Sunday, October 7, 2007

I Ain't a PlaYa

Friday night I was too exhausted, having not slept much this week preparing for the ACP review on Saturday, to make it to any openings other than Ernesto Cuevas show "My Code/My Space" at New Street Gallery.
Being no expert on Latino art or culture I hesitated to post something on the show, other than pictures, but the concepts behind the work are too interesting not to talk about, if for no other reason than just to "hear my own head rattle" - as my Mom use to say.

Cuevas runs a charity for Latino youth which makes public murals. While spending so much time with these youth and hearing their banter and gossip, he became interested in the subculture of Myspace, which all of the kids seemed to live and breath, and the way these kids were building a web-based community, which seemed a large departure from the traditional Latino community. In Cuevas paintings he examines this evolution of Latino culture in the younger generation, using pictures from the kid's Myspace profiles as imagery in his work.

Using Myspace as a window into the changing social structures of youth is an interesting perspective to take but I am not sure the format of this work is the best approach. The traditional painting style seems at odds with the content. While I think the intention is a melding of traditional Latino culture and craft (i.e. figurative painting/composition) with modern forms of communication, style, and culture (i.e. pictures/text) these works try to meld centuries of culture too literally. The real connections between past and present, or a mapping of the cultural evolution, is never fully developed.

Much of the panel's backgrounds are a collage of printed photographs and text from myspace profiles and correspondence. I wonder if the show could more successfully map the changing Latino culture as an installation of documents, photographs, messages, like a teenage girl's wall, cluttered with the old and new, pop culture icons next to an old photograph of her great grandmother. Through the layering of paraphernalia, the viewer would begin to piece together an understanding of the girl's own process for building her identity. It will be interesting to see where this work progresses in the future but for now you can get a much better explanation at the artist's discussion and panel at New Street Gallery on Oct. 18th from 6-8pm.

On a different note, while there I hung out with the art enthusiast Tracy Young who announced, starting in 2008, she will be curating the New Street Gallery space. This is a smart move for the gallery which needs to up the ante with more ambitious shows for young and undiscovered artists in Atlanta. If anyone can do it, it's Tracy, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she has up her sleeve.
Go see the show! It's up at New Street Gallery until Oct 27th 2007.

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