'OIL' drills into the American empire and comes up with gold
Sitting around a cozy fire with drinks not three weeks after the recent presidential election, a friend of mine who worked hard to unseat George Bush was expressing disdain for European criticism of the U.S. I know Bush is terrible, he essentially said, but I don't need the damn French to tell us how to run our country. I liken this to the mother-in-law principle: Your spouse can criticize his mother all he likes, but you're wise to limit your input to the occasional muted assent. This same reaction may bubble up for some viewers of the current exhibit at the Triangle Project Space. One of the most refreshing aspects of this political season has been the extent to which policy was debated and confronted in exhibits from New York to San Diego, and here curator and gallery director Luz Maria Sanchez presents imaginative works by six Mexican artists, many of them critical of American-style imperialism.
The show, titled OIL, bitterly tips its hat to the natural resource that continues to shape foreign policy here, but has also played a role in Mexico's struggles with statehood, corruption, and relations with its northern neighbor. But oil, of another kind, was also arguably the most influential medium in America's post-World War II dominance of the modern art world - reflected in the title of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth's recent catalogue of the same name documenting its permanent collection.
Sitting a few feet away is the perfect complement to "Noche Americana," Cristián Silva's "Tarred and feathered bush," which doesn't need much further description except to say that in addition to recalling a notorious form of corporal punishment, the lifesize sculpture is a mute witness to the beaches and wild fowl that have been damaged by oil spills.
These are just three highlights in a solid show in which well-executed pieces are assembled to untangle a skein of interconnected, relevant issues. Oil may yet prove to be the American Empire's lead pipes, even as linseed oil becomes our epitaph. •
By Elaine Wolff
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