Collectiva 2015: The Brown Dot Project
Salt Fine Art
Laguna Beach, CA
June 4—September 3, 2015
Linda Vallejo’s Brown Dot Series
Linda Vallejo’s BROWN DOT PROJECT examines issues of cultural divide and immigration. Each dot that occupies a tiny square of the graph paper is representative of a percentage in the whole of the Latino population in various cities in Los Angeles County— 13.44% for Santa Monica, 96.7% for East LA. The delicate marks which comprise the exquisite patterns reference statistical data, tapestry, and mapping. The project is part of a larger series entitled MAKE ‘EM ALL MEXICAN, an edgy, tongue-in-cheek body of work in which Vallejo challenges the Latino’s place in history, economics, and imagery as well as who is really winning the culture war. While the project uses the lens of Los Angeles communities, the socio-economic themes become both intimate and universal.
The conversion of data of any sort into an aesthetic experience is fanciful enough; but when the data being converted is loaded with meaning – and the meaning itself is loaded with a whole different, volatile aura of meaning – the artworks that result pack an invisible wallop. Increasingly, Linda Vallejo has been looking for that wallop in her artwork. She wants to present her art. If not as a tool for change, then at least as an examination of the factors that necessitate such change, a passionate argument guided not only by reason, but by humor, craft, and beauty.
In her last series, “Make ‘Em All Mexican,” Vallejo critiqued the establishment of popular cultural icons as inferentially, even inherently, racist, and asked the question: what if our pop-cult touchstones, our instantly recognizable myth-figures, were not “our” color, but “their” color? Euro-Americans might feel the sting of exclusion that Latin Americans feel all the time, at least north of the border – and might even resent Vallejo herself for appropriating their heroes (in a tidy reversal of colonialist presumption). But Vallejo has understandably wearied of this pursuit: the issue is as poignant, and the “solution” as hilarious, as ever, but the gag can wear thin. So she has determined another way of conveying a – what? anti-racist? post-racist? – message, one notably more elegant, refined, and (by modernist terms) rigorous.
In “The Brown Dot Project” Vallejo has compiled data about Latino peoples (note the plural) in the United States – population numbers, geographic distribution, age and gender, political and economic clout, all the statistics that have issued forth from the 2010 census and other forms of polling and tracking. Vallejo doesn’t presume to interpret these figures, except to present them as overwhelming evidence of the profound, and growing, presence of “brown-skinned” peoples in the country. In charting abundance, the information speaks for itself. This is cause enough for consternation in many parts of our nation; in Vallejo’s corner, it is cause for hope – hope not for a switch of racial dominance, but for an equalization of races, and even a diminution of racial, and by extension class, distinction.
ARTIDATA: “The Brown Dot Project” as a Translative Process, review by Peter Frank
Linda Vallejo: Brown Power Artist, Studio Visit LA, Aimee Santos, Los Angeles, CA, June 3, 2015