Luis Gutierrez Explores Superheroes, Border Issues and a 30-Foot Scaffold in "Judgment"

Luis Gutierrez tests his impromptu idea to hang four, 30-foot paintings from the chains attached to the roofless enclave of the Icehouse in downtown Phoenix.
Luis Gutierrez tests his impromptu idea to hang four, 30-foot paintings from the chains attached to the roofless enclave of the Icehouse in downtown Phoenix.
Photo by Claire Lawton

It's less than 24 hours before Luis Gutierrez will open the rusty doors at the Icehouse for his First Friday opening, but right now, he's a little more worried about being on a rickety scaffold.

He's

installing the first of four 30-foot paintings that will hang from the chains of the roofless enclave in the downtown phoenix event space.

The four pieces will provide a glimpse of what Gutierrez has been working on for more than a year; Judgment is a collection of Gutierrez's artwork that explores his Chicano background (though Gutierrez is a third-generation Arizonan) in a state currently ablaze with immigration conflict.

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"What if brown people would have discovered the United States instead of white people?" Gutierrez asks, now down from the scaffold.

More details on Gutierrez's show, which opens at Icehouse tonight, after the jump ...

Gutierrez' work includes a cowboy and indian theme, which Gutierrez says he hopes will draw attention to the definition of being native -- "these people [who are crossing the border] were here first ... their work ethic is more "American" than the people kicking them out."
Gutierrez' work includes a cowboy and indian theme, which Gutierrez says he hopes will draw attention to the definition of being native -- "these people [who are crossing the border] were here first ... their work ethic is more "American" than the people kicking them out."
Photo by Claire Lawton

The first 30-foot banner is painted on paper and split into four sections that reflect Michelangelo's Last Judgment in a modern-day, Mexican border scenario. Gutierrez laughs and calls the bottom portion a primitive Levi's advertisement. "Everyone's just wearing jeans ... now at the top, where heaven is, that's where people wear the gold pants."


Gutierrez's work is as much about the immigration conflict as it is about finding the humor in that conflict. He says he found inspiration while at SB1070 protests, on the television (keep an eye out for his ET "illegal alien" piece) and through music.

In the Icehouse's "silver room," Gutierrez spaces 10 large canvases across four walls -- he also has more than 15 paper pieces to hang.

The canvases are part of what Gutierrez calls his cowboy-and-Indian theme -- Native American and Mexican girls hold pistols and don cowboy hats next to the clown-like Sheriff Joe and satirical American Virgin.

A few police sirens echo as Gutierrez paces through the maze-like building. Across the street and down a few yards are the large reinforced doors of the Fourth Avenue Jail that bear Sheriff Joe's badge.

"The cops are everywhere down here," Gutierrez says. "And I had to break into this place this afternoon to get this artwork in here ... I kept crawling under the fence with paintings thinking 'I'm going to have to tell the police I'm not suspect -- I'm bringing these paintings into the building."

Judgment opens for a reception from 7 to 10 p.m.. in the Icehouse, at 429 West Jackson street in Phoenix. Gutierrez doesn't recommend climbing on the scaffold.

Painting by Luis Gutierrez
Painting by Luis Gutierrez
Photo by Claire Lawton


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