Enrique Chagoya juxtaposes secular, popular, and religious symbols, from both ancient and contemporary sources, to address the ongoing post-colonial clash between Western and non-Western cultures. This clash is no more apparent than in our current administration's response to the compounding issues facing the country—and the resulting pain, panic, and pandemonium.
As an immigrant and naturalized citizen, the tragic stories of death at the border between the U.S. and Mexico, with thousand of refugee families separated and detained in inhumane conditions, affected Chagoya deeply. This, hand in hand with the killing of George Floyd and the aftermath of mass protests, called for a response. Adding to this dramatic moment in history is the disproportionate ways the crisis affects Black and Latinx communities.
Like everyone in this country, Chagoya has also been affected by COVID-19. His studio on the Stanford University campus had been closed for months; the small works in The Seven Deadly Sins and Utopías Coloniales were completed while at home. And the show is purposefully installed in the gallery to insure a safe physical distance between people who might see the show in-person.
Chagoya uses popular cartoon characters as avatars for recognizable political characters and includes a couple of thrift store paintings to express with humor other serious issues. The exhibition focuses on some of these issues (with a sense of humor inspired by James Ensor’s version of The Seven Deadly Sins) as a way to help maintain some sanity.