Jim Ovelmen | Notes on Looking

Narcos, Feral scapes and Art on the Radio: Edgardo Aragón; “West is More”; Xavier Cázares Cortéz; Radio Break: Pedro Reyes, Brandon LaBelle, & Arnoldo Vargas

Many Mexican artists are tackling the theme of drug trafficking in their work, often by portraying the violence and aggression in ways that are sensational and direct.  One artist who is attempting work in the complete opposite way is Edgardo Aragón, whose first solo-exhibition in the US is on view at Cal State LA’s Luckman Gallery, in collaboration with LAXART. Aragón, who is from Oaxaca, Mexico, takes on the subject of narco-trafficking in a way that is subtle and simple.  The solitary landscapes, which reoccur in his vidoes, indirectly portray the cruelty of these impoverished narco-agricultural regions. The exhibition consists of a video-trilogy.  In Efectos de Familia, several screens show kids, or chiquinarcos (children recruited by the cartel) in what seem like theatrical staged maquettes.  The kids are playfully imitating what the narco does to his victims.  In one video, a little boy stands in the middle of a desolate, dusty landscape.  A truck goes around him in a circle creating a huge dirt cloud, which is meant to suffocate;  this act reveals an actual form of torture.  In a second video, two young boys imitate a violent encounter between two enemies; one boy opens the truck door and pretends to shoot a gun, the other boy pretends to get shot over and over.  There is no blood, no bullets just two kids mimicking a common spectacle.  In another video a boy’s feet are buried in the sand.  He stands in the middle of a deserted, dirt road.  A truck’s lights blind as it then races toward him, in what looks like a game of chicken.  The truck violently...