Tijuana in Santa Monica

Salomon Huerta
Salomon Huerta showed some paintings of fruit-colored suburban landscapes, devoid of humanity. I don’t know if this particular one was in the mix, but it gives you the idea. All of these images I grabbed off the internet.

Maybe I should have called this post Philly in Santa Monica, given that the little Santa Monica Museum of Art is home to Philadelphia art expats Elsa Longhauser and Lisa Milandri, but that’s not what the exhibit there is about. It’s a traveling show from Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego of work by young Tijuana artists.

I was kind of lucky to get there. I didn’t have much of a plan and was on an explore with my friend Susan, who heard Bergamot Station in Santa Monica was a good place to look at art. The station–an enormous array of prefab buildings next to a train station–includes the museum and a bunch of other galleries, many of them quite wonderful. (Hey, Philadelphia, this kind of concentration of art in one spot was terrific. I saw a lot of stuff in one afternoon. Why can’t we get it together and create a gallery zone)?

The museum’s exhibit, Strange New World: Art and Design from Tijuana/Extrano Nuevo Mundo: Arte y diseno desde Tijuana, crackled with the excitement of cultures meeting and influencing each other.

Among the highlights, for me, were beautiful paintings of anonymous, idealized (well, there’s an implication of not-so-ideal after all) suburban houses by Salomon Huerta. The fruit-inspired colors and the ridiculous Fontainebleau landscapes belie the suburban dream. These isolated houses do not a neighborhood make. I looked Huerta up on the internet and found he also did portraits of the backs of heads. The subject is anonymity in both the houses and the heads. In the context of a clash of cultures, that anonymity takes on an ominous tone for the less dominant culture.

Alida Cervantes
Alida Cervantes’ Housekeeper Series

Portraits of housekeepers from Alida Cervantes were another take on the sorts of ennobling portraits that John Sonsini does of workers. But Cervantes subjects are women, and the white backgrounds immediately call up fashion photography, and how unfashionable these hard-working women are, worn by hard labor and hard life.

The exhibit offered a number of videos, and I especially enjoyed Julio Cesar Morales’ video in which drawings of a vendor and his cart are inserted in a photographic landscape. Another highlight included a lacy, laser-cut wooden fence by Rene Peralta that bisected the exhibit and suggested popular iron-work fences in Mexico as well as a certain other fence across the border.

Some of the work in the exhibit show influences of border comics, and I especially liked Julio Orozco’s diarama, La Pizca of Death, with its recycled comic heros, its dramatic audio and its advertising and product-placement references. Daniel Ruanova’s chalk-boardy painting, Captain America’s Cane, is an epic depiction with explosions and targets. It’s not a pretty picture but I loved looking!

Marcos Ramírez ERRE
A billboard by Marco Ramirez ERRE.

The show includes billboards, sculpture, stitchery, architecture and design and lots to think about. I loved the way some of the artists adapted low brow into high brow, like Mely Barragan’s roadside shrine of mufflers imprinted with the kinds of signs used in advertising muffler-shop services, or the collective Bulbo’s real sewing projects–a sort of low-tech customization and tailoring that brings art to clothing design for ordinary people.

The blockbuster piece Exporting Democracy / Exportando democracia, 2006, by brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre, is a glass map of the U.S. dominating a painted-on map of the rest of the world. The U.S. emits into the sky a fleet of Christ-bearing butterflies that turn into Christ-bearing silver planes aimed straight at Iraq. The piece is a loopy religious shrine born in another culture, and boy do we look scary. I’m sorry I can’t find an image of this one. The de la Torres show locally at Snyderman Gallery.

Others in the exhibit are Enrique Ciapara, Hugo Crosthwaite, Teddy Cruz,Ana Machado, Salvador V. Ricalde, Giancarlo Ruíz, Jaime Ruiz Otis, Aaron Soto, Torolab, and Yvonne Venegas.