Linda Vallejo: Make ‘Em All Mexican
Avenue 50 Studio
Curated by Dr. Karen Mary Davalos
Artist interview with Armando Durón
Lecture by Dr. Karen Mary Davalos
Los Angeles, CA
May 14—June 5, 2011
Dr. Karen Mary Davalos is an art historian and author. She served as chair and associate professor of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Davalos states, “From one perspective, Vallejo has stolen, denied, and suppressed white representational power, and with a brush stroke, she has recoded it brown. Vallejo’s series is quietly disorienting, fiercely defies closure, and invokes uncertainty. Viewers have the sense that Vallejo is not yet finished with her social critique. Racial coding, she reminds us, is only skin-deep.”
My Kind of Joke, critical essay by Karen Mary Davalos
Armando Durón, collector, states “Make ‘Em All Mexican are reconstructed memories—a life as we had hoped it had been. This work represents memories hidden in the deepest recesses of our minds evoking an almost visceral reaction of pain in memories repressed. After the initial euphoria of seeing the world we had wished for—true emotion sets in, and it packs a wild punch.”
Linda Vallejo: Make ‘Em All Mexican at Avenue 50 Gallery
Art Ltd. Magazine, Los Angeles, CA
By Marlena Donohue, Editor
Linda Vallejo began in the ’80s as part of the stridently Latino movement including ASCO, demanding a place for brown artists, and noting the near absent representations of non-white experience/ selfhood at every level of US culture. Her work has included performances enacting indigenous rituals, Meso-American figurative styles remotely calling up mythic Olmec or Mayan heads, and conspicuously non-modernist colors—pinks, saturated yellows, gaudy blues—typical of age-old folk traditions but linked by mainstream reflex to tourist-pandering souvenirs like serapes and sombreros. In her current show, Vallejo turns to found objects re-purposed from thrift store curios, advertising, film and museum masterworks, variously painted, collaged, and re-configured so all skin is brown. Third grade primers feature Dick and Jane re-imagined as a Pedro and Maria; an ad-hawking all-American ale features what could be a campesino; ceramic figurines of a Rococo couple wear the default wigs and cinched waists, but blanched, powdered faces have given way to rich, chocolaty skin.
For 30 years we’ve grown used to seeing hybridity addressed in art; think of Cindy Sherman, Adrian Piper’s Colored People, or Morimura inhabiting the persona of Marilyn Monroe. To a quick read then, Vallejo’s collisions of race can seem obvious, a bit rehashed, and raising what we’d like to think are passé ’70s concepts: The discomfort they create, and our initial response to dismiss them as old news is part of her point. First, their almost vaudeville ubiquity here only points out the absence of such faces in actual images that culture uses every day, Secondly, subtle things drive home just how deep race still runs. A found candy dish sports fussy little nude figures around its long stem. In typical white porcelain, these read as decoration—playful putti. Colored brown by Vallejo, we almost can’t help but read the little cherubs as toiling, carrying not a dainty vessel, but a load. The exaggerated clichés here seem deliberate, designed to remind us that however much myriad identities/realities are marketed both in academia and consumer culture as the new ‘post race’ norm, the ideology of racial dominance continues.