FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2002
CONTACT: KAREN RAPP
"LINES OF SIGHT: Views of the U.S./Mexican Border"
Artists: Julián Cardona, Ricardo Duffy, Rubén Ortiz Torres, Yvonne Venegas & Josh Kun
Exhibition: March 27 May 12
Opening Celebration: Thursday, April 11, 6 to 9PM
(special guests: Julieta Venegas & DJ "Mr. Ejival")
Artists Talk: Friday, April 12, Noon to 2pm
The Sweeney Art Gallery at UC Riverside presents "LINES OF SIGHT: Views of the U.S./Mexican Border," a group exhibition that features contemporary views of the border through the eyes of four artists based north and south of the border line Julián Cardona in Ciudad Juárez and Mexico City, Yvonne Venegas in Tijuana and New York City, Ricardo Duffy in Los Angeles and Orange County, and Rubén Ortiz Torres in Los Angeles and Mexico City. In addition to photographs, paintings, prints, sculpture, and video, a sound collage, "The Aural Border," archived and mixed by Josh Kun, is also featured in the show.
The 1990s were a decade that in terms of political action, saw the greatest militarization of the U.S./Mexican border since 1848, the year that the border was created out of a war fueled by pro-slavery U.S. expansionism. A series of recent political, legislative and economic transformationsNAFTA, the growth of the maquiladora industry, the drug cartel-related mass murders in Juárez, the advocacy then failure of Proposition 187have put the U.S./Mexican border in the forefront of media and scholarly discussions of economic globalization, immigration policy and bilateral environmental regulation.
A special issue of TIME magazine (6/11/01) suggests that the "border is vanishing." This assertion is based on the increase in the number of products and people that move back and forth across the border. While the general observation, namely that more and more goods are crossing the border and that the exchange of culture, ideas, and even sound is intensifying, may be valid, the border itself is paradoxically vanishing less and less. Indeed, after the terrorist attack on 9-11, the U.S./Mexican border has not only been the site of intense and growing scrutiny and interrogation, it has come to represent a model, or paradigm, for the future of surveillance and the policing of people. Far from becoming invisible, the U.S./Mexican border has grown from a line to a fence to a wall. Now, it is a militarized zone fortified with the controversial impending deployment of National Guard troops.
Just a few miles away from the UC Riverside campus is the headquarters of one of the US. agencies primarily responsible for guarding the border: the U.S. Customs Service Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence headquarters, known as the C3I. The C3I is housed in the heart of Riverside County on March Air Force Base in Riverside, California, and is the official governmental "eye" of the border. What it sees through its radar imaging devices, satellite tracking systems, patrol planes, and surveillance balloons is anything that moves in the borderlands that should not. The border of the C3I is not a border that is seen or represented, but a border that is watched and policed, and it is becoming more so. The artists in this exhibition refuse to see the border only through the eyes of official vision.
Each of them enters into contentious dialogues with the way they and their borders have been repeatedly seen, whether be in Hollywood films, in a CNN special report on INS sweeps, or through the night vision goggles of a border patrol agent. In the photographs of Julián Cardona, for example, the U.S./Mexican border is re-presented in the everyday, material realities of the lives and communities affected by the border, a border controlled by economic power structures that operate in the United States (among other countries) financial interest. Cardona is a "street shooter" who documents the city of Juárezs violent entry into globalization.
"LINES OF SIGHT" presents Cardonas two interrelated bodies of work, "Dying Slowly: A Look Inside the Maquiladoras on the U.S.-Mexico Border," and "The Truth: Evidence of a Failure." In the first series, "Dying Slowly," Cardona photographs the maquiladoras low-wage assembly line work force, made up predominantly of women and girls. Reflecting on the statistic that the average number of years spent in school in Mexico is a mere 7.7, Cardona captures the youthful expressions of these factory workers whose fate seems to be sealed: Cardona comments that, "every North American home has at least one product manufactured in Juárez by women and children, boys and girls who leave their future there."
In his second series, "The Truth," Cardona documents the horrific homicides that have plagued the streets of Juárez for nearly ten years. Since 1993, more than 260 women have been abducted and murdered in Juárez. Many of them were employed by the maquiladoras and disappeared while walking home at night from their jobs; their violated bodies are often found years later buried in the silences of the sand. Although arrests have been made, and it is believed that the homicides are linked to drug cartels, the murders continue to this day. Cardona documents the missing, the gone, and all of the living women and mothers who, in coalition groups like Voces sin Eco (Voices Without Echo), refuse to be silent by searching for their lost daughters and friends, protesting against state police, and lobbying for increased judicial and political action.
Like Cardona, Yvonne Venegas photographs real people in their social environments. Venegas perspective is directed toward a vastly different view of the lives of women and girls at the border, the fronteriza. Venegas captures the daily routines of her former school pals, now upper middle-class socialites, in her hometown of Tijuana. Venegas describes her series "The Most Beautiful Brides of Baja, California" as a "glimpse of what my life could have been like if I had done what was expected of me." Venegas lives in New York City and chose to reject a lifestyle in which she played the role of pampered wife and mother. Since 2000, she returns periodically to her hometown to pursue an ongoing project: documenting the women and families of a social milieu often photographed by her father, José Luis Venegas ~ a prominent local wedding photographer.
In her vivid color photographs, Venegas presents an "interior" view of the border filled with charming, smiling faces of little girls celebrating at a birthday party and lavishly adorned guests at a New Years Eve extravaganza. There have been many Tijuanas a city of drug traffic, weekend gringo beer binges, and hillside colonias built of scrap metal and recycled tires. In "LINES OF SIGHT," Venegas offers us another view of Tijuana rarely seen north of the borderline, a city of conspicuous consumption.
Ricardo Duffy s view of the U.S./Mexican border is informed by his experiences growing up in a barrio in Los Angeles. Duffy is a Chicano artist whose work is a blend of social commentary and satire about our political world at the beginning of the new millennium. Duffys bold, striking paintings and prints often satirize the great icons of U.S. culture: George Washington, the Marlboro man, and Mickey Mouse. Setting his sights on the exploitative practices of the U.S. vis-à-vis the border, Duffy uses the Marlboro man, for example, as a symbol for how the U.S. beckons workers south of the border to participate in a process of economic exchange. After all, the artist points out, the motto of Philip Morris, "VENI, VEDI, VICI," is printed on every pack of its cigarettes.
Duffys perspective of the so-called "partnership" between the U.S. and Mexico in the NAFTA agreement is worlds apart from what Mexican President Vicente Foxs describes as a "a partnership for prosperity." Duffy depicts the tensions and contradictions at the site of the border, the drug sniffing border patrol dogs chasing mojados, or illegals, the migrant family running across the freeway. In highlighting the paradoxes that arise from practices of free trade mixed with tightening immigration policies, the message, "Come to Marlboro Country," is an ironic ruse.
Finally, Rubén Ortiz Torres addresses the borders production of alien subjectivity by creating a quasi-frontera Frankenstein who confronts the juxtaposition of immigration policies with the tourist industry, and the larger, confounding concept of national identity. In constructing his "Esoteric Buddha in Secondary Inspection," Ortiz visited the makeshift marketplaces at the border crossing in Tijuana and collected souvenir figures such as Woody Woodpecker, Ninja Turtles, Speedy Gonzales, and Bart "Sanchez" Simpson. He then re-combined these characters into a singular hybrid pop cultural creation that embodies the transnational identity of the border zone. How does this crossbred entity navigate through border inspection, claim rights to citizenship and national belonging? While asserting that migration implies cultural exchange and is essential for the development of new forms of art and expression, Ortizs work also challenges the pretenses of nationalist policies that guard against the infiltration of things and people "foreign."
In the borders multiple worlds its collision of cultures, languages, economies, immigrants and border agents, the exhibition "LINES OF SIGHT: Views of the U.S. Mexican Border" is an assessment of the circumstances and conditions at the border, perspectives that re-focus the gaze of those who are watched into those who are watching.
(This press release has benefited from the essay by Josh Kun, "The Eyes of the Border/ Los Ojos de la Frontera," included in the catalogue for the exhibition "LINES OF SIGHT: Views of the U.S. Mexican Border," forthcoming).
A Spanish translation of this press release is available; please call 951/827-3755 x1467
March 27 May 12, 2002
Thursday, April 11
Opening Celebration, 6 to 9PM,
with special guests Julieta Venegas & DJ Mr. Ejival (Torolab/Nimboestatic)
at the Sweeney Art Gallery
Friday, April 12
Artists Talk, Noon to 2PM
(moderator Josh Kun)
at the Sweeney Art Gallery
Thursday, May 2
Borders Video Screenings & Reception, 5PM
at the UCR/California Museum of Photography, 909/784-FOTO
Exhibition at the UCR/California Museum of Photography, 909/784-FOTO
"Common Borders: Casa Blanca, Riverside, and la Frontera" March 23 June 2, 2002
The exhibition LINES OF SIGHT: Views of the U.S./Mexican Border was organized by Karen Rapp, Assistant Director, Sweeney Art Gallery. Its related programming, and catalog were generously supported by the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS). Additional funding has been provided by Tony & Frances Culver; UCR Center for Ideas & Society; Consul of Mexico, Juan José Salgado; Greater Riverside Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; UCR Chicano Student Programs; Latina Women's Health Forum; La Prensa newspaper; Sweeney Art Gallery's Membership.
The Sweeney Art Gallery is located across from the UCR campus in Watkins House, at 3701 Canyon Crest Drive, Riverside, California.
Hours are Wednesday through Friday, 11 am to 4 pm; weekends, noon to 4 pm; Admission is free.
Visit our website: sweeney.ucr.edu
Call 951/827-3755 for more information or for exhibition images.
ALL EVENTS ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.