Assemblage Artist in Casa Europa Exhibit Doesn’t Shy Away from Challenging Issues
By Peter Levitan
It can delight the senses. It can fill us with wonder. Art can also be opinionated and so persuasive that it wakes us up and forces us to think about how we see and experience the world.
I recently had the opportunity to view the renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Restore Memories show at México City’s University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC). Ai is a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, and film. He also is involved in social, political, and cultural experiences.
He is arguably the most influential living artist. His work has exposed human rights abuses across the globe, and his power has so incensed the Chinese government that he was incarcerated for 81 days in 2011. Imagine an artist producing artwork that is so potent that he is arrested for it. To quote Ai, “I think that art, as a human quality, has the potential to make a human different. So, if art can make a human different, it can make a society different.”
The México City show includes a documentary film and a series of portraits of the 43 slain Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College students who were kidnapped and disappeared in Iguala in 2014, made with Lego pieces. The work explores the personal and social consequences of their disappearance.
His political work is a dramatic example of conceptual art, in which the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. The physical representation of the art, while powerful in its own right, is secondary to the core concept.
Like Ai’s work, Deborah Thompson’s October 10 bilingual show Sube y Baja / Up and Down at San Miguel de Allende’s Casa Europa México Gallery is another example of the power of art—actually the concept behind the art—to induce cultural examination and create dialogue. Thompson is a talented conceptual assemblage artist who uses found and manufactured objects, including insulin needles, barbed wire, joints, and children’s crayons, superimposed on the template of the American flag to deliver compelling messages within the familiar backdrop of this patriotic symbol.
Thompson’s concepts enunciate some of the most important issues of our time and will force you to reexamine your personal positions. The show includes 10 flags and several objects that reflect the core issues of today’s political landscape—on both sides of the border. Crossing II is about the politicization of our borders and views on the immigration issue. Newton 26 reminds us of the horror of unfettered gun ownership with the loss of 26 innocent lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The ¾ Inch will force you to think about the effect of racism on our lives. This work is thought provoking, multidimensional, and extremely good. Don’t miss it.
Up And Down
Thu, Oct 10, 6pm
Casa Europa México
San Francisco 23, Centro