Arts & Culture
On the Line: Border violence masterfully depicted in two Southwest School shows
Published: September 18, 2013
Although the Mexican folk ballads tend to romanticize the drug outlaws, Gonzalez says his paintings are intended to have the same popular appeal, but by using the techniques of the Old Masters to capture the eye while forcing viewers to directly confront the drug violence and harsh conditions along the border.
The Kidnapping could be a scene from The Bridge. While his girlfriend screams, a man struggles against his captors, who no doubt want to shove him in a car trunk, never to be seen alive again. La Guia (The Guide) shows a teenage girl leading a group of migrant workers crossing the Rio Grande by moonlight. Despite the tense drama, the guide’s muddy feet and determination are what make an impression.
The faces on severed heads in a series called So That They Learn to Be Respectful appear serene and composed. However, based on his observations of severed heads, Gonzalez says the challenge is not to make them appear like props in a bad 1970s horror film. He bases his interpretations on the numerous paintings by Old Masters of the head of John the Baptist.
Both Briggs and Gonzalez are steeped in art history and skillfully employ these old world approaches in an effort to infuse contemporary art with a much needed focus on current events. While we agonize over the terror in Syria, the terror in Mexico has become background noise that’s easily ignored.
Using techniques gleaned from the Old Masters, Briggs and Gonzalez force viewers to deal with the border violence by making it hard to look away.
Alice Leora Briggs: “La Linea”
Rigoberto A. Gonzalez: “Baroque on the Border”
9am-5pm Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm Sun
Southwest School of Art
Russell Hill Rogers Galleries, Navarro Campus
Through Nov 10