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Claudio Dicochea
Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross

Claudio Dicochea, "de la Chavela y la Residente Permanente, la Multi Pass (of Chavela and Permanent Resident, the Multi Pass)," 2017, acrylic, graphite, charcoal and transfer on wood, 48 x 36". Courtesy of the artist and Lisa Sette Gallery

Continuing through May 20, 2018

Claudio Dicochea’s mixed-media canvases present a dizzying galaxy of American and Mexican pop culture references, science fiction trivia and nods to historical events — all packed into compositions resembling celebrity posters gone amok. Thus, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator” is an axe- and ray gun-wielding FBI agent with the forehead of Frankenstein. A regally dressed Cesar Chavez and Jacqueline Kennedy pose with their imaginary offspring. Gloria Steinem. Even the backgrounds squeeze in pastiches suggesting the decorative arts, surreal phenomena and comic books, as well as flourishes of charcoal and pencil.

Dicochea’s audacious mash-ups are tongue-in-cheek on one hand, but laden with sociopolitical narratives on the other hand. The Mexican-born and San Antonio-based Dicochea draws inspiration from 18th-century casta paintings of colonial Mexico, in which artists purposely grouped mixed-race and mixed-class subjects into atypical family portraits. Here, humor steers viewers toward the socially progressive possibilities when, for instance, a smiling Malcolm X (who was nicknamed “Red”) is paired with the redheaded Agent Scully from “The X-Files” in “de la Agente Federal y el Rojo, la Emperatriz (of Federal Agent and Red, the Empress).” Dicochea ably messages the impact of colonialism, identity, racial biases and cultural stereotypes that linger through time.

Adding to the élan of the artist’s first major survey is the decision to mount the show on black walls surrounding a massive chandelier made of skulls and bones. It’s meant to underscore the point that, at a purely anatomical level, race, class, nationality and ethnicity are moot.

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