The La Familia cartel exploded onto the scene in 2006 with the brutal murders of five men in Michoacán. The sign left at the scene said, “La Familia doesn’t kill for money, it doesn’t kill women, it doesn’t kill innocent people — only those who deserve to die. Everyone should know: this is divine justice.”
That a drug cartel thinks its brutal business is a form of divine justice is, to say the least, surreal. But such a contradiction gives us an idea of the kind of atmosphere that Alice Leora Briggs aims for in her portrayals of the violence in Juárez. With expressionist bravado and technical cool, Briggs’ remarkable sgraffito (literally “scratch”) drawings capture the Inferno that the city has become. Freely appropriating Renaissance prints and paintings of the Last Judgment, the Crucifixion and other martyrdoms, public executions, tortures, and wars by artists from Holbein to van der Weyden, and immersing herself in literature of Dante and Cormac McCarthy, Briggs merges old world fears with present-day realities to create a disturbing yet compelling picture of the human condition.