Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Mexican (IN)documentado
Posted on 7 March, 2018
One might say that now is “the moment” for Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s art. Looking into his life and work, one discovers that political decisions by President Trump against Mexican immigrants provide a timely space for Gómez-Peña’s artistic actions. This Mexican artist migrated to the USA when he was young; his thoughts regarding Chicanos do not stem from a political, social, or human rights perspective, not even from a conventional artistic point of view, but rather from the standpoint of a contemporary artist whose expression is both empathic and experiential, since he has felt the brunt of discrimination suffered by so many of our fellow Mexicans.
His retrospective exhibition, Mexican (IN)documentado, his first individual show in Mexico, is therefore very welcome. It has been remarkably curated. It’s impossible to analyze here all the implications of such varied pieces, several of which deserve deeper readings; a more didactic approach might have been useful, in order to help the public to navigate the exhibition without becoming disoriented. Perhaps this is the main reason behind the complaints expressed by some people to the museum guards: this is an extensive show, but it cannot possibly make explicit all the references, texts and contexts of his prolific work, and so it all seems too aggressive for some spectators.
In keeping with the undocumented workers tradition, Gómez-Peña does not visibilize his studies. Aiming at reaching that segment on the other side of the border, he tries to express himself in their terms, with our compatriots’ sarcastic sense of humor; however, his works are straightforward, literal and even kitsch. This means the exhibition is very attractive to most spectators, in spite of the strident nature of the pieces. Under this simplicity there is a recognizable analysis of the deep-rooted problems of the undocumented’s everyday life, something he also deals with through his La Pocha Nostra organization. The artist says he strives for “the freedom that society has denied me, to move between art and activism, experimental sexuaity, popular culture, journalism and new technologies […] my craft is crossing borders through artistic practices, incuding video, photography, installation, performance, didactics and literature; that’s what this exhibition wagers on”.
Mexican (IN)documentado at Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico city will be open through April.