Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hispanic Lives & ''The Chickens'' by Alfonzo Munoz

ARTmostfierce will like to celebrate and congratulate Artist Alfonzo Munoz for his latest installation ''The Chickens'' at the Delaware Museum of Art as part of the show titled ''Hispanic Lives''. It was also displayed in 2007 at the DUMBO Arts Festival.

In addition, Alfonzo was part of a group show at the Galleria Biaggi that just ended October 4th (see Sept blog show info)

Congratulations Alfonzo! and keep up the work.

See more of his work at:

Please also read below the review of the installation and show by Christopher Yasiejko.

Discovering a new cultural palette

The U.S. Census is a stubborn old man. It splits America's racial soup into tidy segments that represent the most obvious genetic differences. Check more than one box, if you like, but the list says you're easier to classify than you might like to think.

Elsewhere in the world, that's not necessarily the case. In the news, when you hear about two warring ethnicities, when you can't for the life of you understand what makes them different, rest assured that bigotry is a very particular animal.

So Riccardo Stoeckicht had an idea. The Italian, a vice president at the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, has run an art distribution company and has an affinity for Hispanic art. He speaks five languages. He seems an ideal guest curator for the Delaware Art Museum's latest exhibition.

"Hispanic Lives, Latin Worlds -- Simple Complexities" includes more than 30 works by artists from more than a dozen countries. Mexico, Argentina and Ecuador are here. They mingle with Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela. Peru, Nicaragua and Cuba. Colombia, Chile and Spain. And our often-estranged cousin, Puerto Rico.

Most of the artists represented here now live in the mid-Atlantic region. But their ancestries are what make the show.

"People tend to say, 'You're Hispanic. You speak Spanish.' They just glob everything into either Mexican or Puerto Rican, or South American," Stoeckicht says. "There is a richness that is very particular to these different countries and experiences."

The exhibition is a thorough illustration of that diversity. It explores what in America often is lumped into one word -- Hispanic or Latino, typically -- but represents a palette of nationalities, cultures and skin tones.

Even the walls reflect that variety. The front room of the small gallery, which houses each installment of the museum's locally oriented Outlooks Exhibition Series, is white. Each of the back room's four walls was painted with a unique shade of skin color. They run from light to dark, matching the four tones represented in Elena Patiño's "Me by Others, Others by Me."

The Peruvian artist met in private sessions with 20 people. They mixed paint and took turns creating on two tiles their own tone and Patiño's. The artist did the same on another two. She pulled a tile from four different sessions for this show.

Straight ahead, on a wall of burnt orange in the back room, are the three connected wood panels of Michelle Angela Ortiz's "La Madre, la Hija, y el Espiritu Buscando (The Mother, the Daughter, and the Spirit Seeking)." The American-born artist, one of few in the exhibition, painted in acrylic three women, ostensibly spanning three generations but with enough similarities of likeness to suggest they could be the same person at various stages of life.

Each has penetrating eyes, and coupled with their hands (which are cupped near their hips as if for Communion), they seem to bear all. Their faces, from youngest to oldest, right to left, sag with age, as do their breasts, beneath differing gowns.

That would have been the dominant piece of the exhibition, but for "The Chickens."

Alfonso Muñoz in 2007 packed dozens of plastic bottles into the shapes of four chickens, large enough to support a child -- that's not an invitation, by the way -- and held together by cling wrap and a few long screws where the neck and tail meet the body.

They are impossible to ignore, thanks to the spinning red lights within each. Each flash is like an alarm, a notice: We are here. And that's apt -- Muñoz was inspired by the migration in the 1950s of Puerto Ricans to New York. The wall text says the immigrants would leave San Juan at midnight, some sneaking aboard the plane a treasured chicken, and arrive in New York six hours later.

"Hispanic Lives" represents more than an array of nations and skin colors. It includes an impressive range of media and styles, from Jorge Posada's abstract oil painting "In Motion III" (2006) to Mara Odette's clay sculpture "La Novia (The Bride)" (2007) to the Delaware resident Magda Korn's oil "Doña Isabel" (2006), which contains elements of Impressionism.

The exhibition is predominantly a cultural commentary, but it includes a few pieces that reflect America's modern political climate. The Bolivian Hans Hoffman's 2008 acrylic "Immigration Drama," for example, features a portrait of a woman, in whose visage can be found the outlined shapes of people rushing to cross the border, of children, and, hugging her lower jaw, a chain linking two hands. Behind her is a fence topped with barbed wire, men scrambling to boost each other over it.

The variety of nations, cultures, ages, media and styles in "Hispanic Lives" collectively makes a single point: There is more to a person than the demographic to which he or she is assigned. And we're richer for having explored those differences.

"Here, you're white, you're black, and if you've got 25 percent of black heritage in you, well then I'm black," Stoeckicht says. "In Latin America it doesn't work like that. Hopefully, this will bring in a conversation, an element of intrigue."

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