fisher in its growing, rich and probably unique relationship in higher education with the Campus Center,” Holo said.