Pablo Cristi’s and Josué Rojas’
Incidents of Travel in Chucolandia & Xingatumá
Galeria de la Raza-Studio 24, San Francisco
curated by Raquel de Anda
Entering into the Incidents of Travel in Chucolandia & Xingatumá exhibition is an amazing trip that connects the past with the future as seen through the lens of two contemporary explorers of today’s culture that presents the viewer a glimpse of the Latino characterization in the modern world. Artists Pablo Cristi’s and Josué Rojas’ exhibition at Galeria de la Raza-Studio 24 (August 7, 2010 - Saturday, August 28, 2010) in the Mission district in San Francisco, is a narration of events that unfolds in front of the viewer’s eyes as a history book with splashes of colors and superb sculptures. Cristi’s and Rojas’ gutsy representations are indicative of today’s viewer’s appetite for more complex art; art that is thought provoking and that challenges the old conventional ways. This look at today from the eyes of the future offers a satirical and critical glimpse through the lens of these cultural anthropologist/ social observers – Cristi & Rojas – within a society that chooses to stereotype “the other,” in the very same manner writer John Lloyd Stephens and the elaborate Frederick Catherwood’s drawings did in the 1800s.
Pablo Cristi’s soft colors paintings and sculptures, juxtapose complex issues such as his Three-Fingered Jack and El Californio(Fig. 1) plaster casts in glass jars sculptures– an allusion to 1800s legendary Joaquín Murrieta’s right hand man- and the gang hand-signs that have become part of the American pop fabric/culture. The Three-Fingered Jack hand-sculpture brings to mind the de-humanizing treatment that followed Murrieta’s death when his head and Three-Fingered Jack’s hands were amputated and displayed throughout California in bottles, embalmed in alcohol. Pablo Cristi alludes to ways in which, throughout ages, hand-signs have served to communicate either fear, warning, or respect within society, challenging the viewer to connect myth and reality; simultaneously, Pablo Cristi questions the social and cultural ideas of the times.
Pablo Cristi’s California Gold (Fig. 2) evokes the Gold Rush that attracted thousands of gold-seekers from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and China to California represented by Cristi’s richly gold-painted porcelain burritos, an allusion to the Cali Burrito, the delicious and mythical food, native of Southern California, found in most Mexican eateries throughout California, nowadays the real California gold. Cristi elevates the everyday staple food image, neatly arranged on a pedestal, to a signature work of art. In the very same manner, Pablo Cristi’s sculpture El Burrito Volador (Fig. 3), painted in glittery rich blue car paint, forces the observer to look at an everyday object, the ice-cream push cart used by mostly Latino vendors (paleteros) in the South Western Mexican-American communities in a new context. Cristi combines the cherished ice-cream cart with elements from the venerated Lowrider car originated among the Chicanos during the post-war prosperity of the 1950s, alluding to urban youth culture and commerce.
Besides Pablo Cristi’s sculptures, seven of his acrylic, spray paint, and latex paintings complete his body of work at Galeria de la Raza-Studio 24’s Incidents of Travel in Chucolandia & Xingatumá exhibition. Cristi’s paintings –set against the silhouette of an undocumented immigrant family running north, an allusion to the 1990s’ Caltrans signs, painted directly on the gallery’s wall - confront the viewer with representations of iconic urban Latino stereotypes as in his Belmont Ruins (Fig. 4), a great representation of how Cristi’s inquisitive eyes depict the manner in which urban culture is seen through the times and tied to the present.
Josué Rojas’ paintings also exhibited at Galeria de la Raza-Studio 24’s Incidents of Travel in Chucolandia & Xingatumáexhibition demonstrate Rojas’ ability to reflect, in his visual vocabulary, the misunderstandings of the Latino urban culture as seen by the dominant social order. Rojas satirically appropriates well-known Mexican iconic comedian Mario Moreno (AKA: Cantinflas) and inserts his image in the center of his acrylic, latex, and multimedia on canvas Calendario Mario Moreno (Fig. 5) to take the place of Tonatiuh, the Aztec’s sun god. Rojas’ insertion brings together ancient Mesoamerica culture and popular culture simultaneously, thus using the iconic comedian as an artifact for the future, mythologizing Mario Moreno’s image a la Stephen’s and Calderwood’s.
Rojas’ Cross and computer chip (Fig. 6), acrylic, latex, and multimedia on canvas bright-colored wood assemblage, is a narrative in which Rojas combines technology with the emblematic Christian symbol that the Spanish conquistadores brought to the Americas, the cross. A landscape of painterly small houses, vines, and birds is representative of simpler times. Rojas’s employment of yarn, ties together the old and the new thematically and physically as well as alluding to the fragility of globalization and technology in modern times. At the same time, Rojas hybrid assemblage brings to mind Robert Rauschenberg combines of the 1960s.
Pablo Cristi‘s and Josué Rojas‘s witty multi-dimensional Incidents of Travel in Chucolandia & Xingatumá exhibition presents the viewer with a sensual and intelectual experience. Cristi and Rojas behave as natural flaneurs, two social observers, searching and traveling the past to create satirical artworks indicative of their visual understanding of the ways in which urban phenomena is seen today by the dominant social order. They – Cristi and Rojas – through their Incidents of Travel in Chucolandia & Xingatumá exhibition and their use of creative fictional narrative and the use of their artworks as artifacts, become the explorers and satirists of modern life.
Isabel Rojas-Williams, MA