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Ruberta, a new collaborative garage space, is shared by five galleries based throughout Central and South America—BWSMX, CARNE, Galería Agustina Ferreyra, Lodos, and Proyectos Ultravioleta. Co-director Brett Schulz describes the enclave as a type of art timeshare. Their inaugural exhibition, El eje del mal, explores Latin America’s colonial history through the use of a culturally specific pop vernacular.
The exhibition is laced with a surrealist touch. With reality-bending humor, Radamés “Juni” Figueroa’s oversized pill bottle is labeled from a farmacia in San Juan, and prescribed to the artist by Dr. Selastraga (a fictional “naughty doctor” from a popular telemundo series). Elsewhere, Mariana Marcia’s Heads or Tails (2017) are overturned silicone ice cream cones on the floor and look to be eternally melting—an act of casual dissent.
A series of smartphone case sculptures by duo SANGREE, inlaid with both natural and synthetic stones address the role of labor in traditional Mexican handicraft in relation to tourism, as well as the exploitation of outsourced labor within the maquiladora system (the manufacturing of luxury items including smartphones for slave wages). The tension in the work between what is fake and real (without knowing which is which) speaks to a narrative of exceptionalism that dominant nations use to justify imperialist motives. Consuming and enjoying a culture such as Mexico’s while villainizing its people is a strategic and deceptive framing. This is reflected in the global economy—of which the art world is increasingly involved—where the language of marketing doubles as the veiled language of neocolonialism.
An overlap of recognizable imagery between South/ Central American and Western cultures including currency, food, or prescription bottles speaks to the fusion that colonialism has left us with; be it by war, violence, or cultural import. In El eje del mal, the aesthetic of pop cools off the paradox embedded in the timeworn practice of villainizing Latin America, instead allowing space for it to remain as complicated as it’s always been.
El eje del mal runs September 10–October 22, 2017 at Ruberta (918 Ruberta Avenue, Unit B, Glendale, CA 91201).