Web Extra: Optical illusion 

Chicano Magic at the BAC looks good on paper but dissolves in person

Jerry Vigil, a Chicano artist, works a lot with what he calls muertos.

These are skeletons that represent the dead in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead. His skeletons are good-natured and humorous in the way they take on the vestments of regular people and popular culture. The idea of the skeletons imitating the living is common during the holiday, but Vigil takes them even farther out of their element and into a world where they are truly macabre and also truly charming.

These works perfectly suit the Chicano Magic show, at the Business of Arts Center in Manitou Springs. Many other Latino themes stream throughout; there are images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, tin altars and colorful neo-Aztec paintings.

But alongside all these are works that do not belong.

Museo de las Amricas executive director Patty Ortiz worked with the BAC in creating this exhibit of area artists. Ortiz's inspiration for the show stems from her love of the supernatural in Latino arts, but only half the works in the show fit this bill. For every cackling muerto, there is another work that is random in subject matter, and negates the original idea.

Some works possess heavy European motifs, like Santiago Perez's "Big Heads." In this oil painting, a giant head sits in a wooded pasture, its mouth wide open and gaping at the sky. It is a representation of the works of Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, and his hellish scenes of insanity from the late middle ages. Perez puts his own spin on the concept with an acidic palette and smoky lines. But this exploration doesn't jibe with the more traditional ethnic fare featured in the rest of the show.

In this description, Perez is not alone. The five panels of painter Quintin Gonzalez feature abstract drip works, garishly bright and intensely detailed with gobs of crisp colors swirling and spinning in a vortex. Like Perez, Gonzalez is an accomplished artist, and crowd pleaser, but the only reason he is in Chicano Magic is because he is Chicano.

The idea behind Chicano Magic is noble: to encapsulate what these chosen artists are studying in their fields, free from stereotypes. However, when half the artists follow a traditional stylistic path, and the other half study influences from all across the board, the show is simply not cohesive. It's too broad to squeeze into an exhibit of only 43 pieces.

When the only thing holding the works together is the collective heritage which, furthermore, is only conveyed through the title of the exhibit it's unfair to the artists.


Chicano Magic
Business of Art Center, 513 Manitou Ave.
Free. Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; show hangs through Nov. 3.
For more, call the BAC at 685-1861 or visit thebac.org.

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