Pairing contemporary art with historical artifacts, “A Declaration of Immigration” illustrates the unique voice of the Mexican immigrant experience in America. Situated in Pilsen, an enclave of the Mexican-American, or Chicano, population in Chicago, the National Museum of Mexican Art is well positioned to strengthen its community, as well as to educate the uninformed beyond simple assumptions or stereotypes about immigrants. Immigrants carry with them their culture, and the product of border-crossing is the mixing of culture. How does one define the Mexican-American experience? Dulce Pinzon’s photographs of superheroes performing daily tasks, such as Spiderman washing windows on a skyscraper, Wonderwoman at the laundromat and Catwoman tending to her kids, are ironic reversals that teach an empowering lesson—sometimes it takes superhuman strength to get through the tasks of a day. Mario Ybarra, Jr.’s Aztec temple-inspired vitrine houses the ubiquitous calling card with imagery marketed to Mexican-Americans. Removed from their context at the newsstand, San Juan Diego and dancing jalapeno peppers signal the easy commodification of culture. Carmela Valdiva’s commemorative quilts of border crossing are masterful statements from the home-front, and Yolanda Lopez’s brash 1968 poster “Who’s the illegal alien, pilgrim?” is a slice of the historical, public face of retaliation. Only works such as passport applications folded into paper-airplanes and lodged in a metal cage, or Anni Holm’s portraits composed of fingerprints, beat the message to a pulp. Perhaps the time for subtlety has passed. (Jason Foumberg)
Through September 7 at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St.