|Manuel Lucero, Art and Art History (photo BA)|
Often when people go to an elegant restaurant, a card on the table announces the chef of the evening, or the performer of the evening. How often do people notice the person bussing the tables, sweeping the floor, or doing the dishes? As Lucero explained, it is frequently"a Manuel doing manual labor." Identifying who does this labor with an elegant card confronts the viewer with the experiences of many invisible Manuels. In one instant the underlying social relations between workers and diners becomes painfully clear.
A graduate of San Jose State, Lucero did post-graduate work at the San Francisco Art Institute and was the recipient of a 1993 arts fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. Lucero presented several slides of his work as part of the Conversations on Diversity series sponsored by the Center for Multicultural and Gender Studies on October 14.
"The Mexican-American Look-Alike," a black and white photograph, shows Lucero in profile. A quarter on his cheek reveals George Washington's profile. The shadow on the wall behind Lucero echoes Washington's profile echoes Lucero's profile. Lucero and Washington have identical silhouettes, and, according to Lucero, "both our mothers complained."
|Trapos by Manuel Lucero|
"Trapos," one of the most powerful pieces Lucero showed, was comprised of two plastic laundry baskets containing blue and red bandannas. Using the skin-color paint, Lucero painted the baskets very generously. "You look at it closely," Lucero said, "and it appears to be bleeding." One basket held blue bandanas, the other red, colors of rival gangs. These extend to form a knot above both baskets. The bleeding skin is easy to understand, but what are viewers to make of this ambiguous knot? "Is there unity here between the gangs, or is there conflict between the gangs?" asked Lucero.
Last summer, commuters between San Francisco and San Rafael were confronted with large yellow signs on the backs of buses, a public art project called "Forty Golden Gate Transit Buses." One sign, "backandforthbackand-forth," described what commuters and buses do. "What I was trying to communicate with the daily commuter is insanity," Lucero explained. Another bus sign read "w h y a m i d r i v i n g." Lucero speculated about a viewer's reaction, "You're sitting there in your BMW going to Mill Valley, talking to your wife on your cellular phone. It's 6 o'clock, the Golden Gate's turned into a parking lot, and you're going, `Honey, I'm behind a bus that has "why am i driving?" I don't get it. I don't know where our money is going. What's the hell's happening to the world?' and they'll never get it." Maybe not, but Lucero's art will continue to insist on viewer reflection of social realities.