Modern-day beheadings, kidnappings and murders aren’t usually the subject of contemporary paintings. But for Mexican native Rigoberto A. Gonzalez, the artist behind Baroque on the Border,the pairing of subject matter and style seemed very natural. After seeing news reports and online videos of the increasingly brutal violence in Mexico, Gonzalez was struck by the similarities to the scenes in baroque paintings.”I could see similarities between those videos and paintings by Caravaggio, paintings of the saints being martyred,” says Gonzalez. “That’s what started that series.”
The largest work in the exhibit is El Día 17 de Febrero del 2009 en Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico (On the 17th of February of 2009 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico), some 20 feet across and almost ten feet tall. The life-size painting shows a dead man on the street surrounded by wailing family members, curious but calm onlookers, and police outfitted in riot gear and masks. “There was a shoot-out that happened in my hometown,” Gonzalez tells us. “There are paintings by Rembrandt and Velázquez where they depict scenes from battles; I couldn’t help but see that event in the same light. I felt the magnitude of the event needed to be captured. I decided it was perfect for a monumental painting, something that would really overwhelm the viewer.”
Another powerful work is Levanton (The Kidnapping). The painting shows a group of men capturing a man and woman. As with El Dia, the scene is based on a real-life event. A friend told Gonzalez about a family member being kidnapped and held for ransom by a drug cartel. The story reminded Gonzalez of paintings of Roman soldiers taking Christ away to be tried, which resulted in the dramatic Levanton.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m .Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through April 27. Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose. For information, call 713-523-9530or visit www.artleaguehouston.org.
Mondays-Saturdays. Starts: March 9. Continues through April 27, 2012