February 28, 2008

Chagoya overview

An interesting look at a Latino artist who uses Native and comic-book elements to show us the clash of civilizations.

Chagoya's vivid imagery tackles politics, religion, art[H]umor is an integral part of the Mexican-born artist's oeuvre. It seeps out from the most acidic of Chagoya's drawings, which are populated with politicians such as Ronald Reagan, past and present California governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and George W. Bush. Henry Kissinger isn't spared the skewering, nor are former members of the current administration.

In the large charcoal drawing "Untitled (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)," everyone from Colin Powell to John Ashcroft are dwarfs, while an outsized Bush looms large as a hybrid of Alfred E. Neuman and Dopey. Condoleeza Rice as Snow White glowers in the middle of the drawing. In the back, Bin Laden/the Wicked Witch reveals a Mona Lisa smile.

As you walk through the two floors of "Borderlandia," taking in the more than 70 monotypes, intaglio prints, limited edition artist's books, codexes, paintings and drawings, you can't help but chuckle at an image like "Crossing I." Clad in a Pilgrim's tall buckled hat, Superman opens his shirt to expose his emblem-covered chest. Facing him is Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain. Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent whom the Aztecs likely believed had arrived on their shores in the form of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, hovers overhead in a flying saucer straight out of the Jetsons, bringing new meaning to the word "alien."

But where does this melting pot of comic book and Disney characters, Aztec and Mayan deities, Pilgrims and natives, politicians and conquistadores, religious icons and artwork appropriated from European painters like Goya, Monet and American artist George Caleb Bingham come from? And what does it actually mean?

"It's an expression of my own personal frustrations or a way to exercise my anxieties about the world today," Chagoya says.
Comment:  I attended a Chagoya show in 2001 and wrote about it in Indian Comics Irregular #63:  Superman vs. the Mexica. I also mention Chagoya prominently in The Search for Aztlán.

Below:  An image similar to the one described.

No comments: