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at Honor Fraser, Culver City, California
Recommendation by Mario Cutajar

Continuing through July 9, 2011

Given the almost complete dissociation of the typical fare served up by local galleries and museums from what’s been going on in the world the last decade, it is gratifying to come across “Collectiva.” The group show, curated by Esthella Provas and Yoshua Okón, includes conceptual works by Edgardo Aragón, Paola Cabrera, Gilberto Esparza, Monica Espinoza, Adriana Lara, MORIS, Daniela Ortiz, Ivan Puig, and Antonio Vega Macotela.  The tenor of what’s on display is established by the elegant nihilism of MORIS’ “El fuego nos quemará a todos, ja ja ja ja (The fire will burn us all, ha, ha, ha, ha),” a floor-mounted text work whose message is designed to be gradually revealed by the imprints left by visitor foot traffic. Espinoza’s whimsical “Cae la Noche (Night Falls)” invites visitors to listen in on recordings of the artist’s  “Good night!” telephone calls to randomly chosen homes around the globe.

The contributions of Ortiz, Puig, and Vega Macotela are more overtly political. Puig’s “Opinion Leader” video uses identical images to show how their combination and recombination can produce contradictory narratives. Vega Macotela bartered time spent searching for a prison inmate’s son for a map of the inmate’s movements within the prison. The real kick in the pants, however, is Ortiz’s “Arma Blanca,” which resurrects an inflammatory coloring book depicting police as grotesque hairy pigs suffering righteous execution at the hands of armed and enraged young blacks. The “Black Panther Coloring Book” was attributed to the Black Panthers but was actually produced by the FBI to foment anti-Panther hatred in white neighborhoods. Rather than merely revive the painful memory of how the U.S. government decapitated the leadership of an organized African American insurgency, Ortiz ups the ante by accompanying the photocopied pages of the book with a history of its use in domestic psychological warfare written in Arabic; the viewer is prompted to note the racism that unites repression at home with aggression abroad.

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