Going Brown


In her ongoing series, Make ‘Em All Mexican, Los Angeles-based artist Linda Vallejo deploys a simple visual strategy (painting things brown) in the service of an anything-but-simple feat of social engineering: calling to historical task an entire category of cultural presumption. Vallejo is telling a vernacular joke, meant ostensibly for an insider Chicano audience, yet one that plays as well in Stockholm as in Fresno. The statuary, props, books, web images, and cultural detritus that Vallejo repurposes have already gone through one transformation before she starts in on them, cascading through generations of reproduction from iconic status to icons of kitsch. In spite of being reduced to nostalgia, however, these totems, from the Winged Victory of Samothrace to Grant Wood’s American Gothic, haven’t shed their association with the dominant powers that produced them. Instead, they ask a simple question: What if instead of all roads leading to Rome, they led to Mexico City?