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Dead Cats

Hecker's cartoons stretch from hope to despair

Hernandez's painting La Migra Is Zapped by Illegal Aliens (2001) is a darkly comic work. With kinetic brushwork and a lurid nocturnal luminescence, Hernandez depicts illegal aliens (pun intended) in a spaceship taking revenge on the border patrol. Lasers shoot down from the flying saucer as the federal agents scatter in this gleeful revenge fantasy.

With his own flair for the cinematic, Vincent Valdez creates chiaroscuro charcoal drawings of boxers in defeat and triumph. With a Little Luck, Faith, God...and a Six-Pack (2002) presents El Pollo, The Great, a wiry little bantam rooster of a man sporting trunks emblazoned with "Macho" on the waistband. A rooster decorates one bicep, a woman adorns the other. He squints out through swollen eyes, his hair brushed up like a cock's comb. Above him, drapes are drawn back to reveal a host of clichéd Latino images.

Another portrait drawn from sport/ spectacle is Angel Rodriguez-Diaz's El Hijo del Santo (2001). It represents a masked wrestler from the world of Lucha Libre, the WWF of Mexico. His eyes peer out from a shining gold lamé hood, his head filling the canvas with only the tops of his crossed and clenched fists visible. The hyperreal rendering and close cropping create a sense of compressed power.

Hecker uses explosion paintings as exclamation points in her exhibit.
Rachel Hecker
Hecker uses explosion paintings as exclamation points in her exhibit.

Juan Ramos has Sofia's Map (2001). He creates line drawing portraits and digitally colors and inserts them into photographic "sets" of everyday scenes populated by realistically animated characters.

Delilah Montoya contributes Guadalupe en Piel, Armijo (2000), a photograph of a man's tattooed torso emblazoned with the Virgin of Guadeloupe and the Crucifixion. It's a 360-degree image, digitally unraveled and flattened, printed in black and white on transparent Mylar -- "flayed" in Aztec fashion. The photo work is a visual melding of Catholic and indigenous elements of sacrifice.

Artists such as Adan Hernandez don't have to stand with their noses against the wall anymore in the art world. But now that it is finally opening up to them, there is a new danger that their work will be segregated because of these same cultural roots. Exhibitions focused on heritage can be a substitute for including artists in a larger dialogue. Just as with Hernandez's early education, art consistently categorized solely by ethnicity can lead to a "separate but equal status" that is anything but equal.

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