'Conjuntos' brings artists together for improvised show

07/23/2010 1:09 PM

12/13/2010 9:35 AM

A poet, a musician and an artist walked into a restaurant.

What could sound like the beginning of a bad joke is actually a monthly occurence at J & R Tacos in Downtown Merced. "Conjuntos," which means "a gathering" in Spanish, pairs three artists once a month for a free two-hour show at the popular Mexican restaurant.

Conjuntos started eight months ago after a meeting between J & R owners Janna Rodriguez and Oscar Torres and UC Merced professor Nick Valdez.

The artists work in three 40-minute sets, each inspiring the other to produce a separate piece of work. The audience is encouraged to interact with the artists during 10-minute breaks provided between each set.

"The whole idea is that when you normally listen to a song, or see a painting, you really don't know what inspired it," Rodriguez said. "Absolutely everything (at Conjuntos) is improvised. In two hours you can see really amazing things."

During the March show, Torres, a painter and pencil artist, performed with keyboardist Matt Robinson and poet Stephen Mayu. (A video of that show can be viewed below, courtesy of the Bobcat Radio podcast.)

"We get them together the night before so it isn't awkward, and we talk about issues like family, politics, and what's going on in the Valley," Rodriguez said.

The next Conjuntos is this Sunday, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The poet is Dawn Trook, a lecturer at UC Merced. The musician will be Scott Hernandez-Jason on guitar. Hernandez-Jason is a public information officer at UC Merced and former Merced Sun-Star reporter. The painter is Llecenia Almanza, whose work has been featured at previous Art Hop events.

A better-quality version of the show can be viewed here.

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