Entertainment

J.Balvin’s Spongebob Collaboration With Louis De Guzman And Nickelodeon Was The Most Iconic Collab Of The Decade

What exactly does a SpongeBob gallery pop-up installation look like? Especially when it includes the reggaeton megastar J. Balvin, an iconic children’s brand most millennials grew up on, and a hometown artist. Pictures on Instagram gave curious parties a hint through a series of snapshots featuring sculptures, paintings, and merchandise. But on Tuesday, Nov. 13, a number of people braved the low temperatures to find out for themselves. Let’s take a look back at the most impactful collab in 2019.Credit: Amy Tran

While visitors like Melanie Lopez were expecting to satiate their curiosity around the project, most were not prepared to have the “Mi Gente” cantante greet them in the space. The global superstar surprised guests and helped kick-off a five-day experience exclusive to Chicago. But how did this all come to be and why the Midwest of all places?

It all started at Complexcon last year where visual artist Louis De Guzman, a Chicago native who is the first from his Filipino family to be born in the United States, had a chance encounter with a Nickelodeon executive who took an interest in his work. The two discussed partnering on a project and parted ways. A short while later at the same event, the Filipino pop artist connected with J.Balvin. De Guzman says there was a mutual admiration for each other’s work and upon Balvin’s request, he slid into the singer’s DMs. The two built a friendship. Then the opportunity for them to fuse their creativity together to celebrate SpongeBob’s 20th anniversary presented itself. A partnership between Nickelodeon, J. Balvin and De Guzman happened organically.Credit: louisdeguzman / Instagram

“I was a big fan of [De Guzman] before I met him,” says Balvin. “We started talking and were like ‘why don’t we do a collab and do something with SpongeBob. [The cartoon character is] something people already know but [due to our diverse cultural background] we can add something to it. [De Guzman] is Filipino, I’m from Colombia. Exchanging cultures is beautiful.”

And so the work began with the support of arguably one of the biggest brands in children’s entertainment. 

“We’ve done many SpongeBob collaborations in many different ways with high-end designers but this was really the first time it was reimagined in this way, in this art style,” says Marielle Donahue, Director, Retail Marketing and Social Media Strategy for Nickelodeon. “SpongeBob fans love to share their fandom and I think from Louis and J. Balvin’s perspective, they wanted to share the feeling of being inspired to do whatever you can.”

Donahue says the partnership felt natural because both artists had already shown a public love and admiration for the Bikini Beach character. She also pointed out Balvin and De Guzman’s popularity among different audiences—both of which incorporate distinct cultural upbringings into their work—but they both shared a message for hope, love and positivity that aligned perfectly with the kooky sea creature. 

Credit: Amy Tran

“All three embrace positivity and good vibes,” echoes Jose Castro, Senior Vice President, Softlines and Global Fashion Collaborations at Nickelodeon 

And it’s perhaps this sentiment that will have people rooting for the project and the people behind it. 

De Guzman teared up when looking around the room and talking about the significance of the project and his motivation—his family. He hints at their struggle navigating an unfamiliar country and the difficulties that arose from their immigrant experience. Overcoming the false starts and failures are ultimately why he chooses to focus on the positive. He says time has shown him that by focusing on the work, good things will come.

Balvin shared a similar story when given the opportunity to talk about whatever he wanted. He says he wishes people would ask him why he decided to pursue a career in  music.

“It started because of my family. We went bankrupt and I was like ‘I love music’ but I didn’t know it was going to be the way to find a solution to help my family,” says Balvin. “If it wasn’t for my family and dad going bankrupt, I wouldn’t be able to be like ‘oh I have this talent and music to help them.’”

And while it might be easy to write off this corporate art partnership as nothing more than a money grab, the players behind it tell a different story.Credit: Amy Tran

“This is for the culture and God bless the Latino Gang,” said Balvin in a press release. 

And as for why Chicago got the plug it’s because “Chicago is known by so many artists, there’s so many talented people here. This is [De Guzman’s] place, it’s where he was born. He’s from the US. I was here in the U.S. you know let’s do this together. I’ll come to your place and let’s exchange vibes.”

Additional reporting contributed by Ermina Veljacic.

READ: To Celebrate Its 20th Anniversary, Spongebob Is Working With J Balvin On A Clothing Line

This LA Play Explores The Mystery Surrounding Frida Kahlo’s Death, Her Love Affairs, And Her Passion For Art

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This LA Play Explores The Mystery Surrounding Frida Kahlo’s Death, Her Love Affairs, And Her Passion For Art

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Frida Kahlo’s Death Has Long Been The Subject Of Debate —This Play Unpacks The Painter’s Last Week Of Life 

This LA Play Explores The Mystery Surrounding Frida Kahlo’s Death, Her Love Affairs, And Her Passion For Art

This Play Explores The Last Week Of Frida Kahlo’s Life —And The Mystery Will Have You On The Edge Of Your Seat

There have been many movies, television dramas and stage productions based on the life and works of Mexico’s most famous artist Frida Kahlo, but none of these stories had ever explored the woman’s last week of life. As it turns out, her death has been an open-ended and unanswered question mark. Many believe there was a cover up, and this play dives deep into the mystery. 

The award-winning playwright and actress, Odalys Nanin explores the mental, emotional and physical condition during the last week of Frida Kahlo’s life in her latest play.

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$25 Early bird tix at machatheatre.org

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‘Frida: Stroke of Passion’ peels away the secret cover up of the painter’s death and reveals what or who killed Frida Kahlo.

Until recently, Nanin, managed and produced at the MACHA Theatre in West Hollywood, CA, a company she founded years ago.

After writing and producing nearly a dozen plays, Nanin presented her last production at the MACHA last fall. The play was another original she wrote, this time about Mexico’s most controversial artist, and one of the world’s most famous painters, Frida Kahlo. 

Frida: Stroke of Passion, enjoyed a three-month long run last fall and received rave reviews and awards.

Frida Kahlo died July 13, 1954. Her death certificate alleges cause of death: “pulmunary embolism” but no autopsy was allowed and she was immediately cremated. The play explores her mental, emotional and physical condition during the last week of her life – exposing her love affair with famous Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, Maria Felix, Josephine Baker, Tina Moddoti, Leon Trotsky, a Cuban spy and her complex passionate love for Diego. 

Back by popular demand and with a grant from LA County Arts, DAC and CAC, “Frida: Strokes of Passion” premieres February 7 in Boyle Heights for six shows.

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In Nanin’s tale, Kahlo’s bout with bronchopneumonia and the loss of her right leg left her frail and numb, “Her right leg had been amputated from the knee down so she is either in her wheel chair or bed ridden.  She was under a lot of pain killers and alcohol in order to numb her pain. So she was between a daze of sleep and awakening.”

“Espero que la salida sea gozosa, y espero nunca mas volver.”

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In a diary entry written just days before her death, she wrote, “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return.” For these reasons, Nanin believes the artist took her own life.

In the play, Nanin delves deeper into Frida’s sexuality.

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“What initiated the spark of passion in me to write about Frida Kahlo was because as a lesbian Latinx I relate to her courage and fearless determination to stand up to injustice and to be the voice of the voiceless through her art and political activities.” 

The main players in the story are Kahlo’s tormented husband, Diego Rivera, the love of her life, but there were other lovers.

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Her passion didn’t just start or end with Rivera, there were several women in-between and one other man who also captured her heart, and during her final days, they all came visiting– taunting and haunting her with the memories they each represented. Women like Mexican singer Chavela Vargas, Mexican movie star Maria Felix, cabaret singer and dancer Josephine Baker, famous model and photographer Tina Modotti, and Cuban revolutionist/spy Teresa Provenza. There was also the ghost of Leon Trotsky, a man she admired and loved and whose murder haunted Kahlo for the rest of her days.

The production has also been released in the form of a book. 

Nanin has written a book capturing her play in print– the story goes far beyond Kahlo’s Mexican and European Surrealism, and her indigenous Mexican culture influence. Frida Kahlo hated societal rules and traditions at every level, and she felt shackled as a woman. In the book, Nanin explores her frustrations, her love affairs, her queerness and overall, her passion for art. 

“Frida – A Stroke of Passion” runs February 7–9 and 14–16 at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays at the Casa 0101 Theatre in Los Angeles. For tickets and more information, click here.

25 Years After Her Death, A San Antonio Art Museum Is Displaying Some Never-Before-Seen Photos Of Selena

Entertainment

25 Years After Her Death, A San Antonio Art Museum Is Displaying Some Never-Before-Seen Photos Of Selena

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If you’ve already given up on 2020, you’re wrong. This year will mark 25 years since beloved Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar. Of course, knowing the singer would have turned 49 years old this year is horribly tragic. However, the legal magic of ’25’ means that copyright law from her last year of life is about to expire. For the first time, some of the last photos taken of Selena are on public display at a San Antonio art museum. Photographer John Dyer had the privilege of photographing Selena for her cover shoot for Más Magazine in 1992 and again for Texas Monthly in 1995. Dyer has allowed for both sets of photographs to be put on display, and the contrast in her mood is striking. 

The second set of photographs was taken just months before her murder. 

Book your flights to Texas, and buy your tickets, mi gente!

CREDIT: @MCNAYART / INSTAGRAM

There isn’t a look or photograph of Selena that a child hasn’t dressed up as for Halloween, that a Guarcado plushie hasn’t donned, or that the public hasn’t revered. From Selena’s purple jumpsuit to her fire red lipstick, everything the artist has done has become part of the Mexican-American zeitgeist. And yet… Selena is still giving us more to take in. The signature piece of the exhibit features the 23-year-old star wearing a sequined bustier and high waisted black pants, black patent leather heels firmly planted on a black and white tile checkered floor with a red curtain in the backdrop. 

The photo is so iconic that the museum has reconstructed a look-a-like set for visitors to take their own Selena-inspired photos.

CREDIT: @MCNAYART / INSTAGRAM

The exhibit, named in both English and Spanish “Selena Forever/Siempre Selena,” is on view at the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio’s first modern art museum. “The exhibition pays tribute to ’90s icon, singer, designer, and Texas legend—Selena Quintanilla-Pérez—with a series of five photographs by award-winning San Antonio photographer John Dyer. Selena was the subject of Dyer’s photo assignments for the cover of Más Magazine in 1992 and again for Texas Monthly in 1995, just months before she was tragically killed at age 23,” the museum states.

The photographer noticed how much more muted Selena was in the shoot months before her death compared to three years prior.

CREDIT: @MCNAYART / INSTAGRAM

In an interview with Heidi Vaughan Fine Art, Dyer recalls how “she drove up by herself in her little red hatchback and parked in front of my studio” the first time they met in 1992, as Selena’s career was beginning to take off. “She jumped out of her car with a big smile,” and brought in her hand-made, self-designed performance costumes. The checkered floor print was taken during that first shoot. He recalls that “Selena’s quick smile, infectious laugh, and unending energy made her a pleasure to work with. This was in 1992.”

By early 1995, Selena was at the peak of her international fame when Texas Monthly hired Dyer to do another photoshoot. “She had just finished two exhausting days of shooting TV commercials for a corporate sponsor. She was tired. I had brought a beautiful hand-made jacket for her to wear. I posed her in the alcove on the mezzanine of the theater where the light is particularly nice. She was subdued and pensive. A far cry from the ebullient, excited young singer I’d photographed 3 years earlier. Later I thought her mood might have been an eerie harbinger of what was to come,” Dyer concluded. We may never know what was going on in the emotional world of Selena on that day — if tensions were rising with Saldivar, or if she was simply an exhausted superstar.

Between the time of the shoot and the magazine cover release, Selena was murdered.

CREDIT: @MCNAYART / INSTAGRAM

The magazine decided to use “one of the more somber shots” Dyer captured for the magazine cover which ended up becoming a story that chronicled her death. “It’s a cover I would rather not have had,” Dyer recalled. Tejanos and Selena superfans alike, Selena is waiting for you.

The “Selena Forever/Selena Siempre” exhibit is on display at San Antonio’s The McNay Modern Art Museum for the price of general admission ($20). The exhibit dates are Jan. 15, 2020, to July 5, 2020. Selena Forever/Siempre Selena is organized by the McNay Art Museum, curated by Kate Carey, Head of Education.

Pro tip: The museum is open for free on Thursdays from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.

READ: The Comments in This Photo That Chris Perez Shared of Selena Proves That Her Fandom is Truly Timeless