You shouldn't expect subtlety from agitprop, and subtlety is definitely in rare supply at the anti-SB 1070 "FootPrints" show at Bragg's Pie Factory, which continues through September.
But seeing that Arizona's debate over immigration is about as subtle as a cinder block to the cranium, such explicitness seems justified.
Moreover, protest art is supposed to be of the in-your-face, take-no-prisoners variety. To cop an idea from Clausewitz, demonstrations are battles by other means. Visitors to this exhibit will be inspecting a display of the weapons one side has been using in such a battle.
Those on the opposite side of the SB 1070/immigration divide will abhor the political messages in the show. Those on what will prove -- with time, I believe -- to be the right side of history, will revel in this display of pro-immigrant poster art, photography, painting, and other media.
One wall is filled with strident placards from the Mexica Movement, as well as the now-famous purple and turquoise We Will Not Comply poster, a collaboration between photographer Diane Ovalle and artist Jesus Barraza.
The Ovalle/Barraza poster, based on a photo of the Capitol 9 protest at the state Capitol in April, became the unifying image of the July 29 anti-SB 1070 demonstrations. Its depiction of a seated protester holding up her fist in defiance looks like it could have been torn from a 1960s alternative mag, documenting a protest of the Vietnam War.
Slicing through the gallery was a corrugated wall mimicking the barrier along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. As with the wall in Nogales, Sonora, this one is similarly painted over with the works of different artists. The most arresting image is by artist Marco Galaviz: A skull hanging over a naked man lying prostrate in the desert, in the midst of a field of miniature flags.
Called the Border Justice Wall, the metal divider has been part of an ongoing project by the CALACA Cultural Center, which organized the FootPrints exhibition.
CALACA Executive Director Marco Albarran stated that the purpose of the FootPrints show is to document history, while conveying the politics of the art itself.
"The thing is, incorporating the artists that are creating the art that's used in the movement and making sure that the message is sent," he told me at Friday's opening.
Other standouts on display include Martin Moreno's brilliantly creepy black and white print, Hate and Intimidation, Teresa Munoz's take on Picasso's Guernica set in Sand Land, and Zarco Guerrero's comical masks of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer.
Less heavy handed are Annette Sexton-Ruiz's Loteria Arizona, with its caricatures of nativist figures such as Buffalo Rick Galeener and Anna Gaines, and Alberto Laluk's use of Speedy Gonzales and the Western Exterminator Company's trademark "Little Man" in his amusing, fantasy composition, which you can see above.
Joseph "Sentrock" Perez's Freedumb for All transcends the agitprop theme of the show with bursts of graffiti-esque color and characters. Here, the art actually outweighs the message being conveyed.
Perhaps the most controversial of a controversial lot is Francisco Banuelos' El Mas Rudo, which depicts Sheriff Joe as Adolf Hitler. True, Arpaio hasn't offed six million Jews, but he did at one time refer to Tent City as a "concentration camp."
Admittedly, the picture is a little unfair. Particularly to Hitler, who for all his evils was a helluva lot smarter than Arpaio on his best day.
According to curator Albarran, Banuelos' painting was one of the first that sold. No surprise there.
"FootPrints" continues at Bragg's Pie Factory, 1301 W. Grand Ave., Phoenix through September 17. Aside from First and Third Fridays, the gallery will also be open most Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.