Pintura Cordova:

Lalo Obregon Remembers the King of the Mission District Painters (as told to Bill Daniel)

"Cordova, he was from Bolivia, totally self-taught. He tried to get instruction through the mail, correspondance school. You know, 'how to be an artist, and how to succeed in life.' But he didn't believe it, the mail stuff. He thought it was stupid. He had a lot of doubts about becoming an artist. He just started to work by himself, he started to draw alot. Especially landscapes; he was very inspired by landscapes. He used to hang out in restaurants and cafes, and draw. You know it's funny, because now his work is in restaurants!" (Laughter)


"He tried to go to the Art Academy in the city, in Bolivia. He had problems there because they were too academic, he wanted to be more free. But, he already had a drinking problem. And one thing, he was looking for women, all the time. He was very successful with women. he was a rebel down there. he was not into rules, he was a free spirit. Because it was the '60's. And you know, the '60's influenced even Bolivia."

"He moved here (the Mission) in the '60's, and I remember him talking about it being very difficult to be here. He was a janitor but he had some relatives who helped him with a place to stay. One time I went to look for him, he had a studio at Valencia and 14th, in a parking lot, underground, just a little corner with all these cars in there. He had all his paint cans, and I said, "Hey Cordova, how can you paint in this place?" And he said, "It's all right. In the morning everybody takes their cars and goes to work. By 11:00 am it is empty." That was his studio. So at night he would go around to all the bars and see people."

"He used regular paint - enamel, and he developed a whole technique of painting with these enamel paints. It is difficult because they dry fast, they are made for signs. He was experimenting with it, he had a hard time with it. He never worked in oils or anything. I asked him about painting a scene here on the bus [El Volado, the Mexican Bus]. You know, maybe a tropical full moon landscape, and he said "Whatever you like." I came back in one hour and I was surprised, he was putting his signature on it. He had finished it! He developed a style that was so fast and so cool."

"When I talked with him, English or Spanish, he rejected the English. it was kind of an old tradition. He said, "I don't need English, I can get around without it. I can survive. Because I can paint, I don't have to talk."

"He told me his relationship with women was not very lucky because of his character, his philosophy. He always wanted to be free, to have time to paint. And not only that, but to have time to hang around and see life, especially when he came here. When he came here, he was hanging around with Cesar, Cesar's Latin Palace. He was one of his friends."

"He moved here in the '60's. He came here looking for a dream and a better life, like every Latin American. He would be hanging around and people would say, "Okay, come on and paint." So he would paint the signs. He would just paint the same signs and make some money and survive."

"He said women were always trying to trap him and take his heart away That is my impression of him. I remember he was talking to me, man to man, but when a woman was around, he would become quiet. He had these values, of indigenous people. Yes, now that I remember his face completely - maybe some kind of Mestizo, mainly Indian.""He talked about being himself, no influences. He was proud about what he did, he developed something by himself."

"I think he gave a lot of life to the Mission with his work. But more than anything I think he was sincere."

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