Razkuache, the newest exhibit at the Betty Rymer Gallery, is a celebratory fusion of cultural, personal, and political influences from the perspective of seven Chicago (specifically Pilsen) based artists. Curated by Marcos Raya, the exhibition features paintings, installations, collages, sculptures, and textiles that critique the American identity and provide a platform for awareness, humor, and protest.
Raya’s flamboyant installations and accompanying paintings are often politically charged depictions of a distorted American dream. In his entryway installation Raya utilizes dresses, globes, gas masks, knives, crucifixes, and clocks to depict the brutality of war. Two soldiers have had their body parts replaced with inanimate objects associated with violence and conquest. The imagery of gas masks and bombings is continued in Raya’s three-paneled collage Peace is War, which draws comparisons between clowns, capitalism, and devastation. Perhaps the most straightforward of Raya’s pieces is The Emperor of Disorder, a shrine of clown figurines, including clowns of The Buddha and George Washington. In the center are portraits of John McCain, Hilary Clinton, and George W. Bush in clown make-up. One should notice that Barack Obama does not appear in this piece.
In his paintings and sculptures Gabriel Villa uses pennies and other unconventional materials to create sites of meditation and mourning. Patricia Acosta’s mystical bejeweled paintings of women provide a soft contrast to Kenneth Morrison’s wood and bone dioramas of skeletons, membranes, and even vagina dentata. Noelle Mason’s series of three cotton cross-stitched embroideries titled X-Ray Vision vs. Invisibility were made by a craftsperson in Brazil in exchange for the amount of U.S. dollars it would cost to illegally cross the border. The black and white embroidery series depicts an uncanny X-ray of immigrants huddled together inside a truck.
Most visually striking of the works in Razkuache is Cartonado, a sculpture by Gilbert Rocha, in which fragments of children’s bicycles are squashed beneath a cart of stacked and increasingly gigantic layers of cardboard that extend toward the ceiling. Rocha transforms common waste material and rusted bike parts into an overwhelming commentary on childhood, labor, resources, and class structure.
Though the work in Razkuache comes from a small selection of artists, the result is extraordinarily diverse. The exhibition offers a strong variety of questions, stories, and futuristic folklore for a generation of displaced identities and nationalities.
Betty Rymer Gallery
July 19 – October 3