Nicaraguan-born Printmaker Shows Satirical Works at Local Gallery.
By Eleanore Catolico – The Gate Newspaper
Self-expression against corporate imperialists never gets old, and this time, the artist embraces a tradition of transgression and never gets his hands dirty.
The Nicaraguan-born, Chicago-based printmaker Carlos Barberena’s provocatively-titled exhibition “In Greed We Trust,” substitutes our religious devotion (God with a capital ‘G’) with the destructive lust of one of the deadly sins (Greed with another capital ‘G’).
In his new exhibit, Barberena gives art history an edgy, pop culture makeover, all in the spirit of satire that cuts deep into the psyche.
Prospectus Art Gallery Director and Founder Israel Hernandez, who has had a close working relationship with Barberena for years, said this collection speaks to the current political climate.
“It talks about what happens in the moment,” Hernandez said. “He puts some humor into it. He’s sarcastic.”
“In Greed We Trust” is a collection of linocuts and woodcuts that’s currently being shown at Pilsen’s Prospectus Art Gallery, located at 1210 W. 18th St. in collaboration with Arte y Vida. The exhibition is a celebration of Barberena’s recent national printmaking award in Nicaragua and his selection to represent his home country in the XIII Art Salon, Identity Imprint: A Glance at Ibero-American Printmaking at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C.
The recognition cements the artist’s status as one of the premier printmakers living in Chicago.
It’s befitting that Barberena’s linocuts and woodcuts, which are for the most part unframed, hang on the walls of Prospectus Art Gallery because the artist space has been fostering the city’s talent since its establishment in 1991. Hernandez, a Pilsen native, opened the gallery to make art available to the community.
“I felt that there was a big necessity to open something positive in the neighborhood,” Hernandez said. “I try to showcase more established, more professional artists.”
At the helm of the gallery’s curatorial duties, Hernandez has exhibited the likes of heralded Chicago imagist painter Ed Paschke and architectural photographer Harold Allen, but also supported Latin American artists who struggled to make contacts in the local art scene and overcome language barriers. Artistic non-profits often hit rough patches and lack of critical dialogue is hurting neighborhood galleries like Prospectus.
More than a decade later, Prospectus Gallery continues to participate in Pilsen’s burgeoning artistic renaissance despite these struggles.
“In Greed We Trust” is a continuation of this engagement.
Barberena’s art is first and foremost accessible in its production, but also in its visual language. The sharp black and white line details, as a result of the printmaking process, lends itself to the portrayal of historical icons, giving the images a stateliness that is comically undercut by pop culture appropriation. This includes Mickey Mouse’s head superimposed on one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse or the Mona Lisa envisioned as La Catrina and sporting a pin of McDonald’s golden arches. The exhibition’s mashup of anachronisms and highly astute art history vocabulary is revelatory and on the pulse of art today. It’s Albert Durer meets Jose Posada meets Banksy.
Satire is the star of “In Greed We Trust,” but striking images of Palestinian families and migrant workers echo a revolutionary sensibility of battleground documentarians.
The eclecticism in “In Greed We Trust’s” subject matter reinforces the idea of transgression as profane vandalism of the highest order.
Carlos Barberena’s “In Greed We Trust” ends its run at Prospectus Gallery on Sunday, May 4, 2014. Prospectus Gallery will be hosting a printmaking demonstration conducted by Barberena on Friday, April 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information on Barberena, visit www.carlosbarberena.com
All Prospectus Gallery events are free and open to the public. For more information on Prospectus Gallery, visit prospectusartgallery.wordpress.com