Swizz Beatz and Bacardi’s official kick-off event during Art Basel Miami enticed a multitude of art lovers to examine “The Dean Collection” with an especially curious eye. Upon entering the air-conditioned dome, paintings by Michael Vasquez almost immediately caught my attention, rendering me speechless. His depiction of brotherhood among a Bloods fraternity in “Family Portrait In Red, White and Black” and his tone of braggadocio meets pride in “This Is Ours – Geezy” acknowledged the lived struggles of a disfranchised people.
Among the slew of abstract, technicolor sculptures and comic book-inspired pieces was Jerome Lagarrigue’s oil painting on linen titled, “Battle For Area X.” The image – semi-hazy, yet singular in its chaotic beauty – brought to mind the many protests, racially-charged riots, and destructive warfare plaguing black and brown communities around our country and beyond.
At the center, a racially ambiguous youth sporting a red bandana represents the new generation of POCs, from the 11 million undocumented immigrants, to the countless black bodies made expendable by the very people put into power to protect us, to the tens of thousands of Muslims suffering at the hands of xenophobia. He is the new black and brown America, a people who’ve been pricked again with an urgency to respond in revolt, if only for the right to move freely.
The Molotov cocktail in his hand is symbolic of the fire inside those whose experiences continue to be disallowed with hate speeches by business tycoon Donald Trump, for example, and conservative commentator Ann Coulter. As the young man positions himself to hurl the explosive device into the distance, the conviction in his heart out-smarts the looming fear many like him experience at the frontline.
There is a political chaos charging, even as I write. And the main subject captured in Lagarrigue’s work of art – both the radicalized enemy of the state and the brave street soldier – will defend himself and his people, by any means necessary.
–Tony Centeno & Marjua Estevez