Continuing through July 3, 2010
John Sonsini’s portraits of day laborers reveal a segment of society that is undocumented in more ways than one. Men from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, though an important part of our work force, remain for the most part, shadowy figures among us that are seldom depicted by artists. Painted with a wide brush in radiant hues, Sonsini’s subjects are placed against neutral backgrounds of luminous pinks and blues, their forward stances and gazes intensely confrontational. Their predominant props are luggage and hats, tools of the trade for those whose livelihoods depend on travel and working in the sun. Seeming to conform to an unspoken dress code that includes baggy trousers and oversized shoes, they evoke an aura of expectation and hopelessness, an appearance that is vulnerable yet made dignified by their attempts to navigate their new environments. Although appearing to be caught in the act of waiting for work - and that is indeed where Sonsini finds his subjects - they have been brought to his studio and paid to pose. Perhaps that is why these laborers seem less individualistic and more representative of a specific ethos. Historically, this has been done before. Sonsini’s portraits, however, are more unsettling, perhaps because his subjects are people who walk often ghost-like among us, unrecognized for the humanity that is their due.