Linda Vallejo

Linda Vallejo

Linda Vallejo’s show titled “Keepin’ It Brown” affects an antique store atmosphere. Folksily arranged ceramic figurines stand atop pedestals. Walls are adorned with framed pictures of celebrities and pieces appearing as needlepoint. Embedded in this homey pop-culture veneer is sharp cultural commentary. Many of the displayed tchotchkes did come from secondhand shops; Vallejo painted their skin a few shades tanner. The conspicuousness of this relatively minor alteration highlights just how predominantly fair-skinned our cultural icons are. Vallejo’s browned versions of Elvis Presley, Bob’s Big Boy and Audrey Hepburn (pictured above) become poster children for superficial stereotyping, even as they embody it. They also bring to mind how unnaturally blanched the skin of ceramic figurines often is—a fictional colorlessness so ubiquitous as to be taken for granted. As David Batchelor observed in Chromophobia, “It is one thing not to know that Greek statues were once brilliantly painted, it is another thing not to see colour when it is still there.” Whereas Vallejo colored existing figures in her “Make ‘Em All Mexican” series, she creates images from statistics in her more recent “Brown Dot Project.” Here, dark spots, whose quantities correspond to different Latino population and workforce demographics, form symbolic pictures and abstract designs on sheets of white graph paper. These recall Agnes Martin paintings and old-fashioned embroidered handkerchiefs; but Vallejo’s contemporary Chicana sensibility is clearly disposed towards emphasizing Latinos’ societal contributions.

bG Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave., #G8A
Santa Monica, CA 91403
Show runs through Oct. 8