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"Making Communities: Art and the Border"
University of California, San Diego, University Art Gallery, San Diego, California
Recommendation by Cathy Breslaw

Continuing through April 13, 2017

"Making Communities: Art and the Border" features artworks created from 1978 to the present. This exhibition is timely in its focus on Mexicans living and working in the Tijuana/San Diego border regions, given the present challenges, complexities and controversies over our immigration system and policies. These twenty artists examine immigrant communities, both celebrating cooperation and engagement with both sides of the border and as a source of creativity, as well as highlighting the struggles people of this region endure. Yolanda M. Lopez’s lithograph “Who’s the Illegal Alien, Pilgrim?” (1978) uses the WW I and WW II-era army poster “Uncle Sam Wants You” to question whether we are citizens of the U.S. or illegal aliens imposing ourselves on a land originally occupied by Aztecs and other Native American groups. David Avalos used his work “Donkey Cart Altar”(1985) as a political statement when he placed it in front of the San Diego Courthouse, serving to express the belief that immigrant laborers, working to feed their families, were being treated as criminals. Judge Thompson ordered the work removed as a “security risk,” while many viewed this as removing Avalos’s right to free speech.

Elizabeth Sisco, who photographed life along the U.S.-Mexican border for 15 years, exhibits thirteen silver gelatin prints which are part of an ongoing documentary project that began in 1978. The raids and policing activities of U.S. Border Patrol agents, as well as biased stereotypes are exposed. Ruben Ortiz-Torres’s uses humor to explore contemporary cultural influences seen from both Latin America and the United States. In a pop-art style he speaks to debates about blurred boundaries and how Mexican and North American identities are constructed. Victor Ochoa’s painting “Mestizo” (2010) expresses concerns over the misrepresentation among Hispanic people who do not choose a racial category, not just an ethnicity. Curator and UC San Diego alumna Tatiana Sizonenko, Ph.D. Art History, comments “For artists represented here, the border is not a physical boundary line separating two sovereign nations but rather a place of its own, defined by a confluence of cultures reflecting on migration and cross-pollination.” 

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