Monday, September 01, 2008

Digital Chicanos

Given some of the founding events documented in Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement, which chronicles the irony of Patssi Valdez, Gronk, Willie Herron III, and Harry Gamboa Jr. once spraying graffiti on the walls of the museum that now houses their work, which mocked sanctimonious traditions of muralism, few might make connections between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art show that closed this evening and the digital arts in the Southland.

And yet there were many reminders of the functions of computer-mediated artistic practices in this show that undermine prevailing assumptions that contemporary Chicano art is inseparable from physical media or necessarily celebrates primitivism in either theory or practice. For example, Cruz Ortiz showed a number of pieces that included digital art including "Backyard Booogie" in which the swirling, rapidly moving form of the computer animation payed homage to Chicano car culture and to hydraulics and hyper-shiny custom automobile paint.

The watercolors of Julio C├ęsar Morales, whose images from the "Undocumented Intervention" series appeared on many of the posters and brochures for the show. Ironically, Morales created his paintings of people inside car seats, stereos, washers, and pinatas from photographs posted on an official government website for the U.S. customs service.

Finally, Ken Gonzales-Day emphasized how effaced acts of erasure, which are becoming so common in the visual culture enabled by Photoshop, could be used to emphasize bearing witness by editing out the abject object of victimhood. Using postcards from the first half of the twentieth century, which spectators and participants at the lynchings of Mexican-Americans often sent to friends and relatives, Gonzales-Day created Erased Lynching in which the bodies of the deceased are removed from the shot so that the viewer's attention can focus on the faces of those who committed the crime.

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