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The Station Showcases Work "Defending Democracy"

Making Change

There are four murals created by ASARO members on view at the Station that are similar to ones they created in Oaxaca. Much like the work of Douglas, these artworks are used as weapons to unify and empower the people. One depicts a one-sided street shootout between the heavily armed Policía Federal Preventida and rock-wielding Oaxacans; another shows a group of people flipping off the cowboy hat-wearing head of Bush as he looms above the Mexican Border Fence, much like the Cheshire Cat above Alice.

The murals seem somewhat deflated of the power they must have wielded in their original settings on the streets. I much preferred to watch the video of the murals the group created in Oaxaca, for it was easier to imagine how inspiring or annoying it must have been (depending on what side of the fight you stood) to see Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz portrayed as a ratero y cínico, or President Calderón wearing a gas mask and making a fascist salute.

Also on view are linocuts and woodcuts created by members of ASARO, who remain anonymous to avoid prosecution. Many of these prints are outstanding and reminiscent of Posada, Mendez, Goya, Kollwitz and Daumier. The images include a young woman and her child masked like Zapatistas and a woman brandishing a machete; their oppressor is also depicted, as death-head helicopters, transgender corn and the police caught in the act of mocking the murdered Benito Juárez. My favorite print is of a person pushing a gurney loaded with dead people and a child covered in straw, while a hideously ugly rich pregnant woman cavorts with her poodle in the street.

ASARO's guerilla artists spray-paint stenciled murals throughout Oaxaca.
Courtesy of The Station
ASARO's guerilla artists spray-paint stenciled murals throughout Oaxaca.

The Otabenga Jones and Associates installation El Shabazz High School Gym is a re-creation of a high school gym complete with a scoreboard, bleachers and a basketball hoop. A projection screen stands opposite the bleachers, and a few posters, including one commemorating the murder of Carl Hampton, Chairman of Houston's People's Party II, and another advertising the Black Panther-inspired Free Breakfast Program for Children at the Cuney Homes Community Auditorium in Houston, are taped to the walls. The installation includes a free bimonthly revolutionary film series commemorating the Black Panther Party.

I hesitate to say this, but the offerings of Otabenga Jones and Associates seemed like six degrees of separation from the revolutionary work of Douglas, and maybe five degrees away from ASARO. In all fairness, and in order to get the full impact of their installation, I did go back to see The Education of Sonny Carson — a very powerful, heart-wrenching film by and about the activist Sonny Carson, and I will go back to see some of the other films. However, in this particular setting, I did not feel like I was in the midst of artists fighting for a cause, although I know that individually and as a collective, the four Associates are more than capable of doing so. Sometimes the art world confuses actual activism with someone showing examples of revolutionary acts, and what I really want to see is Otabenga Jones and crew get out of the museum setting and metaphorically kick ass against oppression.

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