Chicano Lightning

This show bristles with so much energy, it threatens to blow down the museum doors.

Vincent Valdez takes a historical view in Kill the Pachuco Bastards!, a depiction of the so-called "zoot suit riots," when World War II sailor-thugs invaded Chicano bars to beat up Mexicans for entertainment. Valdez portrays it on a big, cinematic canvas, with blood spurting from one attackee's finger clenched between a sailor's teeth. In the background, a sailor clobbers a woman over the head with (had they no decency?) a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe. My God, Chicanos seem to be swept into violence like logs over a waterfall! Even the cars turn into fiery explosions, as in Carlos Almaraz's splashy pictures of freeway crashes.

Let's not forget John Valadez's riveting you-are-there depictions of Chicano life. Valadez is so skilled with pastels or oils that he can capture the subtle ripple of adipose tissue on the back of a woman's leg or the fuzzy texture of a Persian rug. But there's always a disturbing spin to his scenes, like Pool Party, with two girls doing menial tasks in their backyard, oblivious to the raging brush fire behind them. And Patssi Valdez's dreamscapes, coursing with energy, like the picture of a girl asleep in a four-poster, floating on a sea that bulges with tide lines.

Valadez's Pool Party and Almaraq's Sunset Crash (following image): Swept into violence like logs over a waterfall
Valadez's Pool Party and Almaraq's Sunset Crash (following image): Swept into violence like logs over a waterfall

That's it, vatos. Go on home, fire up the grill, throw some fajitas or some asada on the charcoal, and drink a cerveza or two, because you won't be able to sit down after this show. It's white water and the hum of power lines and the jaguar's leap. It's lightning that's about to strike, and you can feel the hairs tingling on your arms.

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