The recent passage of Arizona’s anti-immigration law inspired the current group exhibition at Archetype Gallery. Each artist voices their perspective on the issue in a variety of media.
Two works struck me as I entered the gallery. The first was a clear satire of the UPS slogan: a brown person wearing a brown uniform printed on brown paper (“What can brown do for you?”). The second was a series of five framed photographs by Ivan Riascos installed at a perpendicular angle to the first work. Each photo depicts the same woman wearing different garments stereotypically associated with one culture or another. Her wardrobe sends a humorous jab at white America’s perspective of the other: caricatures of a Latino, Arab, Indian, Native American, and (perhaps?) African American.
M. Ryan Nabulsi’s set of mug shots on Polaroid include profiling information above and below and a line identifying the race as “unknown.” The man pictured could have passed as Eastern European, Greek, Arab, Italian, and so on. Even so, we can surmise that he “ain’t from ’round these parts.” To add to the ambiguity, his name is left blank.
A large collage on wood shows multi-colored lines painted over layers of carbon-printed images on paper, styrofoam, and plastic. Names printed on slips of paper appear in spots along this chaotic work. An immigration story is printed beneath each name. The chaos represents a mixture of cultures and crossing paths.
A pair of tennis shoes tucked in a cubby hole hang by their laces on telephone wire; red, white, and blue yarn tangle and drape into a pile on the floor. The scene recalls an urban neighborhood with an estranged shoe dangling from above.
In the main room, several red, white, and blue flags accompany text that slams immigrants. Of course, nobody said the artists in the show had to agree on the issue. Perhaps this artist has a different take? The exhibition becomes a conversation, perhaps even an argument including expletives and a racial slur or two.
Nearby is a work by Brian Steele that appears to be the rear lights of a ’50s Chevy Bel Air. After looking closer, and with a little insight from curator Chris Hutchinson, I realized I was looking at a set of surveillance lights with a camera between them. Beneath the image, Uncle Sam writes a message saying “miss you” to Elian Gonzalez.
An installation depicts a scene at an airport customs station, a map with the logos of fast food restaurants that employ illegals across America, a book-cover remake of the Chicken Soup for the Soul with a foreign twist, and a cock-fighting print with messages in mixed English and Spanish.
The show’s eleven artists settle into Archetype Gallery’s relatively small space with room to spare. The venue is dedicated to encouraging dialogue on issues of race and ethnicity; with a group of artists from such a diverse set of backgrounds, Archetype succeeds in giving voice to the other. And considering the outrage demonstrated by the mainstream during this debate, perhaps these others have some expletives of their own?