José Guadalupe Garza wants to take you to a new reality, a reality where reality and fiction overlap and what you see makes you question what you know. Garza is the artist behind the latest exhibition at the Visual Arts Gallery on campus.
The show, Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo II, opened on September 23 with a reception for the show on September 30. The show is the first of three scheduled for this semester in space, located on the first floor of the Health and Science Building (HSB). The exhibition will be on view until October 14.
The show consists of installations based on appropriate and manipulated images from popular culture. The installation is a spiritual sequel to Oscar Zeta Acosta’s fictionalized 1972 autobiography of the same name. The book focuses on the experiences of a Chicano in the 1960s and questions of identity in America.
“When you’re part of certain communities, it’s impossible to be apolitical,” said Garza, whose show remixes Acosta’s themes on politics, race, mass media and capitalism. Garza continues, “It’s not for us to decide.”
This blend of reality and fiction shines through in Garza’s work, which features images reminiscent of Donald Trump’s iconic “Make America Great Again” hats. The show also draws inspiration from the Mexican Revolution, with works like a portrayal of movie star Marlon Brando as revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.
“For me, my art was not initially political,” Garza said. It became political as his life and career evolved.
“If this had happened much earlier, I might not have been so comfortable,” he added.
Even still, he is not saying that he intentionally attacks politics or that he is an activist. Instead, her work reflects the realities of her life.
“I think activism involves trying to enact a change in policy,” Garza said. “This work is more about sharing experiences.”
Garza currently coordinates and administers the academic programs of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, an educational museum at Washington University in St. Louis. Garza, who holds a master’s degree from the school, says his years in academia are a vital part of his job.
“I don’t separate my studio practice from my roles as an educator or as a husband,” he said. “Everything is connected.
Garza’s wife and collaborator Melissa Bauer is also on the show. She collaborated on the play “Ricardo Flores Magon in St. Louis”, a bronze plaque depicting the life of Ricardo Flores Magón, a Mexican anarchist publisher and activist. His writings and his work as an editor are credited with inspiring the Mexican Revolution, although they also caught the attention of the United States government, which arrested and jailed him for them.
Magón’s work is also featured in Temporal Pincer, a ready-made work of books by and on Latinx life.
This exhibition has already been exhibited at the High Low Gallery in St. Louis, where it was reviewed in the magazine Art in America.
“Art is about presenting someone with a new reality,” Garza said.
The realities of Garza’s work fit into the larger visual arts gallery theme of the Visual Arts gallery.
“The gallery is a space where we can present experiences of all kinds,” said Gallery Director Allison Lacher.
Before this show, Lacher collaborated with Garza on other projects. Both were founding members of Monaco, an artists’ cooperative in Saint-Louis, which presents itself as an alternative to the traditional model of the gallery. (Current band members aren’t either.)
Lacher has brought controversial works to the gallery, such as the 2013 “Guns and Butter” exhibition by Chicago-based art collective Industry of the Ordinary. The exhibit featured a gun encased in hundreds of pounds of butter, set up to slowly melt over the course of the exhibit.
This semester, Lacher brings two other exhibitions to the gallery. Following Garza’s conclusion, the gallery will feature a new exhibition by Springfield-based paper artist Betsy Dollar, whose previous installations have included a life-size wedding party made of paper and suspended works of inspired 18-square-foot panels. from the ancient Sumerian myth.
The Dollar show will run from October 21 to November 18.
After that, the gallery will hold a silent auction and benefit from November 29 to December 2.
The Visual Arts Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Thursday.