In an artistic collaboration that crosses individual and national boundaries, 55 artists will be showcasing their politically-fueled work in an effort to address struggles shared on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Mexicanos al Grito de Guerra: We didn’t cross the border, the borders crossed us,” opens at the Mission Cultural Center on January 16 for one month, but the exhibit’s organizers hope that the messages conveyed in featured works will have a meaningful and lasting impact beyond that.
“The exhibit is a cross-cultural interaction of printmakers from California to south of the border that encompasses a wide scope talent,” said Gallery Coordinator Angelica Rodrgiuez. With the center’s history as a printing house for local, grassroots print institutions such as El Tecolote and Mission Grafica, Rodriguez hopes that the show will help carry that memory into the digital age. “We are bringing that spirit back of how powerful images have been in conveying a message, whether its for social change or propaganda.”
Art is a form of activism that can have local and global impacts, said artist Jose Cruz, one of the exhibit’s organizers. The selected artists use a variety of media from silkscreening to woodwork, painting and etching, to address the issues they see in their own lives and communities.
“This is an effort to build community,” said Cruz. “Whatever happens in your community affects you, and whatever happens to you, affects your community.”
Whether it be hunger, economic inequality, or social and political justice, the issues affecting communities in both nations are “almost identical,” said Cruz, adding that the art on display will help to depict these topics as part of the larger human experience.
Cruz is a member of the Bay Area-based artist collective Talleres Populares de 28 de Junio, and alongside members of Mexico’s Escuela de Cultura Popular Martires del ’68, he launched the initiative to highlight the work of street artists inspired by activism in both countries.
“There are so many people who are creating powerful art in the streets and haven’t had the chance to showcase it. So our idea was, ‘let’s bring the streets to the gallery,'” said Cruz.
The group of artists and graphic art collectives are part of diverse social movements in their respective countries, and with their reflections consciously channeled through their art work, make powerful statements on the societal impacts of corporate greed, immigration and homelessness.
San Francisco artist Ronnie Goodman is one of the street artists whose work will be featured in the exhibition — his personal story with homelessness told through his paintings.
“Ronnie used to live under a bridge,” said Cruz, pointing to a the sketch of a bridge in one of Goodman’s posters. “His work has so much soul in it because he has been through that experience. It’s a different feeling when you are trying to tell a story that you yourself are not a part of.”
Lurac, a Mexican artist based Sacramento, illustrates the military industrial complex in a printed poster of a skull on top of a military tank.
“Many of the things that are happening in Mexico are because of the corporations in collaboration with the government — destroying the way of living of millions of people over there,” said Lurac. “My art references that the military industrial complex is only serving the pockets of the rich — and we are paying for it because we are so sold on this idea of the ‘American dream.'”
The exhibit opens Saturday, January 16 through Saturday, February 13 at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts on 2868 Mission St. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and general admission is $2.